Cooler temperatures are a relief for many runners after running throughout the hot and humid summer months. With the uptick in COVID-19 cases during the winter, our masks can help us prevent the spread and even keep us warm as we head outdoors for a jog.
If you’re new to running in the winter months, this guide can advise you on the necessary adjustments and precautions you need to take before running in much cooler (and sometimes more dangerous) conditions.
Safety Running Outside in the Winter
As long as runners have the appropriate clothing, the outdoor activity is still safe. Once runners start out on the trail, their bodies heat up rather quickly. If bundled up, however, it could lead to overheating. Instead, the layering of technical fabrics helps to regulate body temperature. A general rule of thumb is to dress like it’s 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. Consider wearing clothing with a zipper at the neck and under the area to vent air as you build energy and heat. When stocking up on activewear for the winter season, runners should consider purchasing a few essentials, including:
- Running tights or pants
- Long-sleeve wool or poly-blend shirts, used as a base layer. Depending on winter temperatures in each runner’s locale, some may need to invest in both a medium-weight and a heavy-weight base layer shirt.
- Running gloves or mittens
- Headband, ear warmers or hat
- A windproof running jacket
- Running socks (tech fabric or wool blend)
Exposed skin is particularly vulnerable to chilly gusts of wind. BodyGlide can be used on the exposed face, like the nose and cheeks, to prevent frostbite. If wind is expected, slather up with Vaseline or opt for a face mask before the run. As runners acclimate to outdoor temperatures more, they learn their own tolerance for the weather.
Wear Proper Running Shoes
Not only do runners need to worry about their clothes, but it’s always important to wear the correct type of running shoes. To keep warmth in and any water or slush out, runners should wear shoes that have mesh. Besides wearing socks that keep away wetness (like SmartWool socks), Gore-Tex uppers are a runner’s best bet.
Things to Consider
Winter running is more focused on maintaining miles than speed. In very cold weather, runners should identify inversions, look for elevated spots where the air will be warmer. A 300 feet hill, can have air that’s 20 degrees warmer, making a noticeable difference for our bodies.
If runners can’t run in the middle of the day when the temperatures are at their warmest, consider running twice a day. Running 2,5 miles in the morning and 2,5 miles in the evening, for instance, is better than trying to complete one long six-mile run where runners typically get very cold toward the end.
Before and After Running
Warm-ups prep us for cold temperatures. Before running outdoors, move around inside to get the blood flowing without breaking a sweat. Running up and down the stairs, using a jump rope, or doing a few minutes of yoga salutations can help get the blood flowing. If you’re meeting a group of running buddies, sit in your cars to chat, rather than waiting outside for one person to arrive.
After running, our core body temperatures drop as soon as we stop running. We can avoid the chills by changing all our clothes—head to toe—as soon as we get home. Women need to change out of damp sports bras quickly. Choose a warm, dry beenie over wet hair. Picking a coffee shop or making a hot is helpful, but a hearty soup does double duty by refueling the body’s protein and sodium stores, while also keeping us warm.
While the warmer months are just around the corner, these winter running tips can help you stay protected from harsh weather. Happy running!