Tips & Tricks to Get Through Winter Running

It’s December 27th and we have close to a foot of snow outside in Manchester, Conn.; as I got ready for my run this morning I realized my pre-run routine was dramatically different.  As any New Englander knows, you can’t just throw on your shoes and shorts and out the door anymore, winter is here.  With that thought in mind, I decided to put together some tricks and tips to help us all get through the winter running season.

Dress Appropriately. Dressing appropriately seems to be the most obvious statement about winter running, however, it is often the biggest struggle for runners.  Dressing appropriately means just that – appropriately, you don’t need to bundle up in 12 layers as if you’re just going to get the mail, or warm up your car.  You’re going out for a run, you’ll get warm.  Wear a thin base layer – Under Armour is great, especially when it’s windy outside, but remember it is a base layer and you need to be able to breathe.

On top of a base layer you want more thin, wicking layers. Your outer most layer should be your most protective against the wind.  Shell jackets work great to fight the wind, but just make sure you’re not overheating.

Speaking of overheating, avoid it.  The best way to avoid overheating and sweating too much is to use the “Dress + 20” rule.  You want to dress as though it is 20 degrees warmer than it actually is, that includes the wind chill.  For example if it is 25 degrees out but the wind chill is 15, dress as if it is 35 degrees (15 degrees +20). Using this rule will help fight off overheating.  If you overheat you sweat, if you sweat, you get wet, wet and cold doesn’t mix too well.  You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and keep yourself healthy buy being warm without sweating too much.

Wear The Right Colors. Dressing appropriately even comes down to wearing the right colors. If you’re out running in a light snow, do NOT wear white! White will make you camouflage with the snow and you’ll be nearly impossible to see for drivers.  Even if you’re wearing dark colored pants or shorts, drivers generally only see you from the waist up.  If you’re running in the middle of the day and there is snow on the ground, black is actually a pretty good color to wear, not only will it keep you visible but the dark color will insulate you if the sun is out.

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If you must run at night with the snow on the ground, continue to avoid white, you will still blend in and the name of the game is be seen! Wear bright colors, greens, blues, pinks, oranges at night.  Try to always have some reflective clothing on.  You can buy some great reflective clothing at our online store or even reflective stickers at your local hardware store.

(Man tip):  When the wind is really biting, and just unbearably cold but you still want to run, a good trick is to line the inside of your shorts or pants with duct tape so certain parts do not get damaged.  Trust me it’s worth the effort.

Head, Hands, Feet. The three areas you should aim to protect the most are your head, hands, and feet.  Most of your body heat is lost from these three areas so keep them safe.  You should always wear some sort of protective gear on your head, headbands are great if you’re like me and get a little too hot with a full hat on; your ears will most likely always get cold in the winter so a headband works great- for those really cold days, you’ll need a hat.

Don’t forget your sunglasses.  It is bright out there in the winter, especially if the snow is on the ground and the sun is out!  A good pair of shades will protect your eyes from the sun as well as protect a little bit more of your face from freezing, the last thing you want is icicles on your eyes.

Mittens or gloves is always a big debate.  Mittens are in fact the warmer option, but again it all depends on temperature.  If you start sweating on your hands, it wont be too long before that sweat reaches the outside and it will start to freeze.  Get a good pair of gloves or mittens that blocks the wind and protects your hands from sweating.

Protect your feet!  Your feet are your most important body part when running and blood naturally flows toward them.  You really only need one pair of good running socks on.  They should be a little thicker than your summer running socks but you do not need to put on more than one pair. More than one pair of socks will make you uncomfortable, make your feet sweat too much, and will also take you off your normal stride and could lead to injuries.

If there is snow on the ground or you’re running on trails this winter, you should get a good pair of trail shoes with traction on them.  The more traction, the less chance you have of going down and hurting yourself.  While running in treacherous conditions or areas, you should try to run on the snow, not the ice; snow gives you a little more grip and will hopefully prevent you from falling.

Hydrate! One of the biggest problems winter runners have is not being hydrated enough.  Many people think their winter runs aren’t as quality because it’s cold or they are slipping all over the place.  While these problems could be to blame, one big time factor that is overlooked is staying hydrated.  Because it’s cold, we don’t think we have to drink as much- big mistake.  The winter is the driest season in New England and if you’re going out for a run try to drink as much as you would in the summer. Don’t forget when you come back from your run you need to replenish your fluids, so even if you don’t feel thirsty, make sure you get your fluids!

Speaking of fluids, while the summer time leaves you lots of woods and forested areas to take care of over-hydrating, try to avoid this act in the winter time. (I’m referring to using the bathroom). You don’t want to have to expose any more skin to the harsh temperatures. If you just can’t hold it anymore though, make sure you block all of your parts from the wind with a nice sturdy tree.

Pick a Safe Route.   Know your neighborhoods, which streets are well lit, well plowed, and stay on those routes.  The last thing you want to do is risk being hit by a car because you weren’t seen.  Assume that no cars can see you, always be on the defensive and stay on the streets you know are safe!  One very safe alternative, albeit boring, is to find a large commuter lot or mall parking lot to run in.  These areas are usually very well plowed and you can get in some decent miles on safe roads.  If you are able, run during the middle of the day for maximum visibility.

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Alternatives to Running. While running is a great activity year-round, sometimes  you just want to change it up.  Aside from finding a treadmill to run on, some great winter activities include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.  Snowshoeing is a great equivalent to running and xc skiing is a great way to see the trails this winter.  Both will keep you in great shape and help “change it up” a little.

Start Into the Wind. Perhaps the last thing you want to do when you first get out the door is deal with the wind, you’ll thank yourself later if you start into the wind.  You’re already cold and you are going to warm up so deal with the wind first, your final miles will be with the wind and will actually feel fairly nice and warm compared to the start – it’s a great way to end a run on a cold day.

Post Run. The first thing you should do when you get in from your run is get out of your running clothes and into dry ones! Even if you didn’t sweat too much, any moisture will start to be very uncomfortable in a short time.  Once in some new clothes, make sure you replenish your fluids, stretch, and just relax and wait for your body temperature to get back to normal.  Do not jump in a steaming hot shower right away, you could shock your system and really do some damage.  Get your body back to normal and then continue on with your normal post-run routine.

Always remember the most important part of any run is to be safe!

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