Ah, winter. It’s a great time to snuggle up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and a movie. Or, it can be a great time to lace up and challenge yourself! Whichever option you’re used to, running in winter is exciting. But if you don’t put the right planning into it, it can also be pretty horrible. Cold and wet feet, frozen ears, a numb chin and snot halfway down your shirt isn’t a good look on anyone.
So, if you’re looking to be prepared to venture out for a run this winter, check out these ideas!
- Ease Into It
If you haven’t been running in the cold for a while, you can take some time to work up to it. Make your first run outside short, or try running on a treadmill in the garage. Once you start running outside, take your time. Go easy and keep a sharp eye out for potential pitfalls. As you get more used to it, you’ll be able to go faster and farther.
- Don’t Avoid the Outdoors
Running outside is just as important during the winter as it is during the summer. You still need the dynamic environment and changing conditions that running outside provides. One of the biggest downsides of a treadmill is that you simply don’t run the same way you do outside. You lose wind resistance, your stride changes and you might lose your posture.
All of these things can have a detrimental effect on running a marathon, so it’s best to keep running outside when you can.
- Invest in Good Gear
Running in the cold is only half the battle. During winter, your main concern is actually the wetness. Ice and snow both have to melt, and once you get wet, it’s almost impossible to warm up. So get a pair of good, waterproof running sneakers, and make sure they’re thoroughly dried between runs. Bundle up with an extra pair of socks. Invest in some good gloves, a jacket and long running pants.
Whatever you buy, make sure it’ll hold up. Winter is not the time to get gear that’s only second-best.
- Be Flexible
People who run really like to stick to their dedicated run times. That’s fine, but you may have to adjust where you go running, too. If there’s a blizzard or even just a bit of ice, you’re better off inside. On the other hand, if you really want to go out for a run, and you’re just waiting on a 30-minute squall to pass, maybe take some extra time to stretch.
Be willing to switch it up with the weather, and you’ll end up with better runs and a less stressed workout.
- Mix Up Your Workout
Cross training is a great alternative to straight running. No matter what time of year it is, keeping your body in shape with both cardio and weights is still vital, but it can really help during the winter. Triathlon runners have to do a multitude of workouts. It keeps them in great shape, increases their stamina, and lets them mix it up so they don’t get bored.
Biking might be a little difficult during the winter, just like running, but a stationary bike can be a welcome relief from the treadmill. Swimming can also turn the tables and make you happy to be at the gym. It’ll also work your muscles in ways you aren’t used to.
- Run Where It’s Safe
The roads are clear, somewhere. There might be a small retirement community nearby, or a parking lot whose owner plows it themselves. Even the local high school may have plowed off their running track. Finding a few places like that, where they’re well-cared-for and safe to run on, can be a serious game-changer.
The only downside is that you might have to run in circles. You may also have to drive to get there. If so, make sure you understand how to drive safely in extreme weather, regardless of what that weather might be.
- Modify Intensity
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is a great way to give yourself a boost. By using HIIT, you can actually maximize your runs in a shorter time. You should be using some form of HIIT all year, but you can increase it a bit in the winter. That lets you get your run in faster, with less time spent in the cold, while not losing any of the fitness.
Be aware that there are limits to it, though! Too much HIIT can cause injury, and too little won’t help you achieve your goals. A 10-minute run, even with the high intensity, won’t do as much for you as a longer one will when training for a marathon.
- Try for Distance, Not Time
One way to become a better runner is to run a longer distance in the same amount of time. This method only works up to a certain point for marathon training, but it can be incredibly helpful during the winter. This method allows you to get better and faster, and develop stamina without having to spend extra time outside. For people who are running as it gets dark, or even after dark, this can be incredibly important.
- Run to Warmth, Not Away From It
If you can break up your run a bit, do it! Try a run to the gym or run on the treadmill to warm up, and then run back home. It breaks your run up and gives you a chance to warm yourself. If you can’t run all the way to the gym, try running somewhere else warm. Hit up the local farmer’s market or mall. Heck, run to yoga class!
Rest during the winter is actually more important than ever. Of course, it’s one of the most important aspects of running for any time of the year, right after the actual running. But during winter, there are a few more things to contend with. The sun sets sooner, running in the cold can burn more calories, and you have to be more alert for potential pitfalls, like black ice.
Got all that? Now get out there and get moving!
Jennifer Landis is a writer and blogger with a passion for healthy living. She is a proud wife and mom, prefers tea over coffee, yoga, and distance running. When she’s not cleaning peanut butter off her toddler, you can find her blogging at Mindfulness Mama.