Winter Running Guide
by Amby Burfoot -
Runner's World Online
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Sixteen steps to help you stay warm and
safe on winter training runsToday's high-tech running fabrics make it
easy to enjoy winter running. Here are the things you need to know.
1. Dress in layers. This will allow you to peel off or add layers as the
temperature, wind, and other conditions change.
2. Choose a
highly-breathable base layer. This is the layer of material that you wear
closest to your skin. It should be made of a high-tech polyester that "wicks"
sweat away from your body. There are many of these on the market. One of the
key goals of cold-weather running is to avoid excess sweat buildup (which often
occurs if you wear cotton clothing.) The problem with sweat is that it can
cause a severe chilling effect if the temperature turns cooler and windier. And
if you slow down or have to walk.
3. Wear a looser, second layer
of breathable material (like fleece or similar fabrics). Often, you will
only need this in the coldest weather, when the fleece adds extra insulation
between your base layer and your outer layer.
4. Wear an outer
layer of breathable, wind-resistant, water-resistant material. It's very
important to wear a windbreaker as your outer layer, since wind is often the
biggest contributor to winter coldness. You don't need a waterproof outer
layer, but it's good to have a significant degree of water resistance. Your
outer layer should be thin and lightweight. Many outerlayers fold conveniently
into their own small pouch, which allows you to carry them with you in a pocket
as you run.
5. Select second layers and outer layers with zippers
and other vents. These will allow you to zip them up and down, which gives
you maximum comfort in a wide range of temperatures.
6. Wear a
wool or breathable hat that can be pulled over your ears. During cold
weather, you lose up to 50 percent of your body heat through your head. An
appropriate hat is an absolutely essential piece of winter running gear. Take
it off as you warm up. Pull it down as far as you can if you start to get
7. Protect the extremities. That means your ears, your
hands and, guys, your penis. (Trust us on this one. On the coldest, windiest
days, be prepared to stuff an extra layer of wind protections and/or insulation
in your shorts.)
8. Mittens are better than gloves for hand
protection. That is, they keep the hands warmer. Of course, gloves are a
lot more convenient for many things, like dealing with your car keys. Still, in
the coldest, windiest weather, choose mittens.
9. Don't worry too
much about your legs. A runner's legs stand up quite well to cold and
wind-much better than the torso and extremities. Often, simple tights or the
pants of a light windsuit are enough. In extreme cold and wind, we recommend a
base layer (that is, thermal underwear constructed from high-tech, breathable
fabrics) under a wind-resistant pants.
10. Take care of your
face. Remember moisturizer and sunscreen, particularly if there's a lot of
snow on the ground.
11. Protect your eyes with
sunglasses.You'll be glad you did, in both windy weather and when there's a
lot of snow glare.
12. Wear reflective gear. We repeat: Wear
reflective gear. This is a crucial safety issue in winter, when you might
be forced to run in darkness or at dawn or dusk. As far as we're concerned, the
more reflective gear you wear, the better. On your torso, your arms, your legs,
your head and your shoes.
13. Remember to stay well-hydrated and
well-fed. Many runners overlook the fact that staying well-hydrated is just
as important in winter as in summer. Because it's cold and dry, you don't
notice that you're sweating. You also might not notice how easy it is to try
out in your home or office environment before your workout. So stay hydrated
with sports drinks that include carbohydrates (sugars) for energy. Also, take
energy bars and gels with you on long runs. Winter is the worst time to "bonk"
because you run out of energy.
14. Wear running shoes with good
outsoles (treads). Winter roads can be slippery. You want to stay on your
feet, not on the road. A pair of running shoes (or even trail running shoes)
with an "aggressive" outsole can help. What do we mean by aggressive? The
opposite of smooth and flat. Look for shoes with lots of ridges and studs.
15. Run with a friend. We think this is good advice any time of
year. It's even better in the winter, when accidents are more likely to happen.
(Alternative: Bring your cell phone with you on the run.)
Consider an indoor workout. In the worst and darkest of weather, it makes
good sense. We don't think you're a wimp if you skip your outdoor run on
certain, particularly bad days. We call that "smart." The number of indoor
training alternatives keeps growing. You can't go wrong with a treadmill, an
indoor bike, a strength-training workout, or a pool workout (whether running in
the pool, or swimming.)