5 Solutions to Your Winter Running Problems
We all hear myths floated out there about how bad running is for you. Add in the word winter and forget about it. I’m here to arm you with responses to help get you out the door and ease your most worried friend’s mind.
I’ve heard all of these before. Some of them are excuses that get ourselves off the hook from winter running and some come from those who think they know what they’re talking about to make us feel guilty for running or not running in the winter.
Either way, let’s squash these right now and get things straight. We can enjoy every bit of winter as runners if we choose to. Remember, everything we do is a choice.
Problem: I don’t have the right gear – I’m either freezing or sweating!
Are you still wearing a race shirt from the late ‘90s? If so, it’s probably cotton. I can’t think of any time when it’s a good idea to work out with a cotton shirt as your base layer. Brands now have moisture wicking this and sweat control that – spend 20 minutes at any local running shop and you’ll find something for a base-layer (the layer that touches your skin) that works for you.
If your clothes are on point, try some of the techniques I talked about in last week’s post about preparing for winter long runs. The tips here should help cover most strategies relating to warming yourself up prior to winter running.
You’ve got both of those down. Good. Maybe it’s not what you’re wearing, but how much you’re wearing. If you’re constantly cold during a run, try a second pair of socks (or a thicker pair and only wear 1) or double up on the gloves. I know that if my hands are cold, everything else gets cold.
If that doesn’t work, try running with or against the wind when you need it. About to start sweating like crazy? Run into the wind. Still not warmed up yet? Put your back to the wind and catch a break for a few minutes.
Problem: I can’t breathe when I’m running outside. It’s too cold on my lungs!
A common problem with a pretty quick fix. Wear your layers like normal. Then, take an ear warmer and throw it around your neck. When your breathing gets bad, put the ear part up over your nose and mouth. The fabric will take some of the sting away from the cold air, make it a bit warmer and therefore easier for you to take air in.
Problem: The first 10 minutes of my runs are miserable. I’m cold and stiff!
Do yourself a favor and spend the 10 minutes prior to running to properly warm your body up. Just like cars don’t like to drive when they’ve been sitting overnight, our bodies are the same. Take some time to do active warm-up drills – start with some hip openers, move to some quad and hamstring stretches, wake up your arms with some arm circles, finish with some calf raises… That’s at a minimum! If you’re cold and stiff, it’s your fault. Yes, it’s cold out. Be warmed up and ready before you hit the cold.
Problem: I’m worried about slipping on ice!
This is a very real problem that a lot of runners face in the winter. Day or night, slipping on ice can be very bad. Pulled muscles and strained ligaments are nothing compared to the pain you might inflict if you up and fall awkwardly. The only solution I truly have is to be careful. When you think there might be ice on the roads, try a treadmill run. It’s not fun or enjoyable, but it’s better than the potential alternative. If a treadmill run isn’t an option, I suggest looking into purchasing yaktrax for your shoes.
Problem: It gets dark so early. I’m afraid to run in the dark and there aren’t enough hours of daylight.
This is a really valid problem. I’m not a huge fan of always running in the dark either. Maybe that’s why I became a teacher, who knows. I can only offer you some suggestions on how to be seen. I can’t ease your mind and tell you it’s going to be ok and not to worry, because that’s not what I’m here for. I suggest buying a really good headlamp and even something that you wear over your chest that lights up. Do you look ridiculous? Maybe. But cars, trucks, and buses will see you. And that’s better than looking silly.
- Wear reflective colors – stay away from navy, black and brown. As a driver, they’re hard to see.
- Run with your phone to call in an emergency. There’s an Emergency SOS on newer iPhones that you might not know about. It could be a lifesaver.
- Don’t have headphones in. You won’t hear someone/something coming.
- Tell someone where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.
Recap: 5 solutions to your winter running problems
Putting in a few minutes of research, shopping or planning and we can save ourselves a lot of headaches every winter.
Get running gear that’s appropriate for the season. 1 or 2 new pieces a season coupled with tossing or donating old clothes can keep your wardrobe fresh.
Putting a scarf or ear warmers over your nose and throat can take away the bite of frigid, whipping winds.
Do some active drills to warm up your body prior to jumping out in the cold. Hip swings, calf raises, arms swings, and glute wake-ups can elevate your core temperature and take the sting out of the first 10 minutes.
Ice is real. If it’s bad out and you’re not sure, wait until the sun warms the roads or hit the treadmill. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Plan to let someone know where you’re going and how long you’ll be out. Familiarize yourself with the handy iOS Emergency SOS call.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
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Marc is a USATF Track and Field & Dr. Jack Daniels VDOT O2 certified running coach. I have more than 19 years of experience running and more than 10 years of experience coaching runners. Click for more information!