A couple weeks ago the oppressive heat of summer finally broke and perfect running season is upon us. The leaves are starting to change and the days are cool.  With each passing day the air fills with a little bit more crispness though, and winter is close at hand.

Because giving up on your running routine when the temperature drops is practically lethal, real runners must tough through the cooler weather that freezes the sweat in our hair and keeps just about everyone inside as much as possible.  After all, it keeps us prepared for the spring, and we’re some of the only few in the pack who don’t suffer from Winter weight gain.

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It’s probably not so wise to keep your same summer run routine intact, so in the spirit of cold weather, this is your guide to running in Winter.

What To Wear

One of the most important parts of running in winter weather is adjusting your apparel.  The general rule of thumb says you should always dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer outside than the “Feels Like” temperature reads, but when it’s 30 degrees outside this can be tough.  Keep in mind that you should:

  • Dress in layers.  Layers keep you warm but also give you the ability to shed unneeded clothes if you need to.
  • Get a pair of running tights, or five.  This will change your life.  Running tights are not only much more comfortable to run in than sweatpants, they’re actually very warm considering they’re not bulky at all.
  • 40% of your body’s heat loss occurs in your head. Cover your head with something comfortable that won’t blow off if the wind picks up.  Beanies are good options here, but there are all sorts of options from sport ear muffs to full head covers that gather around your neck.
  • Wear gloves to keep your hands warm.  Remember, you can always take them off and tuck them in something you’re wearing or easily carry them in one hand.
  • Still wear sunscreen.  Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean the UV rays aren’t out, and chances are you’re a bit paler than you were in the summer.  A nice layer of sunscreen might save you from a winter peel.

Mind the Ice

  • One of the more difficult challenges that winter presents to runners is ice.  People who run in cold climates dread the thought of slipping on black ice, and some days it’s safer to call it a day without having run outside.  Most of the time you can get away with a run if you’re careful and conscious.
  • Run as close to the warmest part of the day as you possibly can.  Not only does this help eliminate a layer of clothing, running during the warmest part of the day can melt off some of that pesky ice or give you the benefit of being able to absorb some of the sunshine most people miss in the winter.
  • Wear trail shoes or a traction device that keeps you stable int he winter snow.  Also, wear a pair of shoes with uppers that will keep your toes warm in all conditions.  The investment will do you wonders.
  • Although you don’t want to change how you run too much, shortening your stride and staying low in adverse conditions can save you from slipping.
  • Always choose fresh snow.  Fresh snow is easier to run on than packed snow or ice because it’s less slippery.

Other Winter Wisdom

  • Thinking about facing the cold may seem intimidating at first, but it’s not as bad as it seems.  You still feel accomplished after having run and it feels especially good when Spring rolls around and you’re still in shape.  Once you have a routine it’s not that difficult to face the weather, so most of what you know about running still applies.
  • You still need goals, but you may need to be a little more disciplined to actually follow through.  This is especially important because a big storm could force you to take a couple unexpected days off.  Normally that’s not a big deal, but if you’ve already been lagging this could create a bigger issue.
  • You still need to warm up, you just have to take a few more minutes to warm yourself up thoroughly.  Some people say winter warm ups should take about fifteen minutes.
  • If you start by running into the wind you’ll have the wind at your back on the way home, meaning your sweaty self won’t feel as exposed to the elements at the end of your run.
  • Those main points should cover you for the season, and when Spring rolls around you’ll thank yourself for the investment.