Top Ten Ways to Survive Winter Running

By Rick Morris

Running in the cold and snow or even worse, running on icy roads and trails, present some unique challenges to distance runners. Don’t let hard winters adversely affect your running and training. Here are our top ten tips for surviving winter running.

Grab The Gloves

When winter running don’t forget to cover your digits. When running in the cold your body will divert some blood flow to your core to help maintain your body temperature. That can literally leave your hands and fingers out in the cold. Be sure you wear running gloves for both safety and comfort. It’s a good idea to have a light pair of running gloves for cool temperatures and a heavier pair for when it really gets cold.

Layer Up

Winter running requires special dressing techniques. Dress in layers. That way you will be able to shed some clothing as you warm up. Dressing in layers also allows you to have a wicking layer next to your skin to keep dry and a waterproof/windproof outer layer to keep the rain and snow away.

Put a Lid on It

I’m not saying you’re a hot head but studies have shown that you lose as much as 40% of your body heat through your head. So cover your lid to stay warm and safe when winter running.

Drink Up

You’re always careful to stay hydrated during your summertime runs. The heat won’t let you forget. But how about your winter running? Do you stay hydrated? The temperature may be low during your winter runs but that doesn’t mean you don’t need fluids. The energy production taking place in your muscles not only produces a lot of body heat but the process itself burns up fluids in your body. Be sure you are replacing lost fluids during your winter training, especially during your winter long runs.

Go High Tech

The high tech running fabrics and clothing available today may be a bit more expensive than cotton but it is well worth the extra cost. If you wear a cotton inner layer for your winter workouts, the cotton fabric will trap moisture against your skin and make it more difficult for you to maintain your core temperature. A cotton outer layer will become saturated with both moisture from your sweat and from any rain or snow that’s falling. The higher tech wicking inner layer will pull moisture away from your skin and help keep you warm. A water resistance outer layer will keep the rain and snow away from your body when winter running.

Dress – But Don’t Over Dress

Dressing for winter running can be tricky. You want to be warm for your winter runs but avoid over dressing. If you bundle up too much you will become overheated and sweat excessively. That will make it difficult for even high tech fabrics to do their job properly and keep you warm. The rule of thumb is that you should be just a bit on the cold side when you start running. Once you build up some body heat from running you will be comfortable. If you’re comfortable before you begin your run you will almost certainly be too hot in the middle of your run.

Watch Out For Jack Frost

When running in the cold always be aware of the danger signs of hypothermia and frostbite. If you notice the early signs of those cold weather injuries it’s time to head for shelter. It’s better to cut your run short and be safe to run another day.

Change Up Your Warm Up

When running in the extreme cold your body diverts some blood flow into your core and away from your extremities in an attempt to keep your core temperature at a normal level. That means it can take longer to get your leg muscles up to efficient operating temperature. When running in the cold perform a longer warm up and begin your training run at a more moderate pace. If you’re planning a speed or interval training session I would suggest doubling your normal warm up. Also be sure to stay warm between your repeats. If your muscles become cold and tight between hard repeats you could be risking muscle injury.

Tread Lightly

Running on ice and snow is obviously a slippery proposition. When you run on those hazardous surfaces be sure you run with very light strides of shorter than normal stride length. Don’t lose your focus and concentration. Just a moments lack of focus could lead to a big crash.

Don’t Fear the Tread

Let’s face it – there are just some conditions that aren’t safe to run in. During times of extreme cold or ferocious storms why not play it safe and hit the treadmill. Your run will be safer and much more comfortable.