By: Amy Watson ATC,PES
DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan
You don’t have to be crazy to be a winter runner! Keeping your fitness level up during the winter months is very beneficial. It helps maintain a base level that makes spring events so much easier and helps to avoid overtraining problems for the main season. There are many things you can do to be comfortable and safe in order to make winter running part of your training.
But its just so cold! Get over it by doing it right! Most important to make your run comfortable is dressing correctly. As a rule of thumb, always remember you will feel 20 degrees hotter while running than what the thermometer says.
You must wear layers, and most importantly wear a wicking/tech type material. Cotton will hold moisture from sweat making you wet and cold. Your inner layer should be a wicking material, your second layer can be the same weight or a thicker material on colder days, and the outer most layer should be a windproof nylon/Gortex type material.
Also, don’t forget about those undies! They should also be of wicking material. For those extra cold days also keep in mind the undergarments should be insulated, especially for men. Frostbite can occur!
40-60º -1 layer shirt/shorts or pants
30-40º – 2 layers shirt/shorts or pants
10-30º – 3 layers shirt/pants and/or tights
10-0º – 3 layers shirt with coat and tights/windproof pants
Don’t forget we lose approximately 30% of our body heat through our hands and feet. Always wear gloves or mittens and shed them if you have to. Keep feet warm and dry by wearing thicker and taller socks. Wool socks work great by keeping feet warm and dry. Headgear is also vital as 40% of our body heat is lost from our head.
Staying safe in the winter is key. The cold, dry air can trigger chest pain and asthma. Bring your inhaler with you, and keep your mouth covered to warm up the incoming air to avoid bronchospasm. The wind is also a bigger factor this time of year. Consider running into the wind first, that way when you are fatigued the battle is less and you can also stay warmer on your way home.
Hydration is still very important. Colder air has a drying effect which increases dehydration. You are also still sweating and will lose fluid from that as well. Bring your water with you as if it were any other time of year.
Don’t let the snow keep you in either, there are several types of cleats to slip your shoes into that give great traction. They only help a little on icy surfaces, so still take extra caution. Always look ahead and take shorter and wider strides on bad terrain.
You do have to consider some training changes. There is slightly more risk for muscle strains this time of year. Because it is colder, it takes longer for those muscles to warm up. Spend a few extra minutes with your warm-up routine and start your run at a slightly slower pace. Keep in mind your usual pace will decrease in the winter. Your overall miles should decrease slightly and you should try to continue running about 3 times per week.
After using all these tips you don’t have to be a fair weather runner! Cold weather running can be enjoyable, invigorating, and rewarding!