Winter running can mean a lot of different things depending on where you live in the world, but if you live in a cold or seasonal climate like the Midwest in the United States you can be sure winter’s can be treacherous. Here in Michigan you can count on 6 months of temperatures under 35 degrees, with months consistently reaching sub zero. If temperatures happen to be warmer we are lucky enough to face the joys of snow.
For runners this presents quite the obstacle. Do we hit the treadmill or do we face the elements? I chose to face the elements, but it’s not easy process. It takes time, patience and a little bit of crazy.
How To Start Winter Running
- Just like running in hot weather there is an adjustment period. Particularly with breathing. In muggy hot weather it isn’t easy to breathe. In cold weather it isn’t either. Once you get under 40-50 degrees it almost feels like you can’t quite catch your breath. Your lungs struggle. The colder it gets the more adjustments you have to make. Give your self time in this adjustment period. This may mean running slower or even taking walking breaks. Don’t be hard on yourself. No one starts as a superstar.
- As it gets colder you load up with way more gear and that means a lot more weight. Because it seems balanced out it might not occur to you. However pants, socks, pullovers, jackets, and hats add up, especially when you’re putting in several miles. Expect discomfort and even odd cramping until your body adjusts to your new normal.
- Try switching up your running schedule. Typically in the summer we get out there as early as 4am to beat those scolding hot July mornings, but the opposite is the case here. If possible wait till late morning, even the afternoon if you can when it’s a bit warmer and the sun is (hopefully) out.
- Be flexible with your schedule. If there’s a snow storm, or the ground is covered with ice, or driving conditions to your location are dangerous it may be time to wait another day for that run, to call it entirely, or hit the treadmill. I like running in the snow, but if the ground is ice, I’m clumsy enough I don’t need to tempt fate.
- Find the right gear. It’s hard because this differs from person to person, but essentially you need to take precautions that prevent frostbite, but also not overheat so you sweat badly enough that you develop hypothermia. Here’s a detailed article that breaks down winter running gear.
At the end of the day you have to stay committed to this journey. Realize you probably won’t be running as fast as you were in the spring or fall. If there’s snow you’re going to struggle getting threw it. If you have a crazy windchill it’s going to slow your breathing down. Some days the weather will stop progress, but it doesn’t have to stop you.
Set realistic goals for yourself. Personally, I only run one day outdoors a week and I don’t usually push more than 5-8 on those weekend runs during the cold months. I’m just trying to maintain my running endurance and I compensate with some treadmill work and other strength training and cardio. I’ve had runs where my hair has literally frozen. This all sounds crazy, but actually it’s kind of fun. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below, I always try to respond in a timely fashion. Until next time….happy runs!