Winter running doesn’t have to be miserable. It can actually be enjoyable! The key to cold weather training & racing is being prepared and having a change in perspective. Rather than thinking negatively of a difficult run with freezing hands, imagine instead an easy run during a peaceful, snow globe-like day on a quiet street or trail. Having a different outlook will help you tremendously. And as long as you’re properly prepared, you will have an enjoyable run.
Follow these tips for cold weather training & racing:
It’s important to dress appropriately for any season, but in the harsher, colder weather of winter it’s important to prevent windburn, frostbite, and hypothermia.
Layers of clothing will help you maintain your core body temperature during the run. It is better to wear a little more, and shed your layers as you warm-up, than not wear enough and develop hypothermia.
Wear technical clothing, which will draw sweat way from your body. This will keep you drier and more comfortable while you run. If you wear a cotton shirt as your first layer against your skin, it will hold on to sweat, keeping your skin wet. Wet skin will make you cold and uncomfortable.
Wear a hat to avoid losing too much body heat,
Windproof jackets and thin gloves will also help keep you warm, and can be easily removed if you start heating up and need to cool off.
Use Traction Cleats For Your Shoes
There are great products on the market, like Yaktrax, that slip onto your shoes to help improve traction control on ice and snow. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice, these will help tremendously and keep you from sipping.
Be Seen With Reflective Clothing & Lights
Shorter daylight hours means you won’t be seen as easily while you’re out running. Wear reflective clothing and flashing lights so there won’t be any doubt as to where you are. Safety is always important, so be aware of your surroundings and don’t assume you will be seen.
Don’t Forget The Sunglasses
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the sun ain’t shining. During daylight hours, protect your eyes the same way you would in the summer. Sunblock can also be applied to any exposed skin if you plan on being out for an extended amount of time.
Remember To Warm-Up
Warm-up before your workout with a dynamic warm-up so that your body is prepared. During the winter months, consider doing your warm-up indoors so that you won’t be shivering as soon as you step outside.
Avoid Running On The Road
In snowy and icy conditions, drivers have a decreased ability to maneuver and stop. Stick to sidewalks and paths.
Know When to Stay Indoors
Some days just aren’t made for running outdoors because of the weather or temperature. Use your best judgement and adjust your schedule when you need to. Runs can always be rescheduled for another day or be completed on the treadmill.
The workout or pace you had planned may not be possible if the roads are snow covered. So if you run outdoors, use caution when the conditions aren’t ideal. If that means making it a slower run or taking walk breaks over particularly slippery spots, then that’s ok. Running on varied terrain will work your muscles differently, so even at a slower pace you can get in a good workout.
Being flexible with your training is helpful. If you decide to reschedule your run for another day, consider doing some strength training at home or cross train by participating in winter sports like snow shoeing or cross country skiing. These are great off-season alternatives that will not only help you stay fit, but will also help you improve as an athlete.
No matter what the temperature, remember to stay hydrated when you exercise and race. You may not feel as thirsty compared to hot days, but you can still become dehydrated on cold days.
Racing in the Cold
Racing doesn’t just happen in the warm summer months. The winter months are a great time to get out and race. Just be sure to check a bag or leave a bag with a friend or family member that has warm dry clothes to change into after the race.
The effort of training and racing in cold weather will keep you warm, but if you’re outdoors for an extended period, it’s important to know some basics about frostbite and hypothermia.
Once sub-zero temps hit, it takes about 30-minutes for exposed skin to get frostbite. Exposed skin in cold, windy weather is most vulnerable to frostbite. Frostbite can occur on skin covered by gloves or other clothing in extreme cold. As frostbite progresses, it affects all layers of the skin and tissues below and requires medical attention.
Know The Signs Of Hypothermia
When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it’s produced. Lengthy exposures will eventually use up your body’s stored energy, which leads to lower body temperature. It can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.
Shivering is an important first sign that the body is losing heat, and you may be in danger of hypothermia.
Shivering may stop as hypothermia progresses and the body can no longer warm up on its own. Confusion, slurred speech, and memory loss sets in along with loss of coordination. This is followed by weakening of the pulse and slowed breathing. Don’t get to this point, call 911 or get to a warm place well before hypothermia sets in.