This time of year is not easy for us runners in the Northern states. The sunlight is short, and sometimes nonexistent, roads are icy and snow-covered and it is just plain cold out there! Not exactly the ideal conditions to head out for a run in when you could be warm on a treadmill or cross training. However, it can be done and the sunshine will do wonders for beating the winter blues.
I actually enjoy running outside in the winter. Running outside this time of year with the temps hovering in the low 30’s is actually easier than running under the hot, relentless sun of the summer. Now that being said, I do not run when the pavement conditions are unsafe – snow, ice, slush, you get the picture, and you shouldn’t either. No need to get an injury this time of year and put all the fun spring races in jeopardy!
With that being said, here are some tips:
Find some clear pavement. Planning for a winter run is key. You cannot always guarantee that you can just head out your door and go. If your sidewalks are not clear plan ahead and look elsewhere. There is a local park by my house where they always plow and salt a 6 mile running loop. It is not always perfect, but I tend to be much more observant of my footing this time of year. Local high school tracks are also a good option if they are free of snow and ice. Also, there are some fitness centers with indoor tracks. Lots of loops perhaps for a longer run, but hey, you are warm and have a good surface.
Recruit a friend to run with you too! This is good to do anytime of the year. It is always great for companionship, not to mention safety.
Dress for the temps. A good rule of thumb is to dress like it is 20F warmer than it actually is outside. Like if it is in the 50s I will wear shorts and a long sleeve running shirt. In the 20’s this means my LuluLemon long sleeve running shirt, a wind breaker, my Brooks Running windbreaker winter pants, two pairs of socks, a neck garter (like a turtle fur), gloves and a headband or a hat. I usually warm up 2 miles or so into my run that the coat gets unzipped and the gloves get vented, but that can vary depending on the sun and wind.
The coldest temp I have run in was 6F, and I simply added a long sleeve running shirt over the LuluLemon and an extra pair of gloves. You always want to make sure your fingers and toes stay warm. Your body will heat up as you go, but not necessarily your extremities. Those heat packs that you can activate are great to keep in your pockets too for a quick warm up and you can even cover your shoes in duct tape to keep the wind out if needed.
I have seen some cute winter running gear at Target and since the running stores are starting to stock up on the spring lines, you may be able to score some deals this time of year. Check out the accessory section of www.SeeJaneRun.com, an online running store and community, with lots of cute and name brand winter items starting to go on sale.
Protect your Skin. The sun reflects off the snow like crazy on bright days! Not only is this tough on your vision, but you cannot forget the sunscreen just because it is 10F outside. Remember your sunglasses and use a neck gator to warm your breath and shield your face from the cold. If you can, put some anti-fog on your sunglasses too! Another trick that I learned from my friends at Team in Training is to put a thin layer of Vaseline on the exposed skin on your face. I was hesitant to try this as my face breaks out with anything, but as long as I wash it off when getting home I have not had any issues. The layer of Vaseline really does help protect a bit against windburn and keeps your skin moisturized in the colder temps.
Get out there and RUN! If you are new for winter running, try a short one outside. See how your body feels, adapts, and at what point you warm up.
What outdoor running tips do you have? What season is your favorite for running?
If you have an inspirational running story to share or want to be featured in my Run=Fun! segment please email me at runfastmama at gmail.com with your ideas!