Something we, of the Pacific Northwest, don’t have to worry about much is running in significantly cold weather. Most of the time the winter temps stay in the 40’s to 50’s, and we don’t have a reason to worry about frozen eyelashes and frostbitten toes.
But Snowpocalypse has landed. The grocery stores are empty, the snow is falling, there are icicles hanging from any available surface. If you are opposed to running on a treadmill during any weather, you should think about the following items before heading out the door and into the cold and snowy winter wonderland.
Layer up –
The best way to stay warm during a cold-weather run is to make sure you apply layers. Try wearing insulated running tights, a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, with a jacket over the top. If you get too warm while running you can remove a layer. You can either wrap that layer around your waist or drop it somewhere so you can retrieve it on the way back.
That being said, if the temps are really cold, make sure your skin is covered so you reduce exposure to the cold air. Running in short sleeves or shorts can cause frostbite to your skin at temperatures 32 degrees and below. But you must also account for windchill in this equation.
Shoes with traction –
Be very careful when running on snow and ice. Wear shoes with the most traction you have. Those hardcore runners who have months of snow each year wear shoe spikes to give themselves more traction. PacNW’ers don’t have much need for them, but they are inexpensive.
There are some out there that are $20 for a set. It might be worth the investment to avoid a broken bone.
Make sure you shorten your stride as well, so you lessen your chance of slipping. And look for fresh snow to run on. Avoid icy streets or hard-packed iced over snow—these will be slick.
Sunscreen and Sunglasses –
Sunscreen is very important in the snow. Have you ever gone snowboarding or skiing and come home with goggle marks? Wear sunscreen! The snow reflects the sun and amplifies the sun’s strength.
Slather it on and wait 30 minutes before heading out the door. Remember to take your sunglasses with you. Sun glare can burn your eyes as well. Plus, who wants to squint through an entire run?
Face shield –
Investing in a good face shield will keep the wind and cold air off your face. It will protect your nose from frostbite and your lips from getting chapped and cracked.
If you don’t have a face shield or balaclava hood, you can use your Buff to cover your mouth and nose. Or, a handkerchief will also work well. As long as you have something over the vulnerable parts of your face.
Hat and Gloves –
Do not forego the hat and gloves. Gloves help so much during cold weather runs. They will keep your hands warm and make you feel overall more comfortable. And a hat will keep the heat from escaping out the top of our heads. But we all know that, right? Our moms have been telling us that our entire lives.
Wool socks –
You should probably have a pair of wool winter running socks already, but if you don’t, I suggest getting some. They will change the way your feet feel during winter runs—even if it’s a balmy 45 degrees outside.
Most of our socks are too thin and synthetic to keep any amount of warmth in around our feet during the winter. Your toes can become frostbitten inside your shoes, especially if your shoes get wet. Wool is naturally moisture wicking—definitely worth getting a few pairs to protect your feet from frostbite and blisters from wet shoes.
During cold weather, our perception of thirst is reduced, but that doesn’t mean you are adequately hydrated. Even if you aren’t thirsty, continue to consume water as you normally would, or even a bit more. The cold air can suck the moisture straight from our bodies whether we are sweating or not.
So hydrate during your run, and follow up with some electrolytes when you do your post-run recovery routine.
How to warm when you return –
Warming up properly after you get back from your run is very important. You will want to remove your cold (and often wet) clothes as soon as you return. Do not linger in your running gear.
Make sure you wrap your feet in warm dry socks. Grab something warm to drink like hot cocoa or hot tea. Or make your recovery meal a bowl of warm soup.
You can also take a warm shower or bath, but make sure it isn’t too hot—resist the urge, I know it’s tough. But going from the shock of cold extremities to hot extremities is not a good thing for your fingers and toes.
Dry those shoes properly –
Your shoes are bound to be wet if you spent time running in the snow. The best way to dry your shoes is to take out the insoles and stuff newspaper down into the toes of your shoes. They dry quickly and don’t do damage to the rubber material of your shoes. Do not put them in the dryer as that can have a negative impact on the soles of your shoes.
Now get out there and enjoy the beautiful winter weather that is so rare in our area. Stay warm and get those miles in.