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Woman running outside during the winter

Gear Up for Winter Running

Don’t let cold, blustery weather get in the way of your training goals

Training for a race is regimented work. You mark days off your calendar, carefully calculating miles as you go. But what happens when there’s frost on the windows and snow on the ground?

Don’t let your mind race. Even in the winter, there are plenty of ways to achieve your goals — no matter what your experience level.

Amy Harrison, OhioHealth Sports Medicine athletic trainer and Runner’s Clinic coordinator, agrees. “The colder months can be great, especially for beginners. Since it takes a while to acclimate to the heat, many beginners prefer cooler weather.”

With upcoming races, such as the OhioHealth Capital City Half Marathon in April, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

“The hardest part of winter running is finding motivation when it is cold and dark. Scheduling races throughout the winter keeps you focused,” Amy says.

“Try racing every four to six weeks. With slick surfaces, cold temperatures, precipitation, and darkness, it becomes easy to start skipping workouts.”

To stay on course, Amy suggests adding variety. “Make sure you get outside at least once a week. Running on pavement with wind resistance is different from inside on a treadmill,” says Amy. “Treadmills can be tedious so mix it up by adding an incline, playing with speed or adding in some short tempo runs to beat the boredom.”

Keep in mind that, even if you’re a race veteran, it’s still wise not to overdo it. “Winter training is different,” explains Paul Miller, OhioHealth Sports Medicine athletic trainer. “I find it helpful to lower expectations when temperatures also lower. There is nothing wrong with running fewer miles per workout outdoors in the winter.”

“With that said, however, there’s quite a sense of accomplishment to be the first set of tracks left in the snow,” adds Paul. “If you know yourself and your capabilities, go for it!”

Cold Weather Running Tips

  1. Always consult a physician before training. Cold air can trigger lung problems, while increased heart rate can be dangerous for people with cardiac issues.
  2. Wear removable layers, such as:
    • Moisture-wicking material to draw sweat away from skin
    • Insulated layers, such as lightweight fleece
    • Waterproof and wind-resistant apparel to stave off the elements
  3. Protect hands, feet and ears to avoid frostbite and loss of body heat. Keep nose and mouth covered when temperatures are below freezing.
  4. If it’s dark out, wear light colors and a reflective safety vest or tape.
  5. Wear shoes with plenty of tread.
  6. Be slightly chilled to start out. Overheating can cause excess sweating, which, in turn, cools down the body.

Gear Recommendations

Staying safe and warm while running outside is the most important thing. Jeff Henderson from Fleet Feet gave us a few recommendations to help make winter running a little easier. One tip he gave for dressing for the elements: dress like it’s 15 degrees warmers than it actually is to prevent overheating or needing to take off too many layers while out running. Check out some items to help make your winter run the best it can be:

Staying warm:

  • Layers: start with a thin, breathable layer and then use a wind or water-resistant shell; add more layers as necessary, but remember not to overdo it.
  • Thermal beanie: keep your ears warm and dry with this moisture-wicking hat.
  • Neck gaiter: not only will this keep your neck warm, but if you bring it up high enough, it can also cover your mouth and nose for almost full-face protection.
  • Gloves: if your hands get cold, make sure you have some gloves, especially moisture-wicking ones.

Staying safe:

  • Aftershokz headphones: music can really help your workout, but they can also make it harder to hear what’s going on around you – these headphones allow you to hear your music and your environment through bone conduction technology.
  • Reflective vest: the sun isn’t out as many hours during the winter, so having a reflective vest is key to keep you safe while running in the dark.
  • Yaktrax Run Ice Grips: you don’t have to avoid outdoor running after snow or ice with these grips – Yaktrax allows you to run in winter weather as if the ground was dry.

Jeff also had some advice for getting started on winter running. It can be difficult to push yourself when it’s cold and dark outside, so try finding a friend or a group to keep you accountable. It could also help you to keep a running tracker in a place you’ll see every day to remind you how many times you’ve gone on a run in the past week and motivate you to run more.

Winter specifics aside, take reasonable precautions, like stretching before and after a run, staying hydrated and applying sunscreen. If temperatures become unbearable, limit time outside. It can take time to get used to running outside this time of year, but with a little practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.

Learn more about how you can master your running game with the help of the OhioHealth Runner’s Clinic.