Being an endurance athlete in the winter is expensive. You have two options. Either spend the money on a gym membership or purchase cold weather gear. Many may prefer to slowly accumulate winter gear during non winter months. This way less is spent at once and can be picked up through sales. Other than the apparel, there are many other ways you can make winter running more enjoyable.
Why should you decide to run outside in the winter?
It is peaceful. During the winter there are less people out and about. This often gives winter running an almost tangible sense of serenity. There is something special about running on a fresh snowfall and seeing no other human tracks on the trail, road, or sidewalk. The only movement is the small birds in the bushes along the path. There are few other instances more peaceful than a winter run on a Sunday morning.
Enjoy the beauty No one can argue that snowfall makes for a beautiful landscape. From a downtown to a canyon, it is amazing we are lucky enough to experience something as fantastic as snow! You can either fight it, or accept the beauty that you are witnessing.
It is motivating, especially during a blizzard! From images of Rocky Balboa running through the Russian snow to Emil Zatopek training at night with a flashlight through a Czech winter, these images are inspiring! Plus, you cannot disagree that going for a training run in a blizzard makes you feel pretty cool! (and a bit crazy).
How should you run during the winter?
Warm up Take a little extra time prior to a cold run to warm up indoors. Perform a body weight workout for your core and/or legs. Go through a dynamic stretching routine. These may benefit you year round, but during the winter they also serve to warm you up prior to heading outdoors.
Run later in the day. If you can fit this in around your schedule, try to train in the afternoon or evening. Aside from the day's temperature being at its peak in the late afternoon, your core body temperature is also higher later in the day.
Take short strides When running over ice, taking shorter strides and landing close to under your center of gravity will reduce the risk of slipping. A hard heel strike too far in front of your hips causes increased impact forces and a breaking effect, and it is just asking to slip on ice.
What type of gear to use?
Shoes Some brands have released winter versions of their shoes. We feel the goat leather upper on the SKORA Form is a fantastic material for any season. The leather does a much better job at keeping snow out of the shoe than a standard mesh will. At the same time, it still allows water to exit the shoe easily. Our goat and sheep leather also becomes softer as it becomes wet and worn in, unlike your standard cow or lower quality leather.
Layers Wearing multiple layers can serve a variety of purposes. First, it makes apparel more versatile. One heavy jacket is great when the temperature is very low, but it is useless at higher temps. However if you wear multiple layers, those pieces of apparel can be picked from and worn at different temperatures.
Gloves for example. A thin liner can be worn during the autumn to keep your hands warm. During the winter you can wear the same liner, plus a thicker pair, plus a thin windproof pair of mittens to keep your fingers warm. If you decide you put on too much, removing a layer is always an option. However removing one single pair of very heavy gloves may not be appropriate. So, choose layers!
Windproof Being aware of and ready to deal with wind can make or break a training session. A run in 30 degree temperatures is not a huge deal. However, if you add a 15+mph wind, everything changes. This is why a windproof outer layer is key. Look for windproof gloves, jackets, underwear, and tights. When you purchase, be sure to get the correct size for wearing a layer or two underneath.
Tights These are a perfect option for winter training. A pair of tights will wick sweat off of your skin to keep you dry while at the same time, unlike pants, keep cold air off of your skin. As mentioned above, keep an eye out for windproof options.
Visibility With the shortened daylight hours, this is a safety issue that must be addressed if you run early in the AM or late in the PM. Visibility includes the runner using a good headlamp to light up the path and wearing some type of reflective gear to make sure other athletes, cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers can see you. Purchase a reflective vest, wear reflective earbuds, or even put some reflective tape on your water bottles. Anything to increase your visibility.
This winter, remember to Run Real and run safe!