Runners who typically run outside are forced to face the elements head on. Low temperatures, snow, and ice are all obstacles that we runners face during the winter months. During extreme conditions of temperature, snow, and ice, it may be better to skip the run for an indoor exercise, but if the conditions are not too extreme, there are several running winter mistakes that can be avoided to make the run more enjoyable, safer, and more effective.
These are the six tips I have discovered to work no matter where you are.
1. Neglecting to Warm Up
The first mistake you should avoid is neglecting to warm up. While warming up is always important, cold weather makes it critical. The low temperature cools down the temperature of the body. This cooling makes the body stiff and more likely to suffer from injury. By performing a simple ten-minute warm up, the runner reduces his likelihood of injury by increasing their core temperature, heart rate, and blood flow to their muscles. Some simple dynamic stretches work great for a pre-workout warm up.
3 dynamic stretches to consider adding in before your winter run.
Start with both legs should width apart, and feet facing forward. Take a wide step with your left foot to the left. Bend your left knee and shift your body weight towards your left side. Hold for approximately 30 seconds and repeat on the right side.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Standing straight, flex your hip to raise your right knee and bring it towards your chest. Swing your left arm forward. Drop your arm and leg and repeat on the left side.
Start by standing with your knees close together. Shift your weight to your left side and raise your right leg to your glutes or close to them. Lower your right leg and repeat on your left side. This exercise is meant to be repeated at a fast pace.
2. Wearing to Little or Too Much
Nailing the perfect amount of gear to wear in the cold months can be difficult. Bundle up too much and you will burn up during your run, but neglect to wear the necessary clothes and you will cool down too quickly. To deal with these realities, it is always a good idea to dress in layers. By dressing in layers, you can take off clothes as you heat up during the run and put clothes back on as you cool down afterward.
When deciding on how thick the layers should be, it is a reliable measurement to add about 20 degrees to the outside temperature to find your temperature while running. Therefore, if the outside temperature is 30 degrees make your lowest layer for a 50-degree run. Also, if your running snowy paths, make sure to wear shoes with some water resistance, as cold, wet feet are no fun.
If you would like more help deciding what to wear, Runner’s World has a handy tool you can use to find out what you should wear for any day.
3. Lack of Motivation
Finding motivation can be difficult when dealing with the harshness of winter. Self-motivation may work to get you out of bed during the early hours of the morning during summer, but the cold adds another mental hurdle to leap over. If you find yourself lacking the necessary motivation to go for your winter run here are a few ideas to help stir you to get out there.
Pick up Some New Gear
Buying some new winter running clothes could give you the extra boost you need to get out there and get that cold run done.
Sign Up for Some Winter Races
Knowing that shortly you will have to participate in a race, you will be less likely to skip your training runs.
Invite Some Friends
Having friends accompany you on your cold temperature run gives you a layer of accountability to keep on going.
Join a Runner’s Club
If you do not have any friends willing to come along on your run, an alternative can be to join a runner’s club. Here you will meet people that are looking to accomplish the same goals you have.
4. Forgetting to Hydrate
Remembering to hydrate during winter runs is often more difficult than in the hot summer months. Despite the weather being cooler and in turn often causing less sweat, your body is working hard to moisten the air as you breathe. The air is often less humid in the colder months, and because of this moistening, your body may become more likely to dehydrate than in the summer months.
Do not make the mistake of blowing off rehydration just because it’s a cold temperature run. Drink back what you have lost, and drinking room temperature water is easy for the body to rehydrate with so use that to your advantage. For more tips on staying hydrated during cold temperature runs, check out Active.com’s article on the subject.
There are some real safety concerns for those who runner’s while running snowy or icy paths. To prevent injury from falling on this kind of terrain, shorten your stride. Shortening your stride along with watching the ground greatly increases your chances of having a safe run in snowy and icy conditions.
Hypothermia and frostbite are also real safety concerns for these kinds of runs. Familiarize yourself with the early symptoms of both conditions. Uncontrollable shivering and confusion are both early signs of hypothermia while fingers or toes going numb or turning blue can be an early sign of frostbite.
Watch your step and watch your body if you want to have a safe run, and if you are running on a roadway, wear bright reflective clothing.
For more expert information on hypothermia and frostbite by Mayo Clinic click below:
6. Unrealistic Expectations
Running in winter weather can be tricky, and with all the precautions necessary for a safe and effective run, you should adjust your expectations to match. Not every run is going to be incredible. Also, most likely not everyday you have scheduled to run will have conditions that can be run in especially if you do not have access to a treadmill.
These are important realities to deal with when looking at winter running. They can affect your results. Plan to have back up activities in case you must skip a run due to weather conditions. Indoor plyometrics or yoga can keep you active even when the weather is too harsh.
Even on days where the weather allows, you should plan on not being able to push as hard as you can during clear summer, spring, or fall days. Winter running is hard. Stay persistent and there will be results, but they may not be as drastic as you were hoping, so keep your expectations realistic.
+1 Bonus: Staying Rigid
Surprise, just like the unpredictability of winter running, here is a bonus seventh tip. Kick rigidness to the curb during winter. Staying flexible works both for your running schedule and your body.
Having a flexible running schedule will help you stay indoors and safe when weather is too crazy cold to go out, and will allow you to meet your goals as a runner. Just like your running schedule needs to be flexible, a runner’s body should be flexible as well.
If your body is flexible, you are much less likely to become injured and if you do suffer from one, you are more likely to recover faster.
These are the running mistakes I have made and the ways to deal with them that I learned, often the hard way. While cold weather running can be difficult, do not give up. Keep pushing towards your running goals this winter season. Cold weather running is no easy task with snow, ice, hypothermia, and frostbite trying to take you down, but avoid running winter mistakes this season, and you will see success. Remember these key tips, warm up, dress right, stay safe, keep hydrated, find good motivation, set realistic goals, and be flexible. Most of all keep moving forward.