Baby, it's cold outside, but don't let that stop you from training!
Winter running can provide some of your best running experiences. Peaceful. Crisp. Invigorating. Inspiring. Not to mention the confidence boost you'll get from being all decked out in your sleek winter running gear. Keep in mind these few simple tips, and you'll not only defy the elements, you'll embrace them.
Wear technical, moisture-wicking fabric to stay warm and dry. It's our mantra: "Cotton is rotten." Water transfers heat away from the body over 25 times faster than air. Because cotton absorbs sweat and holds it next to your skin, it practically throws away your body heat. Plus, when cotton gets wet, it loses its shape and rubs your skin. Instead, wear technical, moisture-wicking fabric that pulls moisture away from your skin, keeping you warm, dry, and happy.
Dress as though it is 15 to 20 degrees warmer. Overdressing = overheating = excessive sweating = a cold, miserable you. By dressing as though it is 15 to 20 degrees warmer that it actually is, you will allow your body to warm up naturally (and gradually) as your exertion level increases. Avoid the temptation to step out the door all warm and cozy. Instead, you should feel a little cold when your start your run. Before you know it, you'll be thanking your lucky GU you didn't overdress.
Try running tights as a warmer alternative to loose pants. It's a pretty simple concept, but tight, form-fitting running clothes will keep you warmer than loose clothes. Not only do tights trap body heat more effectively than loose pants, but the compression provides muscle support and improves blood flow. (The rule applies for shirts, too.) If you're a little uncertain about the whole "tights" thing, you can always throw on a pair of running shorts over your tights.
Take a little extra time to warm up. Your body warms up slower in cold weather than it does in warm weather, especially if you run in the morning. Avoid injury by taking a few minutes to warm up your muscles and get your blood flowing before you head out. Walk around your house (or on a treadmill), do some stretches, or even take a hot shower. Foam rollers and muscle massagers are especially helpful in priming the body for cold weather workouts.
Be especially mindful to consume carbohydrates before, during, and after long runs. When you're cold, your muscles take action to offset lost body heat. Involuntary muscle contractions (such as shivering) and higher exertion levels (such as running at a faster pace to warm up more quickly) increase metabolic heat production. The more your muscles counteract the cold, the more quickly your glycogen stores are depleted. Because glycogen comes primarily from carbohydrates, be certain to consume carbs before, during, and after workouts to avoid a mid-workout bonk and post-workout fatigue.
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Start your run against the wind. Trust us, it's worth it. By running against the wind on the way out (before you're sweaty) and having the wind at your back on the way home (after you're sweaty), you can avoid a nasty, wind-induced chill.
Wear a balaclava or neck gaiter if the cold air irritates your throat. Do the cold temperatures irritate your throat? While the cold air won't harm your lungs, you can always ease your discomfort by donning a moisture-wicking balaclava or neck gaiter. Plus, a balaclava and neck gaiter protects your face from bitter temperatures.
Take snow and tricky conditions into account when planning your distance and pace. Running on ice and snow requires a greater effort and recruits more muscles than a normal jog down the street. Take challenging conditions into account when planning your runs. As a rule, reduce your distance by 15% to 20% and reduce your pace to a level that ensures safe footing.
Bring warm, dry post-run clothes. If you're not headed straight to the shower after you finish your run, bring plenty of warm, dry clothes to change into post-run. A plastic trash bag comes in handy for hauling your sweaty running clothes bag home.