Prepare for Running in Cold Weather
As temperatures drop, so does motivation to be outside and run. If not properly prepared, not only can running in freezing temperatures be uncomfortable, but it can be dangerous as well. Listed below are tips for staying safe, comfortable, and injury-free during the winter months.
Choose the Proper Fabrics
As the saying goes, there is no such as bad weather, just bad clothing. When running, avoid cotton layers. As you sweat, cotton will absorb the moisture, causing you to feel colder than you truly are. Instead, opt for wool blends or dri-fit clothing which wick the sweat away from your skin, keeping you warm and dry.
Dressing in plenty of layers is the best way to ensure a comfortable run. As a general rule of thumb, three layers are sufficient for 0o C, with the addition of a heavier layer for every 10o C drop. At 0o an example outfit would include a dri-fit t-shirt, a light long sleeve, and a wind proof jacket. For runners that warm up quickly, complete the first 1k of your run near your car so that you can easily ditch a layer if needed.
Protect your Neck
A warm neck can make or break your run. Consider purchasing a wool neck gaiter, which is a continuous piece of fabric that wraps around your neck like a scarf.
Consider a Facemask. When the wind is biting, protecting sensitive skin on the face from wind burn is a necessity. Face masks are available in many varieties, including full face models or ones that just cover nose and mouth. When choosing a face mask look for fabrics that will be comfortable against your skin, but still breathable, as well as models that do not impede your vision or breathing.
Invest in Good Gloves
Gloves are important for cold weather runs because the body will draw blood away from non-necessary areas (like the hands) to areas of the body that are performing the most work (like the legs). Look for mittens, which will keep your hands warmest, in water- and wind-proof fabrics.
Give your Body Time to Warm Up
Muscles are more prone to injury in cold conditions. Start your runs slower than you normally would, and consider doing a dynamic warm up, such as leg swings, after a few minutes of jogging. While supporting yourself against a fence or sign post, swing each leg back and forth 10 – 12 times to loosen up hips and hamstrings.
When roads and trails become icy or covered in snow consider purchasing a pair of YakTrax to improve your traction and decrease your chances of slipping or falling. YakTrax are a rubber device studded with spikes that slip over your running shoes to improve your ability to gain traction in the snow. As an alternative, you can also drill screws through the bottom of an old pair of shoes to achieve roughly the same outcome.
Warm Up Your Lungs
If the cold air bites your lungs when you start running, spend 5 minutes indoors warming them up first. Do jumping jacks, run in place, or do a quick round of pushups before heading out the door to avoid the searing lung feeling.