by Meggie Dials in Start Running

How you too can learn to love cold weather running

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I hate being cold. It’s the worst feeling ever and yet I know I am a drama queen about it. It can be sunny with just a slight chill, yet my brain goes into crazy mode and makes my body feel like I am covered in icicles. I shiver. I shake. My toes and fingers go numb. I despise being cold.

The past two winters I have trained for spring marathons. This means that even when it was just 8 degrees, snowing, and the pavement covered in ice, I was out running every Saturday morning. Not just a short jaunt… but long runs. Fifteen. Sixteen. Eighteen miles. Hours and hours in the cold elements. And in preparation of this, I would stalk the weather report all week pleading for temps above 40 degrees and would lay in bed, sleepless, every Friday night dreading the run. I hated it enough that this year, I decided I was not going to do a spring marathon so that I didn’t have to train in the winter.

But that all changed when my husband gave me my 30th birthday gift – an entry into the Virgin London Marathon! Screw the cold temps… I am going to London Baby! It’s on April 17th which means I will start training as early as mid December. The opportunity to run in the most amazing city and to raise money for my favorite cause (Parkinson’s UK) is well worth putting myself through some uncomfortable Saturday mornings.

So not only am I going to run in whatever Mother Nature throws me this winter, but I am going to like it.

Here’s how I revamped my attitude

First off: CLOTHING

Layers and layers of clothing. Start with a base layer to wick the sweat from your body. Then pile on more dri-fit clothing. Fleece lined mock shirts. Zip up jackets to protect from the wind. Two pairs of tights if necessary. I have been on the lookout for comfortable, warm and cute winter gear and recently found some adorable tights with a loud pink pattern. Because not only do I want to stay toasty, I want to look like an adorable snow bunny when I run.
Running in lots of layers feels heavy. Your body doesn’t move as smoothly and you are obviously carrying the extra weight of clothing. Instead of being frustrated by this, think of how great you will feel when you are running your race with one third of the bulk weighing you down!
Don’t forget the gloves and hat. I have a circulation disorder that only comes out to play when it’s really cold. This means that gloves are incredibly important and you can found some really great running specific ones. Not only are they fleece lined, but they have a pocket for your car key and the “phone tip” so you can still use your iPod. If your fingers are freezing in the beginning, tuck them into loose fists until they start to feel better. The skin-to-skin contact helps. Once those gloves start warming up, they feel like mini heaters on my digits.
Wear a fuel belt. Any outdoor drinking fountains will be turned off in the winter and though you may not feel thirsty in this weather, your body still needs water. Instead of waiting to take down big gulps every 4 miles, take small drinks of the cold water more often. It will help you from freezing your esophagus with each sip.

Plan your route with spaced out bathroom stops

Especially nice, heated ones. When running more than 12 miles, I try to plan at least one bathroom break where I can go inside, warm up and refill my water bottle. For those really cold days when ice crystals form on your eyelashes, this is a good time to run some hot water over your frozen face.
If your trail is covered in ice and snow, you have a decision to make. You can still run on ice, but you risk injury. Instead try to find some quiet side streets that have been plowed and salted to do your run.
Also, park your car near a coffee shop so you can get some hot liquid when the run is over. But don’t forget to pack dry clothes! You may feel warm and cozy when you finish your run, but that will change quickly. As soon as your body heat falls, those wet, sweaty clothes will freeze your bones!

Start later in the day

In the summer, I am usually out running no later than 7am to beat the heat. Use the reverse theory in the winter. Wait until the sun comes up to give yourself those few added degrees. Heck! Start at 3pm if the temps rise.

Run with a buddy

When you are snuggled under warm covers trying to figure out a way to get out of your long run, that partner will hold you accountable. Plus, it’s a lot easier to find fun when running in single digits when you are with a friend.

Enjoy the scenery

Have you ever run when it was snowing those big, beautiful flakes that land on your nose and take a few seconds to melt? It’s surreal. And nothing will replace the amazing moment I experienced when I was running on a snowy trail without anyone in sight and I came across four deer. Absolutely stunning.

Motivate yourself with cozy daydreams

When you are two-thirds through with your run and are starting to question your sanity…imagine how good it will be to take that hot shower. Feeling the hot water defrost your skin. Cuddling up in a big, plushy robe afterwards. Let those thoughts push you through those last miles.

If I can learn to love winter running, I promise that you can too. Choose your attitude. I have.

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