The cold weather is quietly setting in, with everybody trading their shorts and tank tops for long sleeved tees and blue jeans. As the weather changes, the warm afternoon runs you were used to turn to freezing points, with paths trodden with snow.
As a runner, you are most inclined to keep yourself within the confines of your cozy home, probably spending hours on the treadmill. During this time, outdoor running loses its appeal, just like getting out of bed in the chilly winter.
Surprisingly, winter is the best time to up your speed game. Its peaceful, crisp, inspiring, and invigorating outside, which is all you need for a great run. That being said, these pesky conditions aren’t for the faint-hearted. Listen up then, these tips for running in the cold will best prepare you for the hazy days to come.
Hacks for Running in the Cold
1. Have a Motivation to Go for the Run
When you don’t have any reason to go out in the cold, it is highly probable that you won’t go out in the first place. You would simply want to cocoon yourself at home, occasionally hitting the treadmill. Therefore, having to meet someone at the end of the run, or having an errand to run acts as the impetus to head for the trails.
Wimping out when you have someone waiting for you is out of the equation. Another loss of motivation is fat loss, more so for someone who is a solo runner. The sense of satisfaction of braving the cold as you have a warm shower is unrivalled, not to mention shedding a pound or two.
In case these two do not work for you, then have either a running group or buddy, or both. While you avoid the pub together, there is plenty of catching up to do along the way. Trust me, you’ll even forget its chilling outside.
2. Wear the Right Gear
If there is a time when running gear matters the most, then it is in winter. In summer, you were used to lighter, moisture wicking wears. Colder conditions call for a different set of clothing altogether. The first rule is never to set out with clothing that gets damp quickly.
Also, there is no way you can comfortably run in the cold when wearing a vest and shorts. Cold running gear calls for wearing gear in layers. The essence of this strategy is to shed off some of the layers the more your body warms up.
Generally, dress like you would when its twenty degrees warm. Also, wear gear with zips around the neck, so that rather than removing the layer, you simply unzip it for ventilation. The base layer has to be moisture wicking, while also donning a protective shell in case it is windy.
Additionally, depending on how extreme the cold is, experiment with hats and gloves. Some runners find these still comfortable at temperatures of up to 450 F.
3. Warm Up First
As an avid runner, you already know the importance of warming up before a race. That being said warming up when about to go running in the cold is mandatory. Your body can be shocked when you go straight from the warmth of the house to the freezing outdoor conditions.
Therefore, warm up inside the house by doing any activity that requires a bit of energy. These can be a couple of house chores, running up and down the stairs, or even squats. The aim is to get the muscles loosened up by raising your body temperature to a light sweat.
That way, when you set out in the cold, you won’t feel the sudden temperature changes. Your muscles too wouldn’t feel as tight. A key point to consider is to not get too sweaty in your workout cloths. Doing so would make you just as chilly immediately you get out.
And if you are meeting a couple of running buddies, do not just stand in the cold waiting for them. Sit in your car and wait for the first person to get out, then follow.
4. Stay Visible
During the cold season, it is most likely that daylight will be limited. Therefore, you would be almost running in the dark, especially my peeps in Alaska who get a couple hours of dim light every day. To make it worse, during winter, the towers of plowed snowballs reduces visibility by a great deal.
In snowy conditions, runners have to stay visible to motorists as well as other athletes along the trails. Usually, stoppage and maneuverability of cars in these conditions becomes impaired, making it even more risky if a car has to come to a sudden halt to stop hitting you.
So, stay visible by wearing reflective vests, bright colored workout clothes, and fluorescent gear. And as one of my good friends usually say, never shy away from being lit as a Christmas tree, provided your safety is guaranteed.
Other runners even carry around headlamps or flashlights, thereby improving their see-ability. All in all, it is also critical that you stay alert to your surroundings.
5. Mind Wind Direction and Chill
The challenge with running in the cold is that it has factors working against you. Since wind elevates the rate of heat loss from our body, aggravating the cold conditions. For windy conditions of around 450F, have a windbreaker on and also include running gloves in the gear.
For this reason, runners are advised to start their cold running into the wind direction. In this way, you experience less wind chill, since you haven’t started sweating yet. Midway through the race, change your direction, so that you run in the same direction as the wind.
The aim of this running strategy is to not allow the wind to directly blast on you, once you break sweat. Another solution is to break your runs into different directions, spending several minutes into the wind, then away, and the back.
For places where the wind is too intense, put on protective shells as part of your gear. Prevent frostbites on your cheeks and nose by using protective gear at these vulnerable parts of the body.
6. Speed Should Be Your Least Concern
If you are planning on working on your speed during winter, then you should put aside those plans. During this time when everything is in hibernation mode, all you should be aiming at is maintaining your shape, in readiness for warmer months to come.
To long distance runners, this is not the time to go the extreme distances. Imagine being pounded by the unfavorable weather elements for two hours straight. I wouldn’t wish that on my enemies. So, this is the best time to mix your training routine.
The ideal solution is to find a hill (or any elevated place) where you can have short training sessions. These elevated points act as sweet spots where the air is usually warmer than down below. This makes a big difference to your cold woes.
You don’t necessarily have to run long distances in a single session. At this time of the year, most guys want to do all the runs in the middle of the day, owing to the warmth. Schedule for at most two sessions every day, which achieves the same results as a single long distance run.
7. Get Prepared with Warm Post Run Clothes
The rule of thumbs of cold running is to stay as close as home as possible. Alternatively, when planning your running schedule, make sure the distance between a warm place and where the race end is as short as possible. Immediately you stop, a drastic temperature drop occurs, which is unhealthy for you.
Preparing in advance for this eventuality is the best strategy. If you can finish the race at your door steps, the best. You can then jump into a warm shower right away to acclimatize yourself back with the home conditions.
But in case you have to drive back home, or end the race far from home, then prepare yourself with warm clothes for thereafter. A trash bag is a great asset when it comes to holding your warm clothes.
Change workout clothes as soon as possible in order to eliminates cases of lingering chills. Reach for a hot drink, put on a warm beanie, get out of wet sports bra etc.
Running in the cold takes much effort than running when warm. As such you ought to be well prepared. To do this, be ready for a downpour out of nowhere by keeping tabs with weather forecasts.
Another strategy is to keep within the vicinity of your home. Otherwise bring with you cab money. The trick is to have a close exit strategy incase thing go south or you get injured.
While listening to music is great at this time, your ears have to be alert to any impending danger. Wintery conditions weaken tree branches, thus posing dangers on runner. Be mindful of these. Lastly, do not ignore any shivering. It could be an indicator of hypothermia or excessive loss of heat.