Winter running 101: Five essential tips

Source: Roberto Caucino/Shutterstock

Source: Roberto Caucino/Shutterstock

Navigating winter’s gauntlet of snow, ice and negative wind chills can be daunting for even the most devoted runners (I’ve had my own share of “raingry” days here in the Bay Area recently, that’s for sure).

But shorter days, frigid temps and fluctuating elements are no reason to put your workout plans on hold until spring. Follow these five tips for mastering cold-weather running, and you’ll set yourself up for a much more enjoyable season.

1. Layer up: Start with a synthetic base layer (read: not cotton) to wick sweat away from skin and, depending on the conditions, add an insulating mid-layer and a waterproof outer layer. This not only helps trap air to keep you warmer, but it also gives you options for fending off a variety of elements.

2. Don’t overdress: To avoid overheating and excessive sweating, dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than the current temperature. You should feel chilled when you walk out the door, but a few minutes into the run, your body temperature will rise naturally and make up the difference.

3. Protect feet: Pair high-traction, waterproof shoes with wool socks, which are great for wicking away wetness while maintaining warmth. If you want even more stability, try Yak Trax, an ice traction device with spikes and steel coils that’s anatomically designed for use with running shoes.

4. Slow down: Running on snow requires more stabilizing muscles for balance, so keep the effort easy and reduce overall mileage, as needed. If it’s super icy, use good judgment by steering clear of busy streets, taking a rest day or hitting the treadmill; there’s no use tempting fate only to end up with an unnecessary injury.

5. Factor wind: Protect any remaining exposed skin with a thin layer of Vaseline (or try this easy, DIY hand salve) to prevent windburn or frostbite. And to avoid that mid-run, bone-chilling blast in the face after you’ve broken a sweat, begin your run into the wind, so you can finish with it at your back.

What do you do differently during the winter running season? 

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9 thoughts on “Winter running 101: Five essential tips

  1. I love this list and definitely agree with #2!! I never overdress because although I’m cold when I walk out the door, I warm up rather quickly! I also really like #4- I made the mistake of doing my turn around on ice (not intentionally though) and fell very hard…twice…don’t ask me how I fell the second time! Haha! Great post!!!

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  2. Unfortunately it has been so awful cold or icy here this winter that I have been doing my running on the treadmill. I am definitely looking forward to spring and getting outdoors!!

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  3. Great tips! I love #4 (mostly because I love running slow) and think that’s the best advice on here. I think running in snow feels like running on sand and it totally uses different muscles than usual so I usually have to slow down a lot in the snow! I also use YakTrax and love them!

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    • Yup; slow is good – it’s just a different workout. Otherwise you could end up like Hubby who tried to keep his regular pace on the ice & ended up wiping out rounding his first corner. He learned the hard way!

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  4. Great suggestions! For my “walking” tip, in cold weather, I always use the good “ol” Classic Chap Stick in the black and white container. I have tried many other fancy lip protectors, but this I find is the best….apply often and at night also.

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