As the mornings start to get cooler, many people begin to get apprehensive about running through the colder weather, and for good reason! Canadian winters are no joke. Frigid temperatures, slippery sidewalks, blustery winds, and heavy snowfalls are a few reasons why many people avoid winter running. It doesn’t take much to slip and fall – it happens to the best of us. With this in mind, here are our top three considerations to make when lacing up to face the elements when the thermometer starts to dip.
In colder weather, an active warm-up becomes more important to help prep the body for running and exertion. An active warm-up will help increase your core body temperature and promote blood flow to muscles. This can be as simple as marching on the spot, jumping jacks, or going up and down stairs. If you have a warm-up routine from your physio or coach, then do that before heading out. A great rule of thumb is move enough to feel yourself just start to lightly sweat.
Layering up appropriately can make the world of a difference when temps drop, as proper attire will keep your core warm and help protect against wind chill and early morning or late evening dampness. We tend to suggest investing in a base layer of Merino wool, which is a fabulous fabric because it absorbs moisture away from your body to help keep you warm without being sweaty. On the other end of the spectrum, avoid wearing cotton next to your skin as it will do the opposite and hold moisture which then becomes cold. Ideally, head out the door with a warm base layer, another layer over top, and perhaps a wind-breaking jacket or shell. You can always peel back the layers as you war up in the latter half of your run. Jackets with reflective details provided an added visibility bonus for runs on dark winter days, when you may not be seen very well.
Don’t forget about your hands and feet! Once the snow hits, you can consider looking at socks and shoes that have waterproof features built in to keep your feet and toes dry and warm. Most of these shoes are not intended for a fast interval workout, but rather they will provide slightly more traction and dryness than your usual run-of-the-mill sneaker. Keep in mind it’s always a great idea to try before you buy when it comes to running shoes. Like your base layer, socks and gloves with Merino wool are a fabulous option to keep your extremities warm and dry.
Dial it back
Be flexible with your pace and mileage. Once the snow and ice arrive, the running terrain becomes much different compared to the summer months, and the chances are good that you’ll face some combination of snow, slush, and ice at some point during the season. As you run, think of keeping “short turnovers” rather than reaching for the ground in front of you. Shorter strides can help maintain your balance on slippery, uneven winter terrain.
Moreover, with icy ground to train on, speedwork is inherently less of a priority to avoid slips, trips, and falls. Instead, focus on maintaining an easy, conversational pace. On the whole, it is often best to keep your winter mileage relatively conservative compared to hard summer training blocks, and we tend to suggest that our athletes don’t plan big races for early in the season for this reason. The little muscles in our feet and lower legs have to work harder when we contact uneven surfaces (i.e. snow). This is why you may notice that your feet feel more sore after running on uneven snow versus dry pavement, although this sensation tends to improve as you get out more often.
Overall, have no fear about running through the late fall and winter! There are numerous perks associated with winter runs – such as keeping up your fitness, releasing endorphins (happy hormones), and getting fresh, crisp air. Perhaps, more importantly, cold weather runs build character. Many can say they’ve run in the summer, but few can say they’ve braved the cold in the depths of winter… so get out there.
We recognize that running means something different to everyone. If you have specific running goals you want to crush over the winter months, a TRP physiotherapist would be happy to create a tailored plan to meet your specific needs. And let’s face it, we love to chat about all things running!
-TRP Physio Liz