How to Stay Safe While Running This Winter

How to Stay Safe While Running This Winter

Snow-covered scenes are beautiful to look at as you peer out from beneath your winter beanie on your favorite running trail, although actually summoning the motivation to brave the elements can be difficult when cold, dry air and biting winds greet you as you step out the door.

Those who prefer the outdoors to a treadmill regardless of the conditions, though, are treated to a terrific running experience. Something about pounding the pavement in the cold provides an extra rush and leaves you feeling extra satisfied once you return home to warm up and go about your day.

As veteran runners can attest, however, running in the winter presents some extra challenges. So whether you’re heading out for yet another winter of running or making the leap from treadmill to outdoors for the first time, consult our tips for how to stay safe and maximize your enjoyment level and results.

Layer it Up

abs arrow divider

You know that layer cake your grandma makes for Christmas that you love so much? The one with the chocolate and the raspberry and the cream filling…back to running.

Think like the cake and dress in appropriate layers whenever the temperature ranges into the 30s and below. Lightweight layers of breathable clothing are ideal, as you can stay warm while also ditching layers if you or the weather warms up. Start with a base layer made of breathable synthetic fabric to help pull sweat away from your skin. From there, a fleece and a light water-resistant jacket will work for insulation, resisting moisture and shielding you from the wind and rain.

Steer clear of cotton in the winter, as it soaks up moisture and takes time to dry, making you feel even colder. You can still wear running shorts, but it’s wise to don leggings, running tights or tracksuit bottoms beneath to keep your legs warm.

layer it up quote

Avoid Overdressing

abs arrow divider

This might sound a little odd when you’re freezing your butt off but overdressing while winter running is a real thing, and can be dangerous. Wearing too many layers will make you hotter quicker and can lead to hyperthermia if you’re not careful.

While it may be tough initially, you should be cold early in your run. Experts suggest to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature because along the way, the heat your body will generate makes up for that difference. A winter running jacket with a zipper is good so you can zip up or open it up for ventilation as needed.

Protect Your Hands and Feet

abs arrow divider

As runners and non-runners know well, there’s nothing worse than cold hands or feet during winter. Avoid that by wearing gloves or mittens, along with layered socks.

Running gloves that are moisture-wicking will do the job on bearable cold days. When it’s really cold, mittens are the better call so that your fingers will share their body heat. You can also tuck hand warmers inside the mittens to go the extra mile.

It’s pretty similar for your feet. Wear a wicking sock directly on your foot and follow with a fleece or wool sock for extra warmth. Just make sure your running shoes are still a comfortable fit with thicker socks. An added expert tip is to cover the toes of your sneakers with duct tape to prevent cold air and snow from seeping in.

man wearing skratch beanie

Wear a Hat

abs arrow divider

Since a cold head will accelerate the loss of body heat all over, wearing a running hat, beanie or headband is absolutely essential. If you don’t, it can create a snowball effect that will make your hands and feet colder more quickly even if they are covered. A hat lends more heat for your circulatory system to distribute to the rest of your body.

Headsweats’ thermal beanies can help you stay warm and stay with your training regimen throughout the winter. Skullcaps and midcap cycling styles designed to fit underneath biking helmets will also do the trick.

Concede When It’s too Cold

abs arrow divider

Much like winter hikes that should be altered or abandoned by severe conditions, winter runs should be scrapped when the cold reaches a certain level. When the wind chill gets to -20 or below, no matter who you are, it’s not smart to run outside. Hit the treadmill or go with a different workout.

This is because a severely cold wind easily penetrates clothes and removes insulating warmth around your body. Running also increases air movement past your body, exacerbating the issue. Cold like this makes you more prone to suffer muscle injuries or even have issues with your heart or other organs. Simply put, know when to pack it in.

Be Wary of Frostbite and Hypothermia

abs arrow divider

If you’re shivering uncontrollably or starting to feel disoriented and/or confused, you could have hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when your body’s temperature dips below 95 degrees. Frostbite comes about when circulation becomes restricted in extremities like your fingers, toes, ears and nose. If you feel numbness or see anything turn white or blue, stop and warm up as soon as possible.

Something else to be wary of is a mild form of frostbite, called ‘frost nip.’ Leaving your neck or face uncovered can make you vulnerable. To fight it, a sweat-resistant sport moisturizer and lip balm are wise to apply. It also may be smart to lather some petroleum jelly on any spots prone to chafing.

As Always, Hydrate

abs arrow divider

Cold, dry air can actually increase the chances of dehydration. Even though it may seem odd to carry a water or sports drink, you definitely should for longer runs just like you do in the summer. Don’t rely on public fountains as many are turned off during the winter months.

Leave Extra Time to Warm Up

abs arrow divider

It’s always important to dedicate ample time for warming up, but that process takes on even greater importance during the winter. Take 5-10 minutes to start with a walk and slowly turn it into a jog before really hitting your stride. Stretch before you do this, as stopping to stretch afterward will be counterproductive.

When your run is complete, head indoors to stretch instead of staying in the elements any longer.

warm up quote

Winter Shades

abs arrow divider

Sunglasses aren’t just for the summer time. Glare from snow and ice is very real, so wear sunglasses–ideally with polarized lenses–to make you more comfortable and protect your eyes. Glare can also create greater risk for sunburn, so don’t forget to apply sunblock.

Adjust Stride When Necessary

abs arrow divider

Be extra cognizant of where you’re stepping during the winter to avoid falls caused by snow and ice. If you can’t find a path mostly clear of those hazards, shorten your stride and pay extra attention to footing while staying aware of other runners. Don’t worry about pacing when conditions are at this level. Sacrificing time for safety is a tradeoff we’re willing to make every single time.

Stand Out from the Crowd (Bright, Reflective Colors)

abs arrow divider

If a morning or evening run before or after work is a staple of your day, make sure you can be seen. Wear bright, reflective colors like white or fluorescent orange and yellow. Reflective strips are a good extra measure to take so that drivers can see you before they’re right up on your heels.

Even if you do spring for reflective gear, it still makes sense to stay in well-lit areas and avoid spots where you don’t feel safe because of footing or other factors.

Make Friends

abs arrow divider

Even for the most ardent runners, maintaining a daily, weekly or monthly routine becomes increasingly difficult when colder temperatures and shorter days hit. A good way to avoid the winter doldrums is to have a running buddy or even a group. Having people to keep you accountable is huge, and the social aspect gives you another reason to climb out of bed in the morning or shut off Netflix in the evening.

You’re Done! Warm Up

abs arrow divider

Feeling accomplished, aren’t you? Now you’re saying, “It’s not that cold out. I’m gonna enjoy this scenery a bit more.” Resist the urge. While–if you’ve dressed properly–you should feel warm right after your run, it won’t take long for sweat-logged clothes to chill quickly. And then you’ll chill quickly as well.

Get inside the warmth of your home and throw on some dry warm clothes if you’re going to stretch before hopping in the shower. Rest and repeat tomorrow, weather permitting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *