5 Unlikely Tips for Winter Running
Do you hate the treadmill as much as the rest of us? Willing to brave the freezing temps, snow, rain, mud, and whatever else Old Man Winter can throw at you so that you can maintain some semblance of fitness during the off season? Well then, you are definitely a trail and ultra runner. Running outside in the cold doesn’t have to be as miserable as the war stories you hear. Here are five helpful tips for making your next long run in the cold a little more bearable.
- Layering – Everyone knows to layer when they perform physical activity in the cold. What many people don’t know is that there is an optimal order to layering. Try this; instead of putting on a core short sleeve shirt as your first layer, put it on as your last one before your jacket. That way if you need to shed a layer you aren’t losing a layer off of your arms.
- Fuel – Don’t you hate it when your gels get so cold it’s like trying to squeeze dried cement through tube? Next time, keep your gels in your pants pockets where they stay warmer. Also, during the winter take food items that aren’t affected by temperature; granola bars, salted nut rolls, and fruit leather. These not only stay eatable but help teach you to eat real food while you’re running.
- Hydration – There is nothing worse than having your hydration hose freeze up during a run. There are two things you can do to keep it thawed and drinkable. 1. Wear your hydration vest under your jacket. It keeps the water and hose closer to your body produced heat and protected from the biting wind and outer temperature. 2. After taking a drink blow the water back into the reservoir. I’ve been doing this for some time now and whether I wear my vest inside or outside of my jacket my hose still stays clear.
- Socks and Shoes – Don’t be fooled by all the winter running shoe and sock gimmicks. The only thing Gortex shoes are good for is keeping the inevitable water and snow in your shoe, not out. The best thing you can do is wear tall socks (CEP Compression is a great brand) and shoes that allow your toes to move freely (try Altra Zero Drop with their wide toe box). When your feet are comfortable and can move it is easier for the blood to flow freely, keeping them warmer. The socks will act as a barrier against biting snow and cold wind. You can also try gaiters to keep the snow out (I prefer Inov-8 as they are insulated too).
- Neck Gaiter – We all know that the primary sources for heat loss are the head and hands, but what many don’t realize is that a tertiary, yet significant location for heat loss is the neck. Wearing a simple neck gaiter is extremely helpful because not only can it keep your neck warm, but it can be pulled up over your chin and mouth if it’s brutally cold. I prefer lightweight gaiters that still keep you warm without causing excessive sweating (try Buff as a great option).
Running in the cold doesn’t have to be a disaster. I haven’t run on a treadmill in two years and it’s not because I’m crazy. I have taken the time to buy the appropriate gear and learn simple principles, like above, that make running in freezing temps not only bearable, but enjoyable.