For many runners, winter can be a challenging season due to cold, dark, wet, snowy conditions. Yeah, I've been there and it can suck.
But winter can also be one of the most beautiful times of year to go running, especially when snow has freshly fallen and the air is crisp and cold. On days like that it’s possible to feel more inspiration, vitality, and wonder than during any other run of the year. On many cold, snowy winter runs in Washington and Oregon, and the mountains of Idaho, Colorado, and Utah, I've found that getting out the door can be a can be the biggest challenge. But once you get out, even in fierce conditions, the experience can be magical.
It's no secret that continuing your workouts through the winter is a great way to maintain form and keep those extra holiday pounds at bay, and of course miles run November through February are critical for successful spring racing. I've found that it's almost impossible to race well in February, March, or April if you haven't been consistent in November, December, and January.
But how do you get out the door when it's dark, cold, snowy, wet or all of the above? Having a workout plan, a daily routine, and committed running partners can help a lot (there's nothing quite like a guilt trip to get me going). Signing up for an April race will definitely add urgency and spark motivation. The right equipment and gear is key. I learned a long time ago that it's not about "cold," it's about wearing the right layers. See below!
Despite the beautiful vitality and a bit of manufactured motivation, cold, wet winter running is different. Here are a few things to consider before heading out.
1. Dress Appropriately: The most important thing to keep in mind when running in the winter is to dress appropriately. Layering is key – you want to wear multiple thin layers that you can adjust as your temperature changes. Make sure you have a breathable base layer, a warm mid-layer, and a waterproof outer layer. On many days, a light hat and gloves will be the most important layer you own. I've found that being too warm is much better than being too cold.
2. Choose the Right Shoes 😉 and Socks: In the winter it’s important to wear the right shoes. Look for shoes with extra traction and support. The Vimazi Trail Z2 and Trail Z3 (available July 2023) feature an aggressive outsole pattern, external stability, and better control during the push-off phase of the stride. Well-insulated socks, sometimes combined with Gortex socks, can be a lifesaver. By the way, we've been loving Teko Socks.
3. Watch Your Footing: Be super careful on slick snow, ice, and even wet pavement. A bad fall can quickly spike those April race dreams. Shorten your stride and focus on midfoot striking. When it’s dark, tripping is a hazard – keep your feet up to avoid cracks, edges, and buckles in the sidewalk. This is easier said than done when you’re tired and your running pants are soaked and heavy with rain. When it’s truly terrible weather, consider putting some miles on a treadmill. When there's snow and ice, I use cleats, microspikes, or studs. Plus, I often slow down the pace.
4. Illumination: If you’re running in the dark, make sure you have a headlamp or a flashlight to help see where you’re going and alert cyclists, vehicles, and pedestrians. If you’re crossing roads, whether city, suburbia, or out in the country, a reflective vest can save your life.
5. Hydration: You may not feel like it, but it’s still important to stay hydrated while running in the winter. Be sure to carry water on long runs and drink regularly. Likewise, you burn more calories when it’s cold, so stay fueled up. Gels work on my long runs, but you should consume what feels best for you.
6. Sun Protection: Even in the winter, and sometimes especially in the winter, you can get sunburned. Reflection and glare! Be sure to wear sunscreen, lip protection, and don't forget your shades.
7. Take Breaks: The cold weather can be tough on your body, so it’s important to take breaks and rest as needed. Sometimes a day or two off is just what you need to snag a PB in that April race.
8. Attitude: Sometimes it's all about a change of attitude. Getting wet and braving the elements while out running can be fun, if you look at it through the right lens. Runners get injured enough--so don't add Attitude Injury to your list.
Bottom line: don't let the cold weather keep you from getting outside and running this winter. Going out on a run is almost always better than not going out on a run. It can be gorgeous, plus you’ll be able to indulge in more cakes, puddings, pies, and cookies than you would otherwise. And don't forget bragging rights! Just be sure to take the necessary precautions and get the right gear to stay healthy and safe. Okay, let it snow!