There’s a reason bears hibernate during the winter. Cold weather, snow, ice, and early nightfall mean that curling up and sleeping usually sounds better than outdoor activity.
In other words, staying active during cold weather — especially when it comes to walking and running–is an extra challenge. However, contrary to some opinions, running during winter isn’t bad for your lungs or heart. In fact, it can be a great way to rustle up some endorphins during gloomy weather.
In this blog post, we’ve compiled the best tips and and advice for winter running and walking. Keep reading to learn how you can stay safe, warm, and fit this winter.
Winter Running Clothes and Footwear
When it comes to running or walking in winter, it might sound obvious that staying warm is the name of the game. But exactly how to do that can be trickier! Keep these tips in mind when you choose clothing and footwear for winter running:
Staying warm while running–but not getting too warm–can be achieved with lots of layers. Instead of choosing one or two thick layers of clothing, opt for several thinner ones that you can remove as needed when you warm up and get moving, to reduce the amount of sweat your body creates. It may be helpful to run or walk with a fanny pack or light backpack to store layers you remove.
Avoid Synthetics for Inner Layers:
Despite the cold, it’s likely that you’ll sweat as you warm up. Try to stick with natural instead of synthetic fibers to wick moisture, especially for inner layers.
Protect Those Extremities:
Don’t forget about your fingers, ears, and toes when you go running. Your core is likely to stay warm and protected, but your extremities can be vulnerable to cold and frostbite if not properly protected. Wear gloves, a hat, and a thick pair of warm socks.
Warm Up Slowly:
Allow your skin–especially the skin on your extremities–to adjust to a sudden change in temperature gradually (extreme cold or warmth). Remove layers gradually when you return from a run, and put all your clothing on indoors first before heading outside. This will keep blood vessels in the skin from expanding or contracting too quickly and bursting, which can cause localized redness, pain, and numbness known as chilblains.
Wear Proper Footwear:
It’s more important than ever to wear supportive footwear in the winter. Choose shoes with thick soles that cushion and support your arch and don’t allow for a lot of heel movement. Pay attention to the shoes’ tread as well, avoid shoes with smooth or slippery tread.
Winter Hazards to Avoid
Running or walking in the winter is filled with a new set of challenges and hazards. But with a little preparation and caution, most don’t have to be deal breakers. Keep these hazards in mind when preparing for a walk or run:
Ice and Snow:
Ice and snow are the first hazards that leap to mind when considering a run outdoors during chilly weather. Keep an eye on temperatures and try to plan your run while the mercury stays above freezing to avoid many icy patches. If you do notice ice while you’re running, move cautiously, and don’t be afraid to turn around or walk instead. A twisted ankle or worse is a sure setback for much longer than one night off.
Pay attention to your city’s air quality advisories. If the air quality is moderate or poor as inversions develop, it’s a good idea to reduce the intensity of your workout or stay indoors until the air quality improves to avoid damaging your lungs.
Early nightfall and slow flurries mean that it’s not only harder for you to see the pavement in winter–it’s harder for motorists and bikers to see you. Wear bright, reflective clothing and don’t assume that drivers can see you when crossing a street.
Dangerously Cold Temperatures:
How cold is too cold when it comes to running? That depends on your level of preparation. In most cases, frostbite doesn’t become a risk factor while running until the temperature drops below zero. However, humidity is another matter. Cold plus humidity is a dangerous combo, and if your feet or hands become wet while running in very cold weather, it’s a good idea to get back indoors quickly.
When it come to winter running or walking, stay dedicated and keep that motivation high by walking or running with friends (this is an added safety benefit too!). But remember, “better safe than sorry” are wise words to live by too. If conditions are too dangerous, or you’re slipping around, take a break from your routine until conditions improve and opt for an indoor activity instead.
Winter running and walking can be enjoyable–and good for your health! Stay safe, follow these tips and best practices, and when it’s time to emerge from hibernation in the spring you’ll greet the spring weather feeling healthier than ever!