8 tips for winter running | Health Beat
As the cold winds blow and the snow falls, it may take extra motivation to keep running.
But with a little planning and the right gear, runners can keep their training schedule on track in the winter months.
Here are eight winter running tips from Matthew Axtman, DO, a sports medicine specialist with Corewell Health orthopedics.
1. Keep warm
“When you run, you typically want to dress as if the temperature were 20 degrees warmer,” Dr. Axtman said. “If it’s 25 degrees out, dress as if it’s 45 degrees.”
As you run, your body expels heat. A bubble of heat becomes trapped in your clothes, then dissipates into the wind. This causes the ambient temperature around your body to feel warmer.
If that’s hard to believe and you want to wear extra clothing, make sure to dress in layers. If you become too warm, you can take off a light jacket and wrap it around your waist.
As you dress, pay attention your ears, hands, nose, fingers and toes—areas particularly vulnerable in cold weather.
“Your body wants to maintain heat in your core, so it starts to constrict some of the blood vessels in those extremities,” he said. “This can make them much more susceptible to frostbite. You have to keep them covered up for protection.”
2. Wear wicking fabrics
Even on a chilly day, you can build up a sweat while running.
“You want to make sure you have moisture-wicking clothing—something that will pull the sweat away from your body,” Dr. Axtman said.
If you sweat while wearing a cotton shirt, the sweat will not evaporate easily from the fabric. The cold weather will cool the sweat, which will cool your body and affect your core temperature.
3. Schedule a pre-run
Indoor warm-ups are crucial before running in cold weather, Dr. Axtman said.
“If you go directly into the cold, everything is going to tighten up,” he said.
He recommends taking five to eight minutes to stretch muscles, tendons and ligaments. Also, do light calisthenics to get the heart pumping.
4. Pick the right footwear
Comfortable shoes with a good tread are especially important for winter running, especially if running in the snow or on uneven terrain.
“If the tread is worn down, you will be much more vulnerable to slipping,” Dr. Axtman said.
Consider using traction devices on your shoes—removable devices that have metal teeth, spikes, tips or coiled wire.
5. Plan your route
Running in winter often means running in the dark.
“Make sure you wear lighter clothes and a reflective vest or something that has a light—so people can identify you,” Dr. Axtman said.
Plan your route to minimize the chance of running into snowy and icy patches.
And consider a route that will make it easier to cut the run short, if necessary.
If you plan a 10-mile run, don’t run for 5 miles before turning back. Run 2.5 miles, head home, and then do the loop a second time. If you find yourself getting cold, or if you slip on the ice or are worried about frostbite, you won’t be as far from your starting point.
Because sweat wicks away and evaporates in cold, dry weather, you may not realize how much fluid you lose during a winter run.
It is just as important to drink water during long runs in the winter as in the summer, Dr. Axtman said.
7. Consider indoor options
“Running outdoors in the winter is not for everyone,” Dr. Axtman said.
On cold days, you can move your run to an indoor track at a gym, or use a treadmill.
If you run on a treadmill, he suggests setting the incline to 2% or 2.5% to achieve a workout similar to an outdoor run.
8. Take time for a post-run
After you finish your outdoor run, Dr. Axtman recommends light stretches to keep your muscles and joints limber.
Be sure to quickly swap sweaty, cold clothes for something warm and dry to help you warm up.