It’s that time of year. Autumn is winding down and winter is lurking right around the corner. With the exception of those living in warm and tropical climates, winter means icy trails, dangerous road conditions and sub-zero temperatures. Before you run inside to seek shelter under your electric blanket, check out our tips for making the most of your winter training.
We’ve all heard the age-old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Before you hit the trails outdoors, check the weather conditions. Is it snowing and below zero? Maybe it’s 40 and raining. Either way, your gear will make or break your training run.
The key to tackling runs in variable or cold weather is to layer up. Start with a moisture wicking base layer to keep the sweat away from your skin. Cotton is one of the worst fabrics for this, it absorbs moisture and will hold it against your skin. If you slow down, you’ll start to feel the cold seep in and risk calling your workout early.
Instead, invest in quality wool or synthetic base layers which cover a large portion of your body. Shirts should have long sleeves and bottoms should be full leggings. This will keep you the warmest overall. For mid layers, aim for insulating material which will keep you warm and toasty. Medium weight fleeces and sweatshirts are great options.
When choosing outer layers, opt for a waterproof shell. Water-resistant layers aren’t bad for shorter outings, but on longer ones they tend to get soggy quickly, making you feel colder when the wind picks up. Add extra reflective tape if you’re heading out on roads— it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Put a buff on before you don your balaclava for extra insulation. Wrap a scarf around that when it gets really cold to help warm up the air before it hits your lungs.
Don’t forget your hat and gloves. Only rock your lily trotters sans outer layer if you’re out for a short run, or you may risk frostbite on your calves and shins. Instead, cover them with a pair of warm wool socks to keep your feet and lower legs moving well.
Keep Your Fuel Warm
We’ve all been there. You’re ridiculously thirsty and reach for a drink from your water bottle only to discover the mouth piece is frozen shut. Or, you go to take a bite of a delicious Honey Stinger Waffle and nearly break a tooth since it’s frozen solid.
Avoid this mistake and keep your fuel warm. Tuck any gels, bars or waffles into your mid layers to warm them with your body heat. Put your hydration pack on under your outer layer to insulate your water and keep it from freezing. Run the tube along the front of your chest and keep the nozzle tucked into your shirt collar. Blow water back into the pack to keep the line from freezing.
Running with water bottles? Choose an insulated version. Blow water back into your bottle to keep the nozzle from freezing and tuck it into your outer layer if you can. This will prevent you from getting dehydrated and keep you moving well throughout your run.
If you’re tackling icy, snowy trails, slow it down a bit and pay attention to your surroundings. It’s easier to get lost in the great outdoors when blazes are covered with fresh powder. Snow can also hide ice and other dangerous conditions, such as pesky rocks which can send you flying. Focus instead on running with proper form and increasing your turn over.
Save your speed work for the treadmill or the track. Unfortunately, if you’re living in the northern states, road conditions can be less than idea for running intervals in the winter time. Between shorter days and inclement weather, you’re more likely to risk being hit by a car or slipping and falling.
Know When to Call It
Long runs in wintry conditions can be good for the soul but not the best for training. Chances are, you’ll be heading out a slower pace than you normally would and may not get the best bang for your buck. Consider hitting the treadmill if you’ve got a firm pace you’re aiming to reach to keep your training on track.
With a little bit of discipline, you’ll be ready to toe the line at any race this spring.
About the Author: Stephanie Dar is a Lily Trotters Ambassador, New Yorker, author of THIS blog on all things trail running and an all-around #unstoppable woman.