10 Tips to Winter Running Gear and Safety
People might call you a little crazy when you don your trusty running shoes and brave chilly mornings or even a few inches of snow for a 5-mile run or especially a marathon. But when you are a devoted runner, you make it happen, regardless of rain or shine, sleet or ice. With the following tips, prepare for the winter chill and other factors before you step out the door.
1. Stay Hydrated and Fueled.
Unlike running in hotter weather where sweat is obvious, you may not realize how much you sweat while in the dry cold. But your body is actually working even harder to stay warm and maintain homeostasis in low temperatures. Stay hydrated before, during and after your run with copious amounts of water or sports drinks. Load up on carbs before your run and even pack energy bars to munch on during your course.
2. Warm Up and Cool Down Properly.
The probability of muscle cramps rises with winter running, thus emphasizing the importance to warm up before a run and cool down after a run. Before heading out, try out some dynamic warm up exercises, instead of static stretches. Dynamic stretches are beneficial in preparing the body, while static stretches can hinder athletic performance and reduce blood flow to the muscles.
3. Consider Hitting the Gym.
When the weather gets a little too cold and dark, pay the gym a visit instead. Sure, an indoor treadmill might not have the same rewarding feeling as running on rough terrain and breathing in fresh, crisp air. But, it is a lot safer than temperatures falling below zero or wind chills falling below 20 degrees. Your safety always comes first.
4. Protect Your Skin.
Besides cool temperatures, winter brings lower humidity and drier air. Especially when you run, protect your exposed face and ears with the proper facial moisturizing products. This conditioning step wards off not only dry skin, but even frost bite and freezer burn.
5. Wear Reflective Gear.
During the winter, the days are shorter and night falls quicker. Snow flurries and even rain might be an additional detriment to visibility during a run. Reflective wear and gear is vital in making you evident to car traffic, such as a flashing light accessory, reflective belt or a reflective vest.
6. Choose a Breathable First Layer.
Pay extra special care to your first layer of clothing, as it is the closest to your skin and is essential to wick away moisture, keep you dry and improve heat retention. This insulating base layer made of synthetic material will keep you warm; however, thicker, more insulating layers may be bulkier. Avoid cotton. Runners, like other winter sport athletes, favor a formfitting polyester or Merino wool material instead. Shirts by Patagonia are a great choice.
7. Add Plenty of Layers.
Layers are crucial for running in cold weather. The warmer you are, the less chance you’ll suffer from muscle cramps, wind burn or other negative effects. And when you get too warm, you can peel off layer.
For your second layer, pick a shirt or light sweater/jacket also with breathable material, such as polyester or polar fleece. This further insulating component is only necessary in the coldest of running weather. Look for a centered half-zipper to unzip and permit air flow when you get hot. It also can keep body heat in when you get cold.
8. Pants Should Also Wick Away Moisture.
Pants are less of a focus because a runner’s legs are much less vulnerable to the cold, compared to other areas of the body. Even still, choose a pair of running tights (skin tight or a little looser) made of breathable material. If the tights aren’t enough in extra-cold weather, add a pair of windproof running pants for another shielding layer.
9. Keep Your Head and Hands Covered.
Reduce heat loss by keeping your head and hands covered. For your head, choose a cozy, knitted wool cap or the hood of a lightweight jacket like Patagonia’s Houdini Full-Zip Jacket for men or Brooks’ LSD Lite Jacket III for women. If it may rain or lightly snow, pick a hat with a visor.
Cover your hands with specially made running gloves or mittens. The Brooks Vapor Dry 2 Gloves are a popular choice, with moisture-transfer functionality, polyurethane finger grips and a retractable thumb pad that allows easy MP3-player navigation.
10. Wear Trail Runners With Treads.
Reduce chances of slipping and falling with the proper pair of running shoes. Trail runners are best because of their aggressive treads that find traction in uneven, slushy or icy conditions. Furthermore, they are usually waterproof, and their thicker construction keeps your feet warm. Don’t forget a pair of wool – never cotton – socks to wear with your shoes!
Don’t let the cold stop you from your favorite sports activity and from staying in shape. Go running alone or go with an equally, passionately active friend – just make sure you wear the correct winter-appropriate running attire.