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Runner’s Rules: How to Keep up the Routine This Winter

If you’re a runner, especially if you’re rather new to the sport, keeping up your winter workouts can seem daunting. But the cooler weather is actually a great time to push your fitness to the next level, without the bothersome heat and humidity of the summer. Here are some tips to help you stick with your routine through the winter months.

Winter Running

Pick Your Route Carefully
Running in the winter can be a challenge if you live somewhere that gets a lot of ice and snow. You may need to change your route to find a place where snow removal and ice treatment keep roads and sidewalks clear. You may also want to experiment with different locales to find the most sun and the least wind. Try to plan your workout so you end with the wind at your back. A local running club can always offer good suggestions, and many have maps of pre-tested routes.

Leave the Dog at Home
If you encounter slippery surfaces where you run, it’s probably best to leave your canine companion at home. One good pull on the leash, and you could wind up on the ground. If you must combine your workout with your dog’s exercise time, try one of these suggestions:

  • Find a place where the dog can run off-leash, like a dog park.
  • Be ready to drop the leash if you encounter a slippery patch.
  • Watch out for other dogs, as well as small critters that could cause your dog to jerk the leash.
  • Teach your dog to heel and respond reliably to voice commands.

Choose the Right Gear
Enjoying a winter run means having the right gear, starting from the ground up. Find running shoes with slightly heavier treads in the winter, or try special removable ice grips that are like studded tires for your feet. Make sure your socks are warm but breathable.

Your clothing should protect you from the elements while allowing sweat to evaporate quickly to keep you from getting chilled. Dressing in layers may be the best solution. An anorak you can tie around your waist is always a good bet, and make sure to spend a little extra for something that’s waterproof but also breathable. Even when you work up a good sweat, you’ll probably still want a hat and gloves on most days. Since your legs will be covered, now is the perfect time to take care of any treatments for varicose veins or restless legs syndrome. By the time spring rolls around, your legs will be free of unsightly bulges or purple streaks, and you can don those shorts with a smile.

Take Care of Your Skin
Winter weather sometimes necessitates extra care for your skin. Make sure to use a heavier moisturizer on your face, and if you’re running in ultra-cold weather, you may need to find one that is not water based, or it can freeze on the surface of the skin. Just because winter is here, doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen, though, so make sure you’re protected if you head out during peak sun hours.

Adjust Your Diet and Hydration
Winter running can put extra strain on your body, as you not only have to keep up your metabolism for exercise, but to stay warm as well. Don’t be surprised if you have to up the calories a bit, especially if you’re doing longer runs. You can always carry a little energy pack with you on your runs too. Your winter running dietary friends will be things like oily fishes (salmon, tuna and mackerel), whole grains (quinoa and oatmeal), and nutrient-packed veggies like kale, broccoli and tomatoes. Add items like pumpkin to your pancakes and baked squash to your salads for extra oomph.

You may not notice how much you sweat during winter runs, because it gets wicked away more quickly. And winter winds can be just as dehydrating as the summer sun. Be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day just like in summer, and if you’re out for long runs, either bring a water bottle with you or plan a route where you can stop for a drink.

Run Earlier in the Day
If you’re used to running in the evening, you may have to change your running time to account for winter’s shorter days. Try to get your workouts in before dark, and if you must run after the sun has set, be sure to wear plenty of reflective gear and try to run with a partner for safety.

Have a “Plan B”
Sometimes no matter how dedicated you are to maintaining your winter running routine, it just isn’t possible due to extreme weather. Anticipate this by having a “plan B” for those really rotten days. Consider purchasing a treadmill to run indoors at home, join a health club, or take up another aerobic activity, like swimming or dancing, for those days when running outdoors is impossible.

Winter running can truly be some of the most enjoyable of the year if you plan ahead for it. Come spring you’ll be ready to increase your distance, sign up for that fun run, or even tackle your first triathlon!


“Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.”

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