Brrr! Stay warm and safe on your winter run with these tips

Nothing beats the great outdoors, but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with your workout schedule. Even when the weather outside is frightful, your workout can still be delightful — and safe. The key is making the right plan.

“Cold-weather training in many ways can be safer than training outside in the summer heat (no risk of heat exhaustion) as long as you’re prepared and paying attention,” says Eric Dannenberg, a performance manager at EXOS. If you’re heading out for a winter run, there are a few simple strategies to keep you going through the colder months.

Dress the part.

The key to any winter workout is layers. The ability to shed layers or add on as you go gives you the agility you need to manage through a colder run. The biggest concern is not to take anything you can’t hold onto or tie around your waist if you remove it as a layer. A thick heavy coat isn’t the solution for an enjoyable winter run.

Here’s a quick guide from another EXOS performance manager, Maureen Key to layering clothing in the cold to keep you warm while minimizing sweat. We like the adidas COLD.RDY collection because it has innovative, breathable materials and locks warmth in.

  • Inner layer: Skin-tight clothing from sweat-wicking material, like lycra, won't absorb moisture like cotton does and will keep you drier and warmer.
  • Middle layer: This is your insulating layer. It’s meant to trap your body heat and keep you warm. Choose materials like wool, goose down, and synthetic fleeces because they’ll hold heat longer.
  • Outermost layer: On a sunny day you may not need this layer since you’ll heat up quickly once you get running. But if the elements aren’t cooperating and you’re brave enough to head out in extreme wind, rain, snow, or sleet, this layer protects you from the elements and needs to be waterproof and wind resistant.
  • Socks: Wool socks are both sweat-wicking and insulating.
  • Gloves: A good pair of running gloves will keep your hands warm.
  • Headgear: Your head is one of the areas most prone to heat loss (along with your groin and armpits), so always have something to insulate your head that can fit in your pocket if you get too warm later in the run.

Get moving before you get going.

With any training session, you always want to consider the ways you want to prepare to move. A common mistake people make is heading out the door without a warmup, which also means they dress for the start of their run when they’re coldest. But once core temperature rises due to exercise, we quickly find ourselves overdressed for the session.

“You’ll be amazed at how much heat your body produces when training, even when it’s freezing outside,” says Dannenberg. “If you’re overdressed and sweat too much during a long run or bike ride and can’t get somewhere warm, the extra moisture can be dangerous.”

Within the EXOS system we talk about movement preparation, which is a dynamic warm up. It actively elongates muscles, excites the nervous system, enhances proprioception, and increases core temperature — all valuable when heading out the door for a run in any season, but that increased core temperature plays an additional role in heading out into a cold-weather run.

Getting warmed up in your living room for 10 minutes before you go decreases your risk of injury and helps you manage your core temperature in the early stages of the run. Try this warm up before you take off.

Take a few practice runs.

If this is your first time trying outdoor running in the winter, try a few shorter practice runs. First, check the weather so you know how cold it is outside. You’ll want to start off with a base layer and a mid-layer of clothing. Before heading out for your short run, do a 10-minute movement preparation session in your living room (see above).

Opt for a short, 10-minute run close to home (you can circle the block for example) to see how comfortable you are once you really start giving off heat. This gives you the convenient ability to adjust and drop off any unwanted layers at home (or grab more gear) before heading out for longer runs. Over the course of a few runs you’ll know exactly what layers are just right for you in a variety of temperature ranges, and you’ll be off and running, refusing to let winter get in the way of your training goals.

Remember to hydrate and recover.

A final key callout to training in the winter is to become even more deliberate with your hydration and recovery plans. Even if you aren’t feeling super sweaty in the cold, you do still sweat and you’ll still become dehydrated. As with a run in any season, it’s a great idea to weigh yourself before and after the run to see how much weight you’ve lost. Any weight loss is due to dehydration, and you should drink 20 ounces of water for each pound lost.

Outdoor workouts are thrilling but they can take a lot out of you. Check out these ideas for a recovery day to reduce fatigue and get back to your training sooner.

EXOS believes in using safe, high-quality athletic gear. That’s why we recommend adidas clothing and products.

About the Author

Kelsey Webb

As an editorial assistant at EXOS, I'm eager to help others improve every aspect of their lives through healthy living. I enjoy bringing effective strategies and information to light by working with experts in all fields.

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