Winter Running Tips

Winter Running Tips

By: David Manthey

It may be nice and warm right now on the Front Range, but take a 30-60 minute drive West and you are back in Winter! Here are some great winter running tips from our friends at Runners Edge of the Rockies.

ACTUAL TEMPS VS. PERCEIVED TEMPS – When you first start your run, if you’re feeling comfortable then you’re probably overdressed!  If you’re shivering a bit, then that’s probably a good sign that you are dressed correctly.  Because remember that once you get warmed up, after the first few miles it will feel as if it is about 20 degrees warmer than it actually is!  (For walkers, this amount can be slightly less, more like 10-15 degrees.)  So just remember that as you plan your wardrobe, and if you’ve dressed correctly the first 1-2 miles will feel cold and slightly uncomfortable…  But then once you get into the rhythm of the run after you’re warmed up, you’ll hopefully be perf!

FEET – Typically if there is a little bit of snow/ice on the ground and if the temps are colder, I personally like to go with trail shoes.  Not only are you going to get slightly better traction from the more aggressive outsole and tread, but trail shoes usually will have a slightly thicker upper (the mesh part on top of the shoe), which means a little more warmth.  Some trail shoes may also be a touch more supportive than their road counterparts (if you aren’t wearing minimalist trail shoes), which means that your feet won’t get fatigued as quickly if the surface is a little uneven.  To keep the tootsies warm, some runners will go with a slightly thicker sock (don’t forget to lube your feet to ward off blistering!), and another awesome trick is to put a piece of duct tape over the toebox of the shoe to keep the wind out.  And, as the run goes on if you feel your feet getting too hot, you can simply tear off the tape.

LEGS – Some runners can bare the cold (literally) with shorts, but for me personally once we get to about 25 degrees or less I’ll go with either capri tights or full-length running tights.  And in single-digit temps I go with a thicker, insulated tight.  And if you’re not a fan of the tights, Runners Roost also carries loose-fitting running pants as well that you can wear over shorts (or double-up over the tights too for sub-zero temps).

UPPER BODY – Everyone is slightly different on the best “setup” for the upper body, but the basic premise is this: A good long-sleeve base layer for warmth and to help wick away sweat from the skin (and most of us sweat a lot on our chest/back and don’t even realize it), and then some sort of shell to help block against the air/breeze and any moisture.  If it’s a sunny day, sometimes I will even go without a shell and will just wear the long-sleeve by itself, or wear two shirts (a short-sleeve underneath a long-sleeve).  But, the benefit about having a running jacket or shell is that you can always tie it around your waist if you get too hot.  When the temps drop even lower (into the teens or colder), you may want to go with THREE layers.  Two shirts and a jacket.  I’ve got a thicker/heavier shell jacket with vents on the back, that keeps warmth in but also vents out excess heat so I don’t get too hot.  And one piece of clothing I’ve added to my closet in the past year is a “compression tank”.  I wear that, under a long-sleeve base-layer, and then the jacket on top.  My compression tank is made by Under Armour but other companies like Nike and Adidas also make them.  Having a snug compression tank helps a little more with temperature regulation in both cold OR hot weather.

HEAD – This is always a matter of personal preference, as some people can get away with a running hat into colder temps, while those of us without hair (ha!) need to don a running beanie/skull-cap.  The upside of technical beanies is that they do wick very well, and sometimes if I start to get a little too warm, I will just roll up the sides a bit to allow my ears and back of the head to vent.  For runs that approach zero, I may even double up my running hat for that extra barrier and then shed one of them if I get too hot.  On some of my longer ultra training runs, having that extra hat is a bonus because I sweat a lot and if my first hat gets too wet/cold, I can switch over to the dry one.

HANDS – This is an important one…  And I would say of all the things that can really destroy a good training run, cold hands/feet are probably the worst!  Find a pair of gloves that works well for you, and then consider getting several pair of varying thickness for different conditions.  When it gets colder and the temps dip into the teens and single digits (and if I’m running longer), I may add in had warmers and will often times pull my fingers back in to form a fist inside my glove to retain heat better.  There are some running gloves that have a mitten “wrap” that you can pull over your fingers for added protection.  And, there are some running shirts with “thumb holes” that allow the end of the shirt to go all the way out to the edge of your fingers.  And, I’ve even seen quite a few runners who will go with ski gloves/mittens.  That’s too warm for me personally (and my hands actually get cold easily), but for some of you that may be just the ticket.  During the winter, who cares what you look like on the outside, as long as you’re comfy on the inside!

POST RUN – Don’t forget that once you get done with your run, your body temps are going to drop quickly.  Within 5-10 minutes, you’ll lose that “perceived 20-degrees warmer” feeling, and on top if it you will also be damp/wet with sweat.  Anytime I’m not running from home, I always pack dry gear to change into afterwards.  A dry hat, dry shirt, sweatshirt, dry socks/shoes, etc. will ensure that I’m not standing around (or sitting inside) shivering miserably after the run.  And not only is this important for comfort, but also will help to ward off getting sick because during the first 30-60 minutes after a long run your immune system is slightly depressed.  Plus, nobody wants to enjoy their bagel/coffee next to you if you’re soaked and stinky.  20 mile runs are awesome…  20 miles worth of funky B.O. is not.

David Manthey is the Co-founder and Owner of Runners Edge of the Rockies.

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