Part III’s tips are brought to you by me! I know you’re terribly excited so let’s get down to business.
If you’re like me, then you like running outside. And if you’re really like me, then running outside is your only option. I don’t have access to a treadmill. I do not own one and since I currently train in two martial arts, joining a gym or purchasing a treadmill is not in my budget. Since I really like running and running outside is my only option, this means that I have to run in the winter.
That’s right! No slacking just because it’s winter time!
In the cold, in the snow, and in the ice, I run in it all. To be honest, I don’t mind the cold, even the cold cold, like single digits. I like running in the snow! The wind does get to me though, winter wind just goes right through you to the bone, it does stink. And it’s the one thing that can keep me inside doing something else instead of running. Freezing rain kinda sucks but as long as you keep your eyeballs from freezing shut, you’re aces.
I’m still new to running and this is only my second “winter running season” but I still feel like I have some tips to be able to pass on to you!
If you live in an area that falls victim to winter weather, get yourself some YakTrax. They make life a whole lot easier! In deep snow, 7 inches or more, they can slip around on you. But for running in a few inches of snow or on ice they are great.
If you are running in a safe area, like a neighborhood that doesn’t have a great deal of traffic, run on the road. The road is not only softer on your joints but it also has more traction than the sidewalk. The road has dirt, rocks, and debris, all of which can be helpful for gaining traction when running in snow. It also tends to be a bit more beat-up which works to your advantage. All those little potholes and gashes can be used to help gain traction! Embrace the road and make it your friend! Remember to always run facing traffic. If you’re in an area with super low traffic (like my hood), then you can switch sides of the road as you’re running to help prevent IT band fatigue.
Stay safe and watch out for cars! In the winter when dealing with snow and ice, breaking distance increases and cars slide around. Be super vigilant when coming to intersections and passing cars on the road. Also be on the lookout for cars backing out of their driveways because they are not paying attention to you at all. I’ve talked about this before.
It’s dark early and stays dark longer, reflective gear is important when you are running in the early morning and evenings. RoadID (which you should have anyway!) offers some great reflective options for runners and bikers.
Cold Related Tips:
Kim mentioned this in her tips and I’m reiterating it; cold weather will slow you down. When it’s cold outside, we just move slower. It happens. This does not mean that you are getting slower nor does it mean that your pace average might suffer. It just means that it’s dang cold outside. If the wind is blowing and you’re dealing with a wind chill factor, then you might run even slower. It happens and it’s okay.
Layers are extremely important when dealing with cold temperatures. Everybody is different and it will take some time to figure out what works for you and what does not. It will take time to figure out when you’re going to need more layers and when a single layer of heavier running clothing will work. Yes this means that some runs you might be cold and have to come in early, and some runs you might be too hot. But keep this in mind, exposing yourself to different running conditions will help you develop a better and deeper understanding of how your body works. How will you ever know if you can run in 15degree weather if you never try? While it might take some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t, once you know, you will always know! It then will become easier to dress for the temperature.
A pair of wicking tights are a must for cold weather. I actually got a really nice pair at Sam’s club of all places. I bought them extra long so that I can cover my feet with them and layer my sock on top! Tights are the base layer and then cold weather pants go over that.
Bringing us too…
Running gear designed specifically for cold weather is the best option. It can be expensive but Nike has sales all the time and most of the previous season things are at least half off. That’s a pretty good deal for a pair of pants that will see you through a whole season of running. Other than my tights, all of my winter running gear is made by Nike. They have some seriously fantastic stuff that works amazingly well. No I’m not being paid by Nike (as if!), I just happen to really like their gear and it’s budget friendly.
Tighter fitting clothes will keep you warmer than baggy loose fitting clothes. Baggy clothes can weight you down AND slow you down. They also tend to let air in which can make you cold. Tighter more form fitting clothes keep the cold and wind out helping to keep you warmer and dryer.
When you wear gloves or mittens, make sure they are soft on the outside. Your nose will run and you’ll need to dab at it. Depending on the temperature and if there is any wind, your eyes might water and you’ll need to dab at those too. Heck, your eyelashes will start to catch condensation and you’ll have to wipe it off. Soft gloves and mittens help keep your face from becoming rubbed raw.
Snow Related Tips:
Oh the snow, running in it can be fun and totally challenging. If you are a pace hound, constantly checking your Garmin to see what your splits are ZOMG(!!1!), then running in the snow will be a big wake-up call because pace? Forgetaboutit! Snow is an obstacle and will slow you down. It happens, now it’s time to focus on the actual run more than your pace.
Need a core workout? Put planks on the shelf and run in the snow. Running in the snow will have you using muscles that you didn’t even realized existed before. Running in the snow requires you to stay balanced, focused, and on track. Balance? Comes from a strong core, and running in the snow will work and test that for your entire run.
Even with YakTrax on, snow can be a bit slippery and your foot will slide a tad. You will be using your toes more for grip and balance along with using your core to help maintain balance as well. This is the case for landing and also pushing off. You’ll quickly learn how flexible your feet are!
When there are a few inches of snow to battle, the best strategy is to pick your feet up higher to clear the snow. This causes you to use your thigh muscles and calf muscles even more! Trust me, you’ll know they are working.
Running in snow works the glutes like you can’t even imagine.
It will cause you to expend a bit more energy so what used to be an easy 5 mile run will suddenly become more challenging. You will probably be even more tired afterwards.
If you do back-to-back runs, meaning you run M-F or something along those lines, keep in mind the above mentioned statements. Since you will be expending more energy AND using different muscles in new ways, the next day you might be sore. Or your muscles might not want to push out another 5+ miles. That is OKAY! Just run what you can but don’t push too hard. Eventually your body will get used to the new situation and you’ll be able to run those miles back-to-back again in no time.
Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Running is supposed to be fun along with being a great workout. Don’t let winter and snow bum you out, embrace it and deal with it. Whining and complaining doesn’t change the fact that it’s winter or that it’s cold or that there’s snow out there. Basically you just have to nut up and go.
This concludes the short series on Winter Running Tips! I hope you liked it! And again, if you missed Part I and Part II, be sure to check them and the contributors out! A huge thank you to Whitney and Kim for helping me create this series! Now get out there for a run! Balls in baby, it’s go time!