If you prefer exercising indoors, your workout routine may not be affected by colder months. But for runners who’d rather pound the pavement than log miles on a treadmill, there are some serious safety factors to consider when the temperature drops. We’re all for exercising in the great outdoors come rain, shine, or snow. But to make sure we’re staying as smart as we are fit, we spoke with running coach Jenny Hadfield to get her expert tips on running safely all winter long.
Dress for the occasion
When running in the cold, your first instinct is probably to bundle up in every piece of workout clothing you own. But before going overboard with layers, pause and consider your outfit choice. Aim to dress for temperatures 15-20 degrees warmer than the current weather to account for your body heat, advises Hadfield. “You should feel chilled when you walk out the door,” she says. “If you’re toasty, head back in and remove a layer.” She recommends putting together a winter running wardrobe that includes a shell jacket, long sleeve tech shirt, tech tights, gloves, wicking socks, and a hat or headband.
Keep all eyes on you
Between limited daylight hours and snowy conditions, it can be hard for cars to see you during winter runs. That’s when reflective gear becomes essential. Hadfield recommends investing in a few pieces of reflective and bright running apparel. If you don’t want to splurge on new clothes, at least consider adding a reflective vest or small strobelight to your attire.
“Regular running shoes can do the trick on dry winter days,” says Hadfield. “But when the snow and slush strikes, consider going with a GORE-TEX version to keep your feet dry.” She also recommends wearing a traction device like Yak Trax to keep you from taking a nasty tumble in the snow.
Switch-up your stride
Another way to stay upright and smiling during your winter run is to adjust your form. On snowy days, Hadfield advises shortening your stride and keeping your feet low to the ground. “You will run more efficiently and reduce the risk of slipping, falling or straining muscles,” she says. When it’s possible, run through fresh snow over packed, and always keep an eye out for sneaky ice-covered obstacles.
Run like the wind
Start your run by bravely facing the wind head-on. While this isn't the most pleasant way to begin your trek, you’ll avoid getting chilled by a headwind on the way home, says Hadfield. Take this as an opportunity to mix up your usual running route, and have fun exploring new parts of the neighborhood.
Don’t be too cool
“Although it’s possible to run in sub-zero temperatures, when the weather gets extreme, it’s best to take it indoors to get a safe and quality workout,” says Hadfield. So even if you’re not a fan of the treadmill, under certain conditions like extreme wind chill or during a blizzard or snowstorm, it’s logically a better choice. A treadmill workout reduces the risk of slipping on ice or straining a muscle when tensing in cold weather.
Whether you decide to stay inside or brave the chilly outdoors, these tips will help keep you safe and (mostly) warm during your winter workout.