January 15, 2017

The Beginner’s Guide to (Safe) Winter Running

What do you need to have the best winter run ever? You bring the positive attitude, we’ll bring the gear (and safety tips)!

The temperatures have dropped, snow has fallen, and the holidays have come and gone. Yeah, winter is definitely here. If you’re a runner, that can mean facing wintry conditions on the road or (sometimes worse) the dreaded gym treadmill.

Can’t bring yourself to run inside? We understand. Whether you’re a beginner winter runner or just looking for a quick refresh, we have tips on how to run safely this season.

woman runs on snowy trail

How to dress for winter running

First on the list of things you need to prepare for is your clothing. While your first instinct may be to put layers on layers on layers, you may want to hold off, just a little. Don’t get us wrong, layering is definitely important. Look to wear a layer that wicks away moisture and a top that blocks the wind. Because your body temperature increases as you exercise, you won’t need quite as many layers as you might originally think. When you walk out the door, you should feel slightly chilled and uncomfortable. If you feel comfy and warm, you may want to remove a layer. For those bone-chilling days, though, consider throwing on a fleece mid-layer to help keep you insulated.

Additional items to consider adding to your winter running wardrobe:

Winter running gear guide

Waterproof shoes

In addition to your clothes, your running gear may need to be adjusted for the change in season. For your shoes, look to find ones with ample traction. Bonus if they’re also waterproof and breathable! There’s nothing like an unexpected ice cold foot bath when the snow turns to slush or cold feet because of sweaty feet that can’t breathe.

Outside Magazine lists the Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX® Shoe as one of the best trail running shoes of 2017. Available in men’s and women’s styles, the shoe is “a confident, capable performer on treacherous trails, shoulder-season muck, and packed snow.”

Clothes that keep you warm and safe

Because winter brings fewer daylight hours, make sure your clothing is brightly colored, reflective, and consider wearing a headlamp. As winter wears on, snow drifts can grow alongside your favorite roads. Be mindful that drivers may not see you and can’t react as quickly if road conditions are slippery. Look to stay on sidewalks or trails away from heavy traffic. If road running is your only option, run toward oncoming traffic so if need be, you can bail out into a snow pile.

And that leads us to what to leave in your car. Should you find yourself wet and cold, make sure to leave a change of clothes and a blanket in the car, just in case.

Winter running safety tips

The cold, dry winter conditions can leave you dehydrated without realizing it. Even though you may not be sweating as much as you do in summer, you still need to hydrate properly.

According to North Dakota State University, “the rules of hydration are essentially the same no matter the weather. Pay attention to the warning signs of dehydration and make sure to drink plenty of water. Keep a bottle of water handy, and drink even before signs of thirst appear. Thirst is a signal that your body is already on the way to dehydration.”

Plan to drink water before, during, and after any run. For the “during” portion of hydration, if you fill your bottle with warm fluids or tuck it near your body, you can help prevent the water from freezing.

More winter running tips and tricks:

  1. Always check the weather forecast first. Know if there are any expected storms coming and plan an emergency shelter spot along your route, should you need it.
  2. Give your body a quick warm up before jumping into a cold run. This could mean a few ups and downs on the stairs or some quick jumping jacks.
  3. Start your run facing the wind so the wind doesn’t freeze your sweat on the way home.
  4. Leave your headphones at home. The Road Runners Club of America advises runners let their ears help avoid dangers their eyes can’t see, like the crack of a falling branch overhead due to wet, wintry conditions.
  5. Don’t ignore shivering. The RCCA warns that shivering is an important first sign that the body is losing heat and may be in danger of hypothermia.

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