by Paul Koks in Training Tips, image by Charles Smith

Winter Outdoor Running Tips for Safety and Comfort

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What do you do when the temperatures start dropping below freezing, the cars are piled high with snow, and everyone else is running around in oversized winter coats and ear muffs? Are you one of those runners who hole up in the living room or local gym with the treadmills surrounded by heat, or are you one of those runners seen slipping and sliding through the snow and ice just to get that outdoor run in?

If you are like most runners, you are somewhere in the middle. You are not above running in the cold, but you head indoors when the snow and ice become too intense. If you are going to do any outdoor running at all, the following tips will help you play it safe and stay comfortable every step of the way.

Cover Up from Hair to Fingertips

You have to cover your head when running in the cold, or you will lose a lot of your body heat and become chilled too fast. Put on a good thermal hat designed to trap in body heat without overheating your head. You should also cover all exposed skin, such as your hands, neck, and cheeks. You can even wear a ski mask if you are out in extremely cold weather. Gloves are essential as well.

You may occasionally see a runner out in the cold wearing a sweatshirt and shorts, with the skin on their legs exposed. Do not try that unless you are sure that you can handle it. This is not something that should be done if it is cold enough to develop frostbite on your legs.

Prevent Windburn

If you will be running into chilly winds or blowing snow, it is important to protect your skin against windburn. You can use Vaseline on your lips and around your nose to accomplish this. Ski masks, scarves and other accessories can be also be used to cover up your skin as much as possible.

Layer Your Body with Moisture-Wicking Gear

Your bottom layer of clothing should always be made of moisture-wicking fabric that will help keep any wetness from your skin. These pieces are often thought of for summertime running, since that is the time of year when you sweat a lot and need to keep that moisture from your skin. What you have to think about is the sweating you may do while out running under layers of clothing. You may also have some moisture leaking through the top layers of your clothing.

Even your socks should be made from moisture-wicking fabric. You do not want your feet rubbing into wet socks, so moisture-wicking material is essential.

Change Up Your Shoes

If there is a lot of snow and ice on the ground, you should not wear the same running shoes you would wear in the summer. Summer shoes typically have a lot of mesh for proper airflow around the feet, but that material will easily allow wetness to seep in to your feet in winter. Look for running shoes without a lot of mesh, or go for a good pair of trail running shoes.

If you avoid a lot of the puddles and do not run through areas where the snow is extremely thick, you should be able to keep your feet dry enough for warmth and safety. You will have lots of warm blood pumping through them from your hard work running.

Add Fifteen Degrees

It is obvious that you need to dress very warm if you are going out in the cold to run, but you may not need to dress as warm as you might assume. If you overdress, you will become too warm and sweat too much for comfort. This could even be dangerous if you are out on a long run. A good rule of thumb is to add about fifteen degrees to the outside temperature and dress for that temperature instead. This accounts for the extra heat your body will create as you run.

Time Your Runs

There are always times of the day that will be warmer than other times of day. In summertime you probably avoid the hottest time of day, but it is the opposite when running in cold weather. You need to head out during the warmest time of the afternoon so you have as much warmth as possible. This will eliminate some of the bulk that you would otherwise have to wear to remain safe and dry.