Here we are again, another winter season and in an area with so many venues for runners. What should you consider before slipping on your running shoes and hitting the icy pavement or snowy trails? I have noted many times how amazing it is to live next to Centennial Trail and to see all dedicated runners out during these dark winter months at all hours and in the worst of weather getting their miles in.
We have so many die-hard runners that heavy rain, snow and even below freezing zero temperatures don't slow these people down. Those of you who run or even walk in winter weather know it takes an iron will to get out there on cold, miserable days. There are so many things to consider such as how slick is it, how to dress correctly for the condition and do I have all my bases covered to be comfortable enough to make it worthwhile?
So what are a few key points to run safely during winter weather? Here is a short list to work from:
1. Shoes become a critical factor. One of the first things to consider is that your regular warm weather running shoes are probably not going to cut it during cold weather runs. Lightweight shoes are thin and very porous, letting snow and moisture into your running shoes. Running with cold, wet feet will quickly kill any good run. There are many running shoe manufacturers such as Solomon, Brooks, and Saucony that make shoes specifically to address wet, snowy and icy conditions. Often these shoes have better insulation, rugged tractions and waterproofing, all making for a much better winter run. I would recommend having seasonal running shoes so you can cover both good weather and bad weather running.
2. Running in icy conditions can be tricky at best. I would recommend Stabilicerser runn or Yaktrax Ice Grippers, both are useful: Stabilicers use small cleats making the use of the slip-on traction less noticeable like YakTrax's metal coil arrangement. I like both and the nice thing about either is you can always pull them off if you have long stretches of dry pavement mixed with icy or snowy conditions. A set of traction slip-on is highly recommended if the roads are icy, you don't want a severe injury from a nasty slip and fall.
3. Wear a hat during cold runs. A lot of runners really don't like hats and they can be uncomfortable. Lots of runners wear headband ear coverings without a hat, but wearing a hat is equally important and can help keep body temperature regulated and surprisingly it keeps you warmer than you may realize.
4. Dress in your running clothes but depending on outside temperatures, use any of the new high tech insulating base layer clothing. Most outdoor clothing manufacturers have a selection of these newer thin but insulating layers that wick moisture out and keep body heat in. Also, make sure you wear good running gloves or mittens. Lightweight and breathable with a good moisture barrier is best. Ice cold fingers can kill a good winter outing instantly.
5. Staying hydrated during winter runs is critical. Often we don't feel thirsty, but the need to hydrate is equally as important during cold weather runs as it is during hot weather running. Cold air is dry and it pulls water from our system, placing hydration demands on your body that you may not notice. Another issue that may surprise you with cold weather running is your sweat evaporates faster. You also pee more when it is frigid cold out due to blood flow constriction making hydration even more necessary.
6. There is no good reason to run in subzero temperature. Studies have found when temperatures are below zero, your performance drops significantly and you're putting your respiratory system at risk. Running in subzero temperatures won't necessarily damage your lungs, but it can bring on asthma in those who are prone to the condition. Cold air tends to be very dry in our area, so your body must not only warm incoming air, but your body also needs to humidify it. Many runners complain after a run in subfreezing temperatures of a dry cough, scratchy and or a sore throat along with some chest discomfort. Long endurance runs in subzero temperatures can also expose you to frostbite which is not something you want to mess with.
Finally, be sure you can be seen in the darker days of winter. I strongly recommend lots of reflective clothing or even a flashing runners light on your arm. Being seen especially in the early morning or late evening when drivers are not expecting to see a runner is very crucial. Don't set yourself up to be a traffic accident!
Remember that your body wants to keep your core warm, so body heat tends to move inward away from those fingers and toes. Winter can be one of the best times to stay fit and stay active. Make sure you are safe and fully prepared so you can enjoy your run!
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.