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Winter Running Tips

This morning, when I laced up my running shoes, the skies were clear and the air was still. Less than two blocks later snow was blowing at me so fiercely I stepped off a curb… and was blown backwards so hard I landed on it again. And two miles after that the weather was so nice again I was getting hot in my windbreaker. But by the time I got home the snow can come back so bad I was leaving deep impression footprints behind me. And looking outside now, the sun’s come back out, and is shining down so hard the only evidence it snowed at all is a is a soggy looking empty lot across the street. Winter weather is weird.

How do you prepare for shit like that? Obviously you can’t. Not fully anyway, but here are some ideas to make things at least a little less miserable:

Layers-This first tip’s the most essential. Of course people layer so they can adjust to changing conditions and shed or add clothes as they go. That’s the obvious reason. But just as important is dealing with your sweat when it’s nippy out. Even though I own sweatshirts that are plenty capable of keeping out the winter chill all by themselves, I still always wear multiple layers in the cold because I know I’m going to sweat, and keeping a layer between the outside frost and the clothes I’m sweating into can be the difference between being vaguely chilled and fucking hypothermia. Wet anything and sub freezing temperatures don’t play nice together.

Loops-If it looks particularly nasty out there, try running repeats of shorter loops that keep you from ever getting too far away from your front door or car. That way you can eat up your daily miles all while knowing, if you need to, you can always call it off when the weather gets too out of hand (or you slip and break a hip).

Flexible Scheduling-Some days just aren’t going to work out how you want them too. Don’t try to do hill repeats on days better suited for Zamboni rides or full bore tempo runs through snow so deep you have to high step like a Rockette just because your training schedule says you should. Push things back a day when the weather forces your hand. That way you can do the run right to get the full benefit from it and/or not injure yourself and have to sit out even more days (during which the weather will be picturesque, because that’s how life works).

Split Up Your Run-Sometimes it’s just too cold to safely get in the longer run you wanted (or too wet, or too hot for that matter, not all these tips are exclusive to winter). I know most of us are conditioned by the fact that running is an endurance sport to get our daily mileage in a single session (except for you freak of nature track runners, and your high school popularity, and your good looks, and… I’m sorry what were we talking about?), but sometimes it’s okay to split up a run into smaller parts over course of a day. Instead of skipping a run entirely try snagging a quick run before and after work. You might even find breaking up your normal running rhythm and logging some extra miles at a different time of day helps get you out of a rut every once in awhile. And if you’re worried not running the full eight miles (or whatever) in a single sitting is going to be too easy on your legs, just make sure the two shorter runs add up to a bigger total than what you set out for to begin with (i.e. a 10 mile run becomes two 6 mile runs), and I think you’ll find the accumulated fatigue on your legs is gonna feel just about the same (or worse) tomorrow.

Older Shoes-Keep a not-quite-worn-out pair of shoes around for logging snow miles, or puddle hopping the day after a big melt. Two reasons: first off it keeps your main shoes dry for future runs (and if you do have to dry out a pair of shoes, don’t toss them in the dryer or hang them over the radiator where the heat can play havoc with their materials, stuff ’em full of old newspapers or junk mail and let the paper absorb the water). And second, you can’t always see what you’re stepping on in the snow, and you don’t want to be leading with your favorite (and most expensive) pair of shoes when you unexpectedly step somewhere, or on something, that can ruin them (I tore a big chunk out of the heel of a shoe a couple weeks ago when I stepped on a broken bottle hidden under a few inches of snow, and the glass came about a centimeter short of going all the way through and into my foot, which is when I would have been happy I was on one of those shorter loops I mentioned earlier).

Bright Colors-Sometimes safety isn’t about the things you’re doing, it’s about making sure someone else isn’t doing something to you. As much as slipping on the ice sucks, having a car plow into you (or even a bike when you’re out on the trails) is gonna suck a whole lot more, and it’s more likely when the weather turns because they lose some of their traction and varying degrees of visibility. You can’t do much about them sliding around, but you can wear bright colors to give them a better shot of seeing you as early as possible.

So, in short, take care of yourself and try not to die out there. I can’t afford to lose any readers.