Winter running – 2014 edition!

Cold weather running…it’s not so bad, eh!!

Well it’s that time of year again for us here in the north – cold weather running season… don’t fret it though, with a little bit of forethought and planning, you can easily embrace the challenge!

“My lungs will freeze” is one of the most common comments we hear, but if you consider all the other aerobic winter activities that people do, why should running be any different. Think of alpine or Nordic skiing as an example, or even snowshoeing. These sports require a similar effort and are often performed in harsh conditions at sub freezing temperatures, and people don’t freeze while doing those activities – do they?

In order to optimize your outdoor winter runs, here are some tips to help make stepping outside more comfortable:

Check the hourly weather forecast in advance, and plan to head out at the warmest part of the day. You’ll find that by 9-9:30am, the sun is out and has begun to warm things up nicely. It’s important to pay particular attention to the wind-chill factor and wind direction, as well as humidity. The higher the humidity, the colder it will feel.

Layer your clothing. This is one of the most important factors to staying safe and warm. Double-walled socks will keep your feet warm, and layering your clothes will create heat pockets in between the layers. Be sure to keep the fabric closest to your body close fitting and sweat-wicking. You can layer over a second shirt and then finish with an outer layer that’s wind-resistant and waterproof. You should do the same for bottoms – layering long pants over fitted shorts, topped with a wind-resistant shell. A fitted glove, layered with a wind-resistant mitt can work well to keep your fingers warm – and don’t forget to protect your face and head using a face mask or scarf to cover your neck and face.

You can apply a sweat-resistant sport moisturizer such as Dermatone for extra protection, and petroleum jelly works great on lips, cheeks and your chin to protect exposed skin.

When first heading out, run ‘into’ the wind. This way, you’ll be able to gauge how cold it is and use the ‘tailwind’ to help you return home at the midway point in your run.

Be sure to shorten your stride in snow and ice. Keep your foot-strikes more in the center of the foot, and don’t over-stride out in front or follow through with a big kick. This will cause a loss in traction and result in a slippery stride. Best to keep the cadence (leg turnover) at a high rate, and stride-length shorter than you would on dry pavement.

Stay hydrated during your winter runs, and be sure to pack a small snack. We tend to burn more calories in the cold temperatures as our muscles are working harder to stay warm, so bring along a small snack (something that won’t freeze) to keep your energy stores up.

Enjoy the view. Winter running brings beautiful lighting and landscapes that are worth taking time to enjoy, so don’t forget to stop once in a while and look around.

Change out of your run clothes as soon as you finish. Your layers will most likely be damp underneath and getting into a dry change of clothes will help you regulate your core temperature and warm up more quickly.

Hopefully these tips will encourage you to head out the door and enjoy some winter running. The fresh air and winter scenery can make for some beautiful runs as your senses will experience a new variety of sights and sounds that we don’t get from spring, summer and fall running.

Remember, swimsuit season is just around the corner, so get out and run with some friends or even a group to stay active throughout the winter months. If you’re lucky, you’ll even take in some good old vitamin D if the sun happens to be out!

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