There’s something completely invigorating about running in the dead of winter. Cold weather makes you feel tingling and alive in ways that no other season can. Sure, it can get uncomfortable. But there is something so briskly beautiful about the season, even when it is cold and gray.
For endurance runners, there is no stopping. We don’t take breaks for the weather, hot or cold. In winter, however, we have to be aware of the unique needs our bodies have to stay healthy and hydrated. You might be tempted to believe that because it’s not hot and sunny, winter poses less of a threat to you than summer—but it’s not true! The season poses plenty of its own dangers. If you want to weatherproof yourself for running in the winter, take my advice.
5 Steps to Weatherproofing Yourself for Winter Endurance Running
1) Stay Warm
This is perhaps the most obvious bit of advice when it comes to running in cold weather. You want to stay warm. There are definitely still tricks to it, though. Remember, you’re going to be warming up while you run, so you don’t want to over-bundle lest you overheat while on the run. Experts recommend dressing as if it were 20-degrees warmer than it actually is.
Regardless of how many layers you wind up wearing, you will always want to include gloves or mittens and a hat. They are non-negotiables when you’re running in freezing temperatures.
You also have to find a balance to allow for ventilation so you can sweat without becoming chilled. You’ll want fabrics that are still designed for wicking away moisture and zippers to help ventilate and release heat.
2) Stay Dry
More than the actual cold temperatures, moisture can pose a danger. If you’re running in snow or rain and getting your feet wet, you’re going to be at a higher risk for frostbite and illness. It’s especially important to protect your feet! If you don’t have shoes especially suited for winter weather, it’s time to get some. You want to minimize shoes designed with lots of mesh and instead opt for choices that have something like Gore-Tex (waterproof, breathable materials) design.
Arm yourself with warm, moisture-wicking socks and you’ll be set.
If you do get wet on your run, whether it’s from the elements or simply because you got a bit sweaty, make sure you change clothes as soon as you’re finished. Don’t sit around in your cold, damp clothes any longer than you have to.
3) Moisturize & Hydrate
Winter air is tough on everyone’s skin, but it’s especially tough on runners. Now is the time to seriously invest in a good moisturizer. Going from cold air to dry, heated indoors can suck the life out of your skin, cause wrinkles, roughness, and dullness. Grab some CeraVe or Nivea from the drugstore (or Kiehl’s if you feel like splurging) and make sure to keep your skin moisturized after showering.
And as always, remember to stay hydrated. The lack of heat can make the need to drink less apparent, but it’s not any less than other times of year! Drinking water will also help keep moisture in your skin.
4) Be Visible
Visibility, in general, can be limited during this time of year. It gets dark earlier, it’s duller and grayer outdoors, and our wardrobes look duller, too. Make sure you take care to dress brightly! Include reflectors and anything you need to ensure that you can be seen by motorists, especially if you’re running where there are snow and ice.
5) Shield Yourself from the Sun
Just as it’s easy to feel as though we don’t need to drink as much water during the winter, it’s easy to think we don’t need sunscreen, either. A lack of temperature doesn’t mean sun damage is out of the equation. It’s not. UVB rays can still cause their fair share of damage, so pack on the sunscreen just like you would during the summer.
Remember, too, that the snow can reflect the sun’s harmful rays and intensify their effect and damage your skin further. Don’t take that chance.
If you want to be the ultimate weatherproof endurance runner, it comes down to being prepared and educated. Check your routes and check the weather. What’s the wind speed and chill? Will it be cooler or warmer at another elevation on another route? Can you improve your running experience during the season simply by changing your equipment?
Your winter experience may not be the same as someone else’s. Here in Memphis, it doesn’t get that bitterly cold. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to take care of my skin and take steps to protect my body!
Wherever you are, we can all do what it takes to run in winter in tip-top condition.