Maintaining your fitness routine can be a challenge in the winter, especially if a core part of your exercise involves outdoor activities like running. Fewer daylight hours, slick conditions, and freezing temperatures can deter anyone from getting outside for a solid sweat session, but you don’t have to be out for the entire season. Here at ViGOR FITNESS, we realize that reducing barriers for everyone to live a fit life for free with plenty of access to outdoor activities is a high priority. We have plenty of ways to make your chilly runs more enjoyable and safer. Here are some quick tips to get you running outside even when the temperature drops.
If the thought of lacing up your shoes and heading out the door into 30 degrees or below makes you want to jump back into bed, you’re not alone. A quick warmup can help get the blood flowing before you take a single step outside so you don’t spend the first part of your run trying to get warm. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to loosen up your muscles and joints while also raising your body temperature will help you feel more relaxed and ready to take on the road.
As the Swedish saying goes, ‘there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.’ This applies to every outdoor sport, and running is no exception. When it comes to winter running, the best way to ensure that you enjoy your time on the trail is to make sure you have an appropriate layering system that works to conserve your body heat, wick away sweat, and repel rain and snow. Another good rule of thumb is to dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer outside than it actually is because you’ll heat up too quickly if you’re wearing too many layers. Shed your layers before you get warm, otherwise, sweat will cling to your clothes and freeze as soon as you stop moving.
Always Cover Your Head and Hands
It’s a myth that you lose most of your heat through your head, but you’ll thank yourself for putting on a hat before your winter run. A thick beanie or earmuffs are a great way to cut out the cold and they’re easy to stuff into a pocket if you find you don’t actually need them. The same goes for gloves. Keeping your hands warm might be a bit of a stretch in the winter since most people’s fingers will feel cold even with gloves on, but on those extra cold days, you might consider tossing in some hand warmers.
Wear Shoes With Traction
You want to think from head to toe when it comes to being prepared for winter running. Your favorite pair of summer sneakers probably won’t cut it for winter running. Ideally, you should wear shoes that have some extra traction to help you grip on snow and ice. To bump up your comfort on those slushy days, wear wool socks with plastic bags over your feet for an added layer of water defense.
Without sweat running down your face, you might forget to drink water. However, running in the winter can be just as dehydrating as running in the summer which is why you should make a point to drink water before, during, and after a run. Depending on the route you take, you can stash warm drinks indoors or inside a warmer car to help keep your internal temperature high. You could also consider having your route end at your local coffee shop where you can reward yourself with a nice cup of hot tea.
Rethink Pace and Mileage
In the other three seasons, you might be keeping a steady 9-minute mile pace, but you shouldn’t be expected to set any personal records for speed during the winter. Be flexible with your training schedule and remember that your body has different needs when the temperature dips below zero. You naturally move slower as your body tries to conserve energy and pushing yourself too hard is a recipe for disaster. Avoid falling on the ice and having to sit out the season by remembering your long term fitness goals and focusing on the path in front of you.
Keep Your Route Short
If your favorite running routes are long out-and-backs, you might want to opt for a new tactic to keep up your training during the winter. Shorter loops offer an easy exit strategy so you don’t get caught in the cold for longer than you can handle. Think about planning out shorter loops around your house or your car so you can get in as many miles as you want, but you can also call it quits if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Ditch the Wet Clothes ASAP
One of the best ways to make sure you continue a practice of winter running is to end each run strong. That means ditching the wet clothes as soon as you get home. Your core body temperature will drop significantly as soon as you stop the aerobic work and the sweat that was working to keep you cool will suddenly feel freezing cold. Strip your running clothes, from your hat all the way down to your socks and warm up quickly with fresh, dry clothes and a hot drink or a bowl of soup.
Remember the Benefits
Winter running is often something people dread, but with the right equipment and the right mindset, you can think of yourself as a winter warrior! There are tons of benefits to running in the winter that you just can’t get from an indoor treadmill. For one, it builds your mental toughness like no other. Depending on when you’re able to run, you might get some much needed Vitamin D from the sun and the exercise alone will help to stave off the winter blues in those with Season Affective Disorder. And once you commit to the first ten or fifteen minutes of your run, you might notice that it’s actually more enjoyable than your summertime runs where high temps, humidity, and baking pavement can work against your pace.
Don’t let the winter weather keep you from getting outside this year! To stay focused on fitness even when it’s freezing out, join the ViGOR Nation’s supportive online community. We’ll keep you motivated all year long so you can crush your goals and stay in shape – rain, snow, or shine!