Winter is here, but that’s no excuse not to GET OUTSIDE. Running through the winter can be a very fun and rewarding time of year to run, as long as it’s done correctly. Let’s talk about some of the most important things to consider when running through the winter months.
What to wear when the temperatures dip…
GET LIT: Safety is number one. Try your best to run during daylight hours. However, for a lot of us that’s just not possible. (Present company included.) Stick with neighborhoods that have streetlights and/or sidewalks. Invest in a headlamp and/or reflective vest so that you can be easily seen by drivers. Find a running buddy or group for safety in numbers!
Gloves: The need for gloves varies from runner to runner. I’m the kind of person that’s going to wear them once it gets into the 40’s, but I’ve also run with people that won’t put a pair of gloves on until it’s in the teens. You can’t really go wrong here. Sweaty hands aren’t going to make for a bad run, so err on the side of caution. Just make sure that you have a pair that have a SOFT thumb/index finger. Your nose will thank you.
Hats: Very similar to the glove situation. There’s a lot of variation here, and I know many people that will begin a run wearing a hat only to take it off midway. I’m a fan of using old t-shirt sleeves as ear-warmers. If I get too warm, I’ll just roll it up into a headband, or take it off and wrap it around my risk.
Upper/Lower Layers: Here’s where things get tricky when the weather really get cold. There are two general “rules” that you may have heard. First, if you can stand still outside in your running outfit and feel chilly (not freezing), you’re dressed ok. Another rule states that you should dress the way for a run that you would if you were just hanging out outside if it was 20 DEGREES WARMER. Example: If the actual temperature is 30 degrees and you’re going for a run, think about what you’d wear to a trip to the grocery store if it was 50. That being said, here are some clothing suggestions associated with temperatures. Please keep in mind that everyone has different preferences. The BEST way to find out what will work best for you is to experiment and take some notes that you can reflect on.
45-50: Most people still wear shorts, but a long sleeve upper. At this temperature, the shirt could be dryfit material of cotton. A lot of runners start thinking about gloves.
40-45: Depending on your preference, transition to light running tights/pants happens. Upper wear is the same as above.
35-40: At these temperatures, the headbands start to come out, but probably won’t stay on for an entire run. A wicking material upper is a must, because cotton stays too wet and you’ll become too cold.
25-35: We’re definitely in pants or tights. Now is when you start using two layers up top. Your base layer should be a wicking material, like Under Armor cold gear. Never wear anything UNDER that material, as it’s meant to work best right against your skin. You can wear a short sleeved t-shirt over an under layer like that for some extra protection, especially on windier days.
25 and below: We’re all bundled up now. A long sleeve wicking cold gear underlayer with another long sleeve shirt (dryfit or cotton) over top isn’t a bad idea. You should have a pair of thicker tights/pants for these temps as well. A lot of people start to use one of those neck-warmer thingies than can also be pulled up to cover your mouth and nose as well.
Again, these are some general guidelines. Get out there and try some different clothing combos to see what works for you!
What to do when it snows…
Running through snowy weather can be a powerfully peaceful experience as long as you are properly prepared and your expectations are correct. Some things to consider as you head out the door…
Check the ground conditions: Snow = Have fun! Icy = The universe wants you to have a day off. (Or find a treadmill.) It’s never worth taking a tumble.
Adjust your pace. Running on a snowy surface will slow you down, making your normal easy pace seem harder than usual. That’s OK! A run through snowy weather should be used to slow down and enjoy the scenery anyway!
Pick a safe route, and BE VISIBLE! Avoid more heavily traveled roads. Stick with neighborhoods or trails if you can get there. Bust out those bright colors, and never expect cars to move for you. Always be ready to move yourself!
HAVE FUN. Remember how awesome it felt as a kid to wake up, look out the window, and see the white stuff everywhere? That feeling didn’t die with adulthood. It’s still in there. It’s dying to get out. Set it free!!!
Dealing with the wind…
There are two ways to deal with the cold winter wind. First, you can find a route that mitigates it. Trails are great for this. A heavily wooded area will help block the wind and make it less impactful on your run.
Second, you can take it head on… But only for half of the time. In the winter months, it’s not a bad idea to use the wind to help out a bit on runs. Because of the temperatures, run INTO the wind for the first half of your run, and take a tailwind during the second half. Running into the wind during the first half of a run in the winter means that you won’t heat up and get sweaty while the wind is cutting through you. Being dry and running into the wing is way better than doing it damp. Save the perspiration for the tailwind, when it won’t make you colder than you otherwise would be.
I encourage every runner I know to get OUTSIDE to run no matter the conditions. Making an effort to get outside in less than ideal conditions is as much a mental workout as it is physical. A wise man once told me: Running is 90% mental, and the rest is in your head. Plus, races aren’t run on treadmills. You’re gonna have to run races in any number of conditions. The more you train in them, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with them come race day!