Your hat keeps creeping over your eyes, your heart is pounding, your thighs feel the bracing wind as you propel them forward and the snow crunches under your shoes. The intake of your breath sort of stings as it chills the moisture in your throat. Really winter running? Yes, really. Winter is one of the best seasons to be a runner. It is darker, it can be slippery, and it sure can be cold but, all you need are a few strategies to keep you running through any kind of weather.
It takes your body longer to warm up in cold weather, especially if you run in the morning. Warming up and stretching inside is wise since you’re more likely to stretch thoroughly in a warm, comfortable environment than you are out in the cold. Be sure to include ankle rolls in your warm up to prepare for uneven surfaces.
Take at least five minutes to walk briskly before you start to run. It may take 10 to 15 minutes of running before you feel completely warmed up and can run at your regular pace.
Shorten your running stride and keep your feet lower to the ground. You will run more efficiently and reduce the risk of slipping, falling or straining muscles. Choose to run on fresh snow rather than ice or packed snow since the traction is better.
On your first few runs on snow or ice, you might experience slight soreness in certain muscles – the ones that work harder to control your slipping. Just think of this as a bonus! You’re working a few of those extra supportive muscles.
Take advantage of good weather. If you feel good on a sunny winter day when the sidewalks are clear, then allow yourself to train harder on those days. If the weather is going to affect your footing and therefore your safety, then be flexible and scale down the intensity.
Be aware that it does get dark sooner and dress appropriately with reflective gear or lights.
Because it is cold out, you can run longer without overheating, and cooling down is easy, just slow your pace and let the air take care of the rest. Plus how great is that hot shower after you get home!
For many runners, a break in the winter, like cutting back your mileage, limiting high intensity sessions or adding some cross training, such as snowshoeing or cross country skiing, is a great opportunity to keep things exciting.
Don’t hibernate this winter. Get out and have some fun!