Winter is my second favorite time of year to run. Being from Minnesota, that statement carries more weight than it does in other parts of the country because in Minnesota we have seasons that are distinctly different from each other – they’re called “Winter” and “Road Construction”. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself…)
In reality, we have four seasons that are distinctly different from each other and fall is my number one favorite due to the beautiful colors and moderate temperatures.
Winter is also beautiful when the snow is fresh and white, the skies are icy blue and my runs are not suffer-fests due to high heat and humidity.
Of course, winter brings its own health and safety challenges and I would like to share a few tips for running safely during this time of year.
- Wear appropriate layers for the temperature
I more or less have a winter running uniform.
I have Thorlo wool running socks that keep my feet warm in every temperature – I have never had cold toes on a winter run. They also have held up amazingly well. I would be embarrassed to share how old they are so it’s I good thing I can’t remember how long I have had them…
If it’s below 32 degrees I wear thicker, cotton leggings. These stand up well to the low temps wind. The lighter weight synthetic fabrics don’t do much for warmth on those days.
Lastly I layer a warm base layer under a jacket. The Runner’s World website’s “What to Wear” tool can be super helpful for helping you fine-tune your own uniform.
- Cover up your fingers, ears, and nose!
No matter how much you enjoy running in the cold or how acclimated you become, skin can freeze. Every human’s body diverts blood flow away from your extremities to keep your vital organs warm. This is why our fingers and toes are the first things to feel too cold when we are outside in the winter. Running can cause this diversion to happen even faster, because now our leg muscles are also demanding a lot of that blood flow. If you get too hot and sweaty while running, you can always stick your gloves or hat in a pocket but it is never a good idea to leave home without them in the winter!
- Pay attention to the surface
On any given winter run you might encounter a neatly shoveled sidewalk, a slushy intersection, slippery hard packed snow, a frozen crushed gravel trail… I could go on. I ran on all four of those things just this morning on one 4.5 mile run. I’m a believer that winter weather does not require treadmilling every day but it does require planning. Running through snow is going to feel more difficult that running on solid ground and it might slow you down. The stabilizing muscles in your feet, calves and hips are going to have to work harder. If your leg muscles feel more sore the day after a snowy run, give them a little extra love with your foam roller.
Please feel free to reach out if you have questions I didn’t address. I would also love to hear any of your own tips and tricks for managing winter running!