As Game Of Thrones fans know all too well, winter is coming.
Unless you live in a warm climate, you’re facing dark mornings, icy roads and cutting winds. I know it sounds rough, but winter training doesn’t have to be a source of dread and anxiety.
While there are undeniable challenges to running year round, we can not only adjust to changing weather, but use it as an opportunity to mix up our training and prepare for a successful spring running season.
Whether you’re running to stay fit or trying to bank winter miles for a spring race, here are tips to make the most of winter training.
Dress For Success
No matter how well you’re running or who you run with, you’ll be miserable if you have blue lips and numb hands. Knowing what to wear for a winter morning jog can be tricky. Your core temperature warms up quickly when working hard, but dressing light could end the run early.
Layering is essential. A long-sleeved shirt and a jacket may seem overkill, but if you roll your ankle mid-run and have to walk it in, you’ll be grateful for that extra layer. Here’s an example of what I bring when out for an especially brisk jog:
Tights: Keep those legs warm. You are at a higher risk of muscle tears and strains if your legs are cold
Long sleeve shirt
Light Running jacket: Find one just warm enough to protect you from those bone-chilling gusts of wind, but light enough that you can stuff it in your shorts or sports bra if you start breaking a sweat. Here is an example from Runner’s World of some jackets that might work for you.
Warm Gloves: Find thinner pair for the crisp, clear winter days and a waterproof pair for snow. (Pro-tip: When it’s really cold, grab some hand warmers)
Warm hat or headband tokeep the ears from getting chilly
Winter running gear doesn’t end with warm clothes and a cozy hat. A reliable headlamp (I use a Petzl NAO) will come in handy as the daylight dwindles and traction for your shoes, such as Yak-Tracks, will keep you from slipping on icy roads.
Don’t Force it
Following a training plan or scheduling a week of workouts ahead of time is a great way to stay consistent. However, the weather won’t always cooperate with your run plans. It’s crucial to be realistic and seize opportunities when training in the winter.
If you were planning a rest day but the forecast predicts sunny skies, hit the trails and push back your rest day. If you were hoping to go for a big run or tough workout but it’s full-on blizzard-ing outside, there’s no shame in sticking to the treadmill just this once. It’s not worth risking injury with unfavorable and potentially dangerous conditions. Don’t force the workout. Save it for another day and adjust to the conditions.
Keep Accountability High
The colder it gets, the easier it is to stay in bed and skip the run. But scheduling a run with a friend will eliminate the opportunity to make an excuse and give you a reason to get out the door. Chances are the conditions won’t feel nearly as horrific when in good company. Alternatively, if you need a little extra motivation but enjoy the solitude of a solo jog, sign up for a spring race or set a specific goal. There is nothing more motivating than a looming race-day or a mileage goal. Reward yourself when you reach your goals, then set another one.
Remember to Play
Fitness is meaningless if you don’t use it to do things you enjoy. When snow falls, view it as an opportunity rather than a point of frustration. Rent snowshoes for a challenging workout that simulates running. You’ll utilize muscles that are usually inactive and break up the monotony of your routine. Ice-skating, sledding, or just playing in the snow with your kids will keep you active when motivation to get outside is low.
With the right attitude, winter can be a memorable and character-building season when welcomed with playfulness and acceptance.