To be honest, winter was never my favourite season to run. As soon as it dips below zero Celsius, I’ve typically resorted to the comforts of gyms and fitness studios as alternatives. This changed two years ago. Why the sudden change of heart? It started when I bought an amazing pair of winter running shoes! Since, I’ve learned a lot about running outside on cold days and can vouch for the fact that it’s much better than most people think.
To prepare for all the physiological effects and reap the physical benefits of running outside on a cold day (and so that you’ll want to do it more than once), here are some things that helped me get out the door:
- Take It Easy(er): Weather conditions like ice, wind, snow and slush will result in a slower than usual running pace. This is normal and rather than concentrating on your pace, focus on being careful and cautious. My time is always slower in the winter time and I think there’s nothing better than slowing down to enjoy the beautiful winter wonderland, and breathe the crisp winter air while reducing the risk of injury. Nothing is slower than sitting on couch nursing an ankle injury!
- Dressing 101: Every person is different but here are some basics I found useful. In the beginning, I always overdressed but after much trial and error, I now put on less than I think I’ll need – within 5-10 minutes of running, I’m happy I don’t have that extra piece of clothing.
Layers – To understand how to dress, I went to MEC and asked one of the associates for advice. I’d suggest for any beginner winter running enthusiast to do the same – seek the advice of those who know. Personally, my essentials were: thicker running tights for weather between 0 and -10’ish Celsius; and fleece covered tights for colder weather; merino wool long sleeve base layer; wind resistant and water repellent light jacket, and a running vest. Biggest lesson learned was to cover my neck – either wearing a Buff on my neck, which can also act as a face protector, or a base layer item with a turtle neck.
Shoes – Every year there are more options for winter runners to choose from. Running Magazine published a 2014 Winter Running Shoe Guide with useful reviews. The shoes that began my obsession with winter running and are still my go-to shoes, are Salomon Speedcross 3 CS with Climashield™. They’re perfectly warm, have great grip and just enough weather protection. These and the GORE-TEX Speedcross GTX seem to be the winners amongst my running friends as well.
Accessories – Items like hats and gloves are key yet they were the hardest to get right for me. Once I found the ideal hat for me, Salomon’s Momentum Tube (that also doubles as a neck warmer) I don’t think I’ll ever change. As for gloves, I have dollar store ones that I wear when it’s -5C or less for the first 2 minutes of my run, and then take them off. If you have an issue with cold hands wear warmer gloves or even mitts.
- Build Your Inspiration: It’s hard getting up and out when it’s -15C outside. I find motivation in the most unlikely of places and one thing that worked was to set a ‘-10C’ running rule. If it’s -10C or more, I’d get my butt out the door. Also, running with a group is inspirational, motivational, and good for your soul.
- Be Happy You’re Here: Kent wrote this post and I very much relate to it and believe many others would as well. The gist of it is that we sometimes need a bit of a positive kick in the ass when it comes to doing something awesome in less than awesome conditions.
I’m assuming that you’re reading this because you’re interested in running outdoors, so…. get out there! I bet you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll enjoy it. Not only that, you’ll be so freaking proud of yourself. And then, you’ll want to do it again!
Anything is better than the gym. And I agree: “it’s much better than most people think”.