The shock of the cold weather hit me hard this weekend. I was not excited to face the -8°C temperatures and the strong wind as I set out on my Sunday morning long run. It was especially shocking to me, after all the balmy fall weather we have had this year. I had a great run, however, going for 23 km at a solid pace of 4:36 per km. I don’t believe winter needs to slow me down! Now is the time to keep going and acclimatize to the dropping temperatures, so that I can keep enjoying outdoor running throughout the entire winter. I have no choice but to adapt to these cold weather conditions, since I have several winter races lined up: Robbie Burns 8km on January 26, Chilly Half Marathon on March 2nd and Around the Bay on March 30th. So join me in embracing winter running!
Winter Running Essentials
- Warm up slowly. Your muscles will be stiff in the cold when you first set out. You can do a warm up inside first to get your body heated up, or simply start off very slowly and build gradually. Take 10 – 15 min to warm up and then start focusing on your target pace. You will be slower when you first set off in the cold.
- Adjust for slippery, icy conditions. Do not do speed work on icy roads. In the winter I take my speed workouts onto the treadmill. Focus on your long, steady state runs, and tempo runs in the outdoor winter conditions. You can also get special gear for slippery roads (keep reading!).
- Know your own body and what you need to be comfortable. I know my hands get extremely cold, so I wear huge ski mitts in the winter. I have friends who strip off their gloves once they are warmed up. Know what you need and invest in good gear for your sensitive parts!
- Run with buddies: stay safe and have someone with you in the most severe conditions. Being prepared for the unexpected will keep you safe. If you have nobody to run with, make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be home. They can come and rescue you, if needed!
- Wear only fabrics that wick away sweat, without retaining moisture. Wear sports specific clothing that is made of polyester or wool. Do not wear cotton, as it retains moisture and becomes very wet, clammy and heavy.
- Wear Layers: start with a thin base layer next to the skin, layer on thicker layers (fleece, etc) depending on your own personal tolerance to cold and the outdoor temperature. If you begin to overheat, layers can be removed as you run.
- Essential wind barrier layer on the outside. Warm fleeces and base layers do little to protect against the wind, so ensure that you have an effective wind layer. Running specific jackets will have vents built in to allow for perspiration to evaporate, while still providing wind protection.
- Wear a hat.
- Yaktrax for Running: These are great devices that simply slip over your regular running shoes to improve traction on ice and snow. I have been able to run in horrible conditions with these slip on cleats and not slip. Winter running on trails is incredible!
The treadmill is a great alternative on the -40°C days, but we all know that long runs are nearly impossible to complete on a treadmill. They are certainly painfully boring when training for marathon distances. Insert the odd treadmill run into your routine when necessary, but keep on enjoying the beautiful outdoors!