Have you ever went for a winter run only to realize you didn’t dress warm enough?
Underdressing for even the quickest winter run can go from pleasure to misery in a hurry. As we become cold, we loose focus. We end up concentrating more on our shivering teeth than our moving legs.
A winter run ranks dead last on my list of favorite times to run. I love running in the heat. I say the hotter, the better. So when I run in the cold, I do whatever it takes to stay warm. Even when I ran 116 miles across the state of Florida, I faced the cold. Sure, the race itself wasn’t cold. But the four months of training prior were freezing! It was the many training runs in the frigid Northeast that was the real challenge.
When the total mileage of your training run exceeds the temperatures outside, you learn how to stay warm. When you run 40 miles in 10-degree weather, staying warm becomes much more critical than your pace. A simple winter run goes from trying to become fit to the survival of the fittest.
With the winter weather right around the corner, I thought it would be a perfect time to share some winter running tips. The following 7 tips will help you stay warm on your next run and winter will go from a time off to a time to train!
1. Layer up
Wear as many layers as it takes to keep warm. Don’t worry about how it affects your pace. Focus on how warm you feel instead of how fast you go. Freezing conditions don’t last forever so get your speed work in on the next warmer day.
There have been mornings where I’ve worn six layers upon my torso. It was a base layer, active thermal, sweatshirt, zip-up sweatshirt, jacket, and a vest. Here’s a tip, make sure your base layer is a long sleeve compression shirt. The compression fabric will wick away the sweat accumulation created by the extra layers.
Don’t worry about over layering either. If you become too hot, then take a layer of clothing off and throw it in a bush. There’s plenty of time to pick it up later. If you’re running an out-and-back than grab your clothing on the way home. If not, drive back to the bush afterward.
If weight or mobility becomes an issue, then consider investing in running gear of higher quality. Many companies offer high-quality winter active gear. The clothing is warm yet breathable and lightweight. High quality warm active gear can be pricey; however, its worth the cost if you commit. Also, be sure to add a winter windbreaker as your final layer. The outer fabric protects against wicked weather conditions to help keep us warm. A winter windbreaker will protect you against high winds, cold rain, and snowfall.
2. Wear A Vented Facemask
Whenever I have a conversation with a new runner around the winter season, they ask how my lungs can hold up in the cold. The truth is, I never noticed the pain enough to consider it a problem. However, we all experience some level of discomfort at first.
The biggest problem is most new runners start off too fast. It takes time to develop the discipline of pacing. But when its cold, starting off at a slow pace will allow time for your lungs to acclimate to brisk temperatures. The key is to start off nice and easy. A breathing mask is helpful. I use one myself. It not only keeps your head warm, but it warms the inhaled air making it easier to breathe in the cold weather.
3. Try Out Long Warm Running Pants
A quality pair of running pants is a great way to keep your legs warm during those cold runs. Running pants is a new add-on for myself. One winter run I had to sacrifice a glove down my shorts in fear of not ever being able to have children again. Since then long warm pants have been a permanent addition to my winter running attire. Conditions can get frigid. Long warm running pants do just that, keep you warm.
Many times when winter hits runners still wear shorts. However, this will cause our working muscles to stay cold which hurts our run. When training, the goal is to improve performance. It’s essential to eliminate any restrictions if you want to improve performance. Cold working muscles are a restriction. The muscles aren’t going to perform well in cold conditions. Long warm running pants not only keep you warm but they improve performance as well.
4. Warm Up With Electric Clothing
I stumbled upon electric clothing just this year. As I mentioned, I love training in hot weather. As an ultra marathon runner, I spend a lot of time on long runs and the winter months can be brutal. It’s difficult to stay positive when you run 30 miles while your eyelids freeze shut!
As you can imagine I was ecstatic to have found an electric base layer that heats by the push of a bottom. I picked up a base layer from thewarmingstore.com. It’s the base layer with a “thinner” battery. If you’re an ultra runner, then pick up an extra battery. Please note, I am in no way affiliated with this company what so ever. I’m sharing this from one runner to another. As I said, I only purchased it this winter season but so far so good.
Electric clothing is great for training, but I wouldn’t use it on race day as they could consider it an advantage. But I ran a 30-mile training run, used two batteries, and it was a magical experience. If you love the hot weather like myself but live in a region with cold winters, electric clothing may be for you. I wasn’t the only one happy about the find; now I can stop bugging my wife to move to the west coast!
5. Shop At The Gas Station
Convenience stores at gas stations are actually convenient. Durning long runs on frigid winter days, I’ve picked up a hand full of winter clothes and supplies. I’ve bought gloves, hats, and even hand warmers! One night, when the temperature dropped significantly, I even purchased a cheap cup of hot chocolate and an even cheaper sweater. Running down the street, you could have mistaken me for a Christmas caroler!
6. Pump Your Arms
In my first 100-mile ultra marathon the temperatures plummeted at night. Every time I slowed down my body temperature dropped, and I began to shiver. However, at the time, it was tough to run at a fast pace. I was 80 miles into the race, and my body was exhausted. Fortunately, at the time someone taught me a technique that I still use to this day. I learned to pump my arms hard when it’s cold. Don’t just pump them, exaggerate the motion. A runner can increase heat production by moving their arms. Anytime you feel cold, pump your arms to stay warm.
7. Run Inside
We always have an option to run inside. I’ll never forget the weekend my scheduled race canceled due to a winter blizzard. Luckily, my local gym was open the following day. I still had a race day mindset, so I went to the gym and ran a full marathon. I spent the morning running 26.2 miles on a treadmill! Not a great idea as it destroyed my shins, but still, it’s something available.
Gyms not only have treadmills, but there are also Stairmasters, ellipticals, and even indoor tracks. I don’t run inside anymore; however, I have been known to jump on a Stairmaster from time to time.
Final Words Of Warmth
The winter brings us many cold miles. But if we prepare and use a little creativity, we can turn an unpleasant experience into one of pure joy. If you’re new to running, don’t focus on your pace in the cold, focus on staying warm. Get out there and enjoy the experience. Remember how a snow day felt as a child? As runners, we get to experience that feeling with every new winter run. So layer up, stay warm, and train through the winter!
REMEMBER…As we become cold, we loose focus so stay warm!
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