It’s too cold out there to run, are you nuts?! A little bit yes, but that is neither here nor there. Fitness goals don’t stop just because it is cold out there, we don’t put our goals on a shelf until the Spring comes along to thaw everything out. We keep going and we keep our fitness plan on track regardless of the hurdles that come up and cold weather is one of those hurdles that we love to just stop at and say “Nope, not going to do it, I am cold and I quit!” We are lucky here in Utah, even if it’s a bit cold outside, normally it’s still sunny and believe it or not, quite warm when you are exercising.
Here is the shocking reality of running in the winter, it’s fun! It helps you keep from hibernating and it actually makes those winter months more bearable. The folks over at Active came up with some tips to help you keep on track with your fitness goals throughout the winter and I have added a few of my own to help you get through those cold winter months!
As a Midwesterner, I understand the perils of winter exercise and I understand the bitter cold that can make getting out there hard. For those of you from the Midwest and East you get a pass in February, go to the gym and hit a treadmill, nobody really needs to run outside in sub zero weather! For everyone in fact, if it is in the teens or lower hit the gym and get your miles in on a treadmill, let’s be safe. If you end up coming to Unite Fitness Retreat in the winter, you will LOVE our outdoor workouts and the weather is nothing like the brittle Midwestern or Eastern cold.
OK, let’s get down to business on how to make winter mileage fun!
- Set a Goal! When you know you have a race coming up or a distance you need to reach you will work much harder to reach that goal! We know we can do it, we have been through fitness camp and we’re done disappointing ourselves and letting ourselves down so that goal will push us to get out there and run! My first race was in April which means I had to train through the winter, with that goal looming ahead of me I didn’t have the opportunity to say no to running in the cold.
- Dress for the ElementsIt will take some trial and error, but eventually you will be able to look outside and know exactly what you should wear! Just like before, wool is your friend! There are amazing wool tights out there that will keep your body heat on you and keep you warm when you sweat. Layers are also your friend! You will get surprising warm when you run and you need to be able to shed layers to keep yourself from overheating and sweating too much.
- A warm base layer
- A mid layer to keep the moisture away from your skin
- A layer to keep the heat in or the wind out, like a shell
- GLOVES! Or mittens, your hands will get cold and it is very hard to keep your hands in your pockets when you run
- A hat or a warm headband like a Buff. I sometimes do both so that I can shed one if I get too hot.
- Dress for temperatures about 20 degrees warmer than what it is, this way when you warm up you don’t sweat yourself cold. If you are warm when you walk out the door shed a layer.
- Gear! You need traction and you need to be able to be seen!
- Neon is your friend so that you stand out from the background.
- Wear trail running shoes, they have great traction in the snow
- Kahtoola and Yak Trax both make traction spikes for your shoes. Hit up and REI or sports store near you and see which ones you like best, these can be thrown in a pocket and used when you come across ice or slick snow on your run.
- With shorter days you may be running in the evening, wear reflective vests or lights to make sure you are visible to motorists.
- How to Run and Exercise in the Winter
- Warm up! Give yourself extra time in your warmup to make sure your muscles are ready to work.
- Shorten your strides! Keep yourself stacked over your feet so that you have better control, there is no shame in shuffling!
- Drink Up! Just because it is cold doesn’t mean you aren’t losing fluids so carry water like always and just make sure it is warm to start and doesn’t freeze.
- Start in to the Wind! You’ll thank me later for this little nugget of running knowledge. When you are heading home and you are tired and sweaty having the wind on your back to push you along and out of your face to keep you warmer is fantastic! Make it easier on yourself and work in to the wind first.
- See the Sights! Go see the holiday displays that are out in your neighborhood, run past your favorite shops and window shop, change your route up every time you go out, just keep it fun! No need to add the tedium of the same route when you are already challenging yourself to get out there to begin with!
Some final words of encouragement and caution. This is supposed to be challenging but it is also supposed to be fun, so remember to keep it that way! If you find yourself hating every minute of running outside in the winter no matter how many times you try, then don’t do it! Go find an indoor track or a treadmill, maybe take up a spin class for the winter and skip the running all together. This is about your goals and your finish line, so do what keeps it interesting and fun for you! What cardio exercises did you like at fitness camp? Winter Fitness is supposed to be fun and a change of pace, I am a runner so I write articles about running in the winter but maybe you prefer hiking or snowshoeing or skiing, the same principles apply:
- Keep Dry
- Keep Warm
- Be Seen
- Be Safe
- Use the Proper Gear
If it is dangerously cold outside, don’t run outside. Use some common sense here, my general rule is to not run outside in anything under 20 degrees but that is for me. Some people won’t run in any temperature under 30 degrees, just keep yourself safe and frostbite free and HAVE FUN!