Running In A Winter Wonderland

Portland WinterThe icy air whistles around my ears, causing my skin to tingle and sting. My fingers and toes are numb and I haven’t even stepped off the porch yet. The branches of the trees bend with the heavy load they are carrying, twisting sadly toward the ground, defenseless. It’s winter and as I leave my warm home for a freezing and treacherous run, I know there is nothing else I would rather do.

Of course, I’m kidding.

I think quite the opposite actually.

It’s hard enough for me to find the motivation to run regularly and it’s even harder as Oregon’s cold fall days begin and the treacherous winter evenings creep in reminding me that it’s not just Thanksgiving meals that make it difficult to stay on track in the winter but there are other aspects that make the hardest step, the step out of the door.

I have compiled a list of simple things we can do in order to make our winter count and not fall behind completely in our running.

  • Dress properly – I don’t mean by this to run in Santa suits in a Christmas marathons,  although I do hope to do that someday –  but dressing properly could be the difference in the effectiveness and the enjoyment of the run.

Here is a guide that hopefully helps in dressing for cold weather running.

30 degrees: Long sleeve base layer and a vest to keep your core warm (this is the only time I am ever going to encourage wearing a vest.) Tights for us hardcore runners should be enough, or shorts if hey, you’re a polar bear and took No-Shave November seriously.

10-20 degrees: Wear what was listed above with a little extra. A coat and wind pants over the tights should be enough.

0 to 10 degrees: Three tops, two bottoms, extra pair of mittens, and scarves for fashion- or to keep your face and neck warm. Take whichever reason sounds best to you.

Minus 20 degrees: just kidding. Oregon isn’t that bad. Take a minute if you’re the type to complain about the Pacific Northwest and be grateful you don’t live in Russia this winter.

Oh, and throw your clothes in the dryer before a cold run too! If you haven’t been doing that, you’ve really been missing out.

  • Change up your warm-up – Don’t look at me like that. I know it seems obvious but I know more runners than will admit or realize that they do not warm up properly. With the cold weather, our bodies need extra time to prepare for the frigid temperatures. I suggest starting a workout indoors with some stretching, squats and lunges. Venture outside then for a brisk walk, progressing to a slow jog. Pay special attention to your calves. Since they are further away from your core, they have less circulation and will be working differently to handle slippery sidewalks and slushy snow.
  • Tread lightly but don’t fear – Let’s face it, there are some surfaces that aren’t very safe to run on: mounds of gelatin, hot coals, jellyfish tentacles and during times of extreme cold or ferocious storms. When running on any hazardous surfaces be sure you run with light strides of shorter than normal stride length. Also remember to focus; just a moment’s lack of concentration could lead to extreme discomfort.

You could always run on a treadmill. However, that’s sort of lame considering the physiological differences, and how monotonous running in one place can be. Unless hell itself has just frozen over, remember you’re cooler than that. (No pun intended but I’m proud of the accidental wittiness, so I must keep it.)

  • Just do it- The thought of running outside when it’s cold often makes me miserable but we must remember the benefit of running. Nobody will ever say, “Man, I really wish I hadn’t worked out today,” and it’s important as runners that we don’t allow the weather to talk us out of what is important to us. Remember how great you are going to feel after you accomplish the run.

As the morning comes, the restless winter winds somehow enter my room sending me into an endless chill. I have no choice but to surrender to these winds and slowly awaken from my slumber. I stay in my bed, remaining curled up with a book and mug of hot chocolate for ultimate laziness.

Of course, I’m kidding.

I will think quite the opposite this winter actually.

Strap on the shoes. Buy a new coat. Embrace the willingness to wear those running tights you’ve been hesitate to show off. And don’t forget your neon.

Before you know it, Spring will be here. Good luck with your winter running.

About Arran Gimba