Top 10 Tips for Winter Running
I know that by now we’ve probably all read a thousand lists like this, so I figured I’d add my voice to the chorus of advice. This winter, the bite of cold air and snow is making its way to parts of the world that aren’t used to this much cold and I’ll bet that some of those people are wondering what to do since it’s not quite as balmy as usual! I could probably write a huge list of tips but for now I’ll limit myself to 10. So, here we go:
1. It’s not necessarily the cold, it’s the wind! Get yourself a good windproof layer. It’s amazing how cold 30° F can feel when it’s backed up by a 15 mph wind! Try something like the Firewall 220 Zip and the Firewall 220 Tights from Sugoi. Not only are these built for the cold, but the Firewall fabric keeps the winds at bay.
2. Layer! One of the many advantages of all the high-tech fabrics on the market today is that they address the constant issue of weight and bulk. Layering, especially with form fitting layers, is going to keep your body temperature comfortable while sealing out the cold. Many tops also have zippers which allow for ventilation should things get unexpectedly toasty.
3. Hydrate! This is a huge point and one that I had to learn about the hard way. We all take hydration into consideration in the warmer months, but often we forget when it’s cold outside. Just because it’s cold does NOT mean we stop sweating and losing water! When I lived in NYC a lot of the water fountains were turned off for the winter to prevent cracked pipes, so I either used a hydration belt or my HPL #20 hydration vest from Nathan Sports.
4. Gloves. I’ve found that once I warm up, my hands get very warm, even in the coldest of temperatures. So, the gloves I wear are always very minimal and light so they can be held or put in a pocket. Usually I end up wearing only one glove at a time which allows me to only bring one glove. Again, the glove thing (for me anyway) is more about the wind than anything else.
5. Heat regulation. Believe it or not, many people get very hot…TOO hot, running when it’s cold out. This is likely because we’ve done such a great job of layering and trying to stay warm that we’re overheating. Try cooling down by removing one glove. I’ve found that my fingers act like the fins on a radiator, dispersing heat and cooling me down as I go. As I mentioned in point 2 above, many tops have zippers that will allow for full or partial unzipping to let in some much needed ventilation.
6. Headwear. This is kind of a carry over from the last point, but I think it needs its own paragraph. Be flexible and smart about your headwear. I have a headband that I wear when it’s appropriately cool to keep my huge ears warm but still allow the top of my head to be cool. When it gets cold, I usually don a full stocking cap. One of my favorites of late is the Chase Beanie from Icebreaker. It’s made from Merino wool and is very warm yet it’s extremely lightweight and thin allowing for plenty of ventilation. When it’s super cold out, you have to be very aware of icing. That’s right, the sweat coming through your hat can form what amounts to a shell over your entire head. Since ice is such a fantastic insulator, this can wind up making you overheat, so think about carrying an extra, dry hat.
7. Your “junk”. When I discovered the awesomeness that is tights, I thought the thermal nature of them would take care of the cold all over. Since I wear compression shorts under my tights, I also figured that this would be added protection against the elements. WRONG. All that wind I wrote about earlier cut right through what is one of the sweatiest places on your body, the groin. Without going into specifics…ouch. So, guys, get some windproof undies. The ZEROx Gunde Boxer from Craft has a windproof front panel that will help keep all the bits and pieces in working order.
8. Watch your skin! I’ve been out running in the cold before and found myself completely comfortable and able to go on and on with one exception…my face. Unless I’m wearing a balaclava, which is not that often, my face is almost always exposed. So, protect your skin! Even something as simple as Vasaline or as high-tech as 5-Hour Anti-Chafe Cream from Mission will protect any exposed skin.
9. Watch for ice! Unless you’re wearing actual spiked shoes like the Icebug Spirit3 OLX shoes will ALL slip on ice (and frozen over snow). I won’t go on a tangent about technique right now, but rather I’ll just give a couple of links to help for running on the ice. There is always the venerable YakTrax to keep you grounded, but another great option is the Hobnail from La Sportiva. Either way, be safe!
10. Get dry. After your run, fight the urge to jump into a steaming hot shower. Rather, get out of all your sweat-soaked layers and get on a nice, dry sweatshirt and pants. Getting in the shower right away will only be an uncomfortable shock to your system. Once your body has gotten temperature regulated again, then jump in the shower.