Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tips for Winter Running

Winter is upon us. If you run in the morning before work, it’s dark and cold. If you’re a post-work evening runner, it’s dark and cold. If you have a lifestyle that enables you to run during the day, I’m jealous (but it’s still cold!).

People are always shocked to find that I run all year round. Wait, you run in the winter? How??? Obsessions like mine are not seasonal, and weather will not deter me from getting my workout in. And there are certain ways that everyone can ensure a good winter workout.

Temperature: It is never too cold to run, the trick is to find the right balance of clothing.

  • Never wear cotton. Cotton holds cold moisture (sweat) against your body and will make you colder as you run. Synthetic materials (or wool if you don’t mind the itch) will pull sweat away from your skin and insulate you. This means that even if you sweat you will stay warm.
  • Invest in good running clothes because they’re worth it. There’s no way around it, winter running clothes can be pricey. (But buying yourself a new wardrobe after spending the winter on the couch is pricey too!) And they are a good investment – most my running tights and long-sleeve thermals have lasted since freshman year of college (when I moved to Boston and realized that year-round shorts just weren’t going to cut it).
  • Gloves and hats will keep your extremities from freezing off. You don’t need your fingers while running, but if you lose them to frostbite you’ll regret it later. The same goes for your ears, so wear a hat or headband. The same rule applied here as to clothing: no cotton.
  • If you live somewhere super cold, consider covering your mouth and face with a balaclava (not to be confused with baklava, which is a delicious pastry).
  • Read my Do’s and Don’ts of Running Clothes.

Temperature: It’s coldest early in the morning just before the sun rises. It’s warmest at mid-day to early afternoon. Evening is usually warmer than morning, but it also tends to be windier. Depending on where you live and what your schedule is, consider the best time for you to run.

Darkness: It’s important to be smart about running in the dark.

  • Don’t run in parks or deserted-feeling neighborhoods. Pay attention to closure signs (aka Rock Creek park is OFF LIMITS). If you don’t live through your workout it’s really not worth it.
  • Wear colorful clothes or a bright arm-band. Wearing all black is like asking to be hit by a car.
  • Run where street lights will show you the path. You don't want to risk twisting an ankle or tripping because you can't see the ground.
  • Run with a buddy. (If you can talk someone else into running with you!)
  • If you're super-bad-ass, consider investing in a headlamp. (I have one and it is one of my favorite things ever. Maybe I'll write an ode to it sometime...)

Timing: It’s cold and dark almost all the time, so figure out when the best time to run is for you.

  • Consider changing your normal workout time to adjust to daylight and temperature. Some people are morning runners, and some prefer the evenings (read my When to Run post), but winter may be a good time to reconsider your habits.

Hydration: You still need to drink! Make sure you stay hydrated through the winter (read my tips on hydration).

Good luck and stay motivated!