Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tips for Running in Cold Weather

Back during the summer, I complained a lot about running in the heat. Because it sucks.

Now we’re well into winter, and here in DC it’s getting cold! I love winter. Winter means snow, skiing, Christmas, and running without losing half your body weight in sweat (Hooray!!!) Running when it’s cold out is great because it warms you up. On a day when you would otherwise be cooped up inside because of the cold, it’s nice to get out there and run. 

In light of this, I have compiled some facts about and tips for running in the winter.

  1. Don’t get discouraged! It is never too cold/rainy/snowy to run! (The injured runner in me urges you to get out there, just because, unlike me right now, you can!!!)
  2. Dress properly. I already posted about running clothes, so just refer back to that. 
  3. If it’s particularly cold or windy, protect your skin! If you use a water-based moisturizer, maybe skip it before going out for a run, or consider switching to oil-based for the winter. The water in your moisturizer can freeze on your cheeks in cold wind, causing frostbite at worst, and skin damage at best.
  4. Warm up! Especially if you’re running in the morning when your legs may be stiff anyways. There is no need to start your run at a fast pace. It’s much better to start at a slow jog to get the blood flowing before you work up to your regular pace. And for a workout, I recommend adding at least 5 minutes to your normal warm up time.
  5. Your pace may slower than normal – but it’s no big deal! Here are some wise words from my coach about this: Please keep in mind that as we get into the colder weather, your workout times are going to get a little slower. This is a perfectly normal phenomenon; so do not be concerned about it. It’s a little more difficult to get your muscles warm and loose in the winter (which makes your pre-workout warm-up more important than usual), the cold air can be hard to breath, and you’re bundled up in a lot more layers of clothing than usual, so it stands to reason that you’re going to be running a little slower than you would if you were running in shorts in 60 degree weather.”
  6.  You don’t need to drink quite as much when it’s cold (because you’re not sweating as much). But please don’t forget to drink before and after your run. Being hydrated  is not a seasonal/optional thing.
  7. Watch your footing! Especially on bridges. Black ice can slip you up and cause some unnecessary damage!
  8. And finally, some days are really really really horrible. On such a day, you may need to cross train or treadmill. Again, some wise words from my coach: Many of you opt for treadmill running in the winter in an attempt to stay warm and avoid the elements. Treadmill running usually feels easy since the ground is being pulled underneath your feet and there is no wind resistance. While I agree that treadmills can be the preferred option during periods of extreme winter weather, I do not like the idea of spending any more time than necessary on a treadmill. I’ve seen a lot of very funky injuries result from excessive treadmill running, particularly hip and hamstring injuries. Running on a treadmill is not the same as running on terra firma. The treadmill belt is moving underneath you, which propels your feet backward and totally changes your running biomechanics. All phases of your running gait are going to be slightly altered as a result of running on a treadmill, and lots of bad things can happen when you start running un-naturally. To add to the potential problems, many runners also incline the treadmill bed, which puts additional strain on the calves and achilles. So, if you do spend any time on a treadmill this winter, please try to limit your treadmill workouts to only those days when running outside isn’t possible or practical, and DO NOT incline the treadmill bed. Run outside whenever possible.”
  9. It’s always a beautiful day for a run!
And here's another running blogger's cold weather running tip list. 
And a discussion thread on what motivates you to run in the winter