Training During The Winter: Strategies To Improve Your Running
Running In Cold Weather
Just as running in the heat of summer presents challenges, running in cold weather presents its own set of challenges. Despite how hot it may get in the summer the heat is not as big of a deterrent as the cold for most runners to get outside.
This is due to many reasons including not owning the right clothing and equipment to run comfortably, not knowing how to dress properly, fear of slipping and falling, discomfort from inhaling cold air and the increased time and effort required to actually get out the door! It often becomes “just a hassle.”
As a runner you have to overcome the natural tendency to hibernate indoors. It’s often dark, dreary and uninviting to head outside, completely unlike a beautiful spring, summer or fall day that naturally pulls you outdoors.
I won’t sugar coat it, running outdoors in the cold can at times be miserable and wet with the constant irritation of a runny nose. You’ll think to yourself why am I out here. But there is also is a refreshing quality of cold, crisp air that will awaken you, revitalize your spirit and help ward off the winter blues.
How to Dress
The biggest problem most runners face with clothing during the winter is being too warm, not being too cold. Your tendency is to dress for the conditions when you step out the door. While you may not be cold when you first head out, you will soon be overheating once underway. How much clothing you need at a given temperature is highly personal to each person, but there are some guidelines to successful clothing choices.
Here are my keys to success for dressing appropriately:
1. Avoid Cotton!
Remember the number one rule of dressing for winter running – AVOID COTTON! Cotton will soak up your sweat and then you will become cold rapidly and the layer may even freeze depending on the temperature. They key to successful running in the winter is staying dry.
2. Dress For Warmer Temps Than It Is
When you first head out you should feel slightly chilly, but not cold. As you begin running you will warm up as your body produces excess heat. To compensate for this, dress for it to be 10-15°F warmer than it actually is. After the first mile you’ll be warmed up and dressed optimally.
3. Avoid Bulky, Heavy Clothing
Thin, light weight, form fitting technical fabrics are best for running in the cold. When selecting clothing, you want to specifically purchase clothing made for running in the cold. Again avoid cotton at all costs – a sweatshirt and sweatpants aren’t going to cut it. Stick with the same tried and true brands that you use for your summer gear. Nike’s Dri Fit, Asics, Brooks and others all make great options for runners.
4. Upper Body/Core
Start with a long sleeve base layer that is light weight. It should be well fitting and not hanging off your body loosely. This layer will serve to prevent too much heat from escaping but not so much that you overheat. Depending on the temperature and your preferences, you then can add a second thin layer or add a warmer insulating later made specifically for running. You might also consider a running vest. A vest keeps your core warm, yet is less restrictive and does not provide additional insulation to your arms.
For temperatures below 30°F I typically have a second layer that has a thin, fleece like lining and technical fabric outer shell.
For temperatures below 20°F a jacket made specifically for running is a great choice and can be layered on top of your base and insulating layer. Many have a insulating lining with water resistant shells.