Let’s face it. Winter can be grueling. Running in the winter especially can be a daunting venture, but it doesn’t have to be. Relying on the perfect weather or climate to complete a run is an unrealistic expectation and in fact, running in the winter can be better than running in the scorching sun. The summer heat requires you to wake up early for your run to beat the heat rays that will shoot down at you. Yet, in the winter, there is no running time-frame, other than beating the darkness, of course. Winter running is refreshing, satisfying, and all-around important for your fitness and endurance goals. If you are one of those people on the fence about winter running or simply looking for tips and tricks to ease your way into the beautiful realm of running in the winter, read on — this one is for you!
Tip #1: The Proper Warm-Up
Running puts major stress and impact on your body, even in the summer months. Completing a proper warm-up is important but especially in the winter, if you are not warming-up, you are not making the most out of your run and ultimately, damaging your body and becoming prone to injury. So, what is the proper warm-up?
First off, wear the appropriate running gear. That might mean layering up for your warm-up and then realizing you are sweating. Guess what? That’s okay! The point of the warm-up is to do just that – warm you up. If you are sweating during your warm-up, that’s probably a good sign. There is a typical rule that most endurance athletes go by: dress as if it is 10 degrees warmer. As humans, we tend to exaggerate the severity of the weather when we feel the extreme sensations of cold and hot climates. You are going to sweat and produce body heat as you are on your run so remember this as you dress for your winter run. For 50-degree weather in New York City, we suggest long insulated running pants, a compression shirt and or long sleeve, and finally, gloves and either a headband or a beanie.
Is a warm-up just a stretch?
No! The proper running warm-up does not solely include a static stretch. Dynamic stretches are very important for your muscles to prepare for the impact about to occur. These stretches are different from regular static stretching because dynamic stretches are not held and they improve speed, agility, and acceleration. Dynamic stretches involve the active tightening of muscles through a full range of motion that helps increase muscle temperature and flexibility, which in effect, will make your winter run more effective, enjoyable, and make you a better runner in general. Be sure to also check out our article on calisthenics for running.
Some examples of dynamic stretches include butt-kicks, high knees, and jumping jacks. Consider doing strides as part of your warm-up as well. Strides are 50-meter runs or so in which you exaggerate your running form to stretch out your leg muscles in preparation for a run. Remember: warming up isn’t just about warming up. It’s about getting you ready to run and most importantly, getting you pumped and motivated to run! Spice up your warm-ups to make your winter running experience delightful for you!
Tip #2: Plan Your Route or Your Workout
During the winter months, it can be extra hard to get yourself up and ready to run. Yes, winter running does require discipline and motivation but there are simple habits that can incentivize you to get going.
Plan your route. If you are planning to tackle a 10-mile run, plan out the route you want in order to avoid procrastination or losing time at the moment of your run. Planning out your route or planning your workout can provide stability for your mental barrier of running. If you know where you are going, you know how far you’ve come and how far you have left.
Hill workouts in the winter can be a great advantage for your endurance and fitness goals. Assuming there isn’t ice on the roads, hill workouts are essential for your conditioning and training. Focusing on up-hill running form, speed, and turnover (foot speed) can really make you a much better runner. Don’t be afraid to do hill workouts in the winter. It can be the difference between an average runner and an exceptional runner.
What kinds of long runs can I do?
The beauty of long runs is that there are a variety of options to spice up your mileage. For example, the loop run is just a run around a park, a track, or an area in which you rerun the same loop until your run is completed. This can be ideal if the roads are icy especially in the winter. This is a safe option as well if you are unfamiliar with the area and like the idea of running in one loop. Additionally, if this loop happens to be a flat route and you are recovering from a grueling hill workout from the day before, a loop run is perfect!
Pick-up runs are fun and adventurous if you are going for a rather long run and want to change things up a bit. Just run one way for the whole run and have someone pick you up at the end of your run. Make sure they bring water, towels if it was snowing or raining on your run, and warmer clothes to change into during the winter months. Pick-up runs are ideal if you are bored of your typical routes and have the luxury of having a good friend, a spouse, or a family member to pick you up.
Think About the Wind
It is important to take the weather into consideration before going out for a run as well. Take the wind into consideration when planning your route. If you have severe wind in our area, be sure to take this into consideration. Try starting your run with your face towards the wind so your return trip will be much more comfortable as your body begins to sweat and your body begins to fatigue. Though the wind can be annoying and make your run more difficult, it can be an advantage in practicing and maintaining proper form, and ultimately, make you a better runner. Running in the winter months can be a tricky feat but if you take the right precautions and practice certain habits, you are all set for some winter training!
Tip #3: Create a Rocking Playlist!
Many pro-runners tend to veer off the listening-to-music while running practice but if you just want to become a faster, better runner while having fun, creating an upbeat, motivational playlist should a top priority. Think of songs that will get you up and running in the morning, songs that will uplift your mood and spirits, and songs that will keep you focused on your running goals. Running with music takes me into another world, a world where I am invincible, a world where my legs take me on a new adventure.
Running in the winter does not have to be hard, it can be fun and enjoyable if you make it that way. There are several habits that will help ease your way into winter running like warming up properly, wearing the appropriate gear (more on that in a later article), planning your route or workout, and creating a great playlist. Winter running can improve your speed and endurance extensively and help you make the leap you want to make in your running goals. Go out and get after it — it’s worth it!
Some other helpful resources:
Running World: make winter running less miserable…
Training Peaks: 12 common winter running mistakes