Updated: Mar 30
By Alyssa Brunt, MScPT, BScKIN (HON)
Welcome December! Need helpful tips on how to run during this winter season?
It’s time to string up the lights, decorate the tree, bake cookies and cozy up with some hot cocoa. I love December! It’s a wonderful way to end the year with family, friends and holiday festivities. It’s also a great time to reflect on the year and plan for the upcoming one ahead!
Yet, when it comes to cardio, the colder weather and shorter days makes me trade in my pavement pounding hours for some quality treadmill time. If you’re like me, snuggling under a blanket indoors watching Disney + becomes SO easy. ‘Tis the season to be freezin’.
Don’t get me wrong- on those warm summer days you’ll find me running like Forrest Gump himself. But in the winter, I’m more active indoors. I salute to all the many brave runners among us who continue to run outside in the below zero temperatures despite the cold and snowy conditions. True heroes. So if you plan on running your heart out in the cold, bundle up and read my top tips for protecting yourself while running during this chilly season.
1. Layer Up
There is a reason we never see people running in snow pants and parkas. It would be very uncomfortable and you would be a sweaty Betty after about 10 strides. The key to running in the cold is layers. Layers. Like ogres and onions (Yay for the people who got my Shrek reference!).
Unfortunately, the running gear we use to run in the summer won’t be enough during the chillier months. We want to avoid two things when running in the cold:
Overdressing and getting too sweaty too soon AND
Under-dressing when any amount of cold air begins to feel like a razor on your skin
Layer #1- The base layer
To prevent any cold air from getting in, be sure to wear a tight fitting layer. I’m talking proper tight-fitting leggings that wick moisture. A synthetic pair of tights will hold up the colder temperatures and help insulate the body.
Layer #2- Mid layer
A second lightweight moisture-wicking fabric should be a layer on top of tights to help you stay warm. It’s important not to over-do it! Remember, you will be running and getting the blood flowing through the body.
Layer #3- Outer Layer
For a final layer, find some wind and water resistant jackets and pants to keep you warm and dry.
2. Protect the Poles
The body loses its heat from the head and gains it from the feet. I like to think of these as the North and South Poles of the body. To prevent further heat loss, make sure to buy a hat or toque that is moisture-wicking. Do yourself a favour and grab some winter running socks to keep those toes from going numb! Forget the cotton socks that may have worked in the warmer days and opt for some wool socks instead. Wool helps to keep the feet feeling warm even when damp. Also, make sure they aren’t too bulky for your shoes! Gloves are a good idea too! If you want to protect your paws. Again, aim for moisture-wicking ones when purchasing.
With the snow and ice, slipping is a big safety concern while running in the winter. To prevent any collisions into a snowbank, Proper shoes are important! Winter running shoes have better traction and are water resistant. This ensures your toes stay warm despite falling snow and cold puddles. If you happen to run before the snow has cleared, try to take smaller steps and shorten your stride. By shortening your stride, this will help your body gain a bit of control. This helps keep your center of gravity within your base of support (i.e improve your balance).
4. Warm Up
While running, your hands may feel cold but your heart will be warm, only if you warm up! Cold muscles are more susceptible to injuries. It’s better to warm up for about 10 minutes indoors before heading into the cold. Try to make use of the things around you. Do stair climbing, jump around, or start your running pace at about 75% of your normal speed. The key is to get warm but not too warm. We don’t want to be sweaty going into the cold because you can get the chills. Trust me, your muscles will thank you if they get a proper warm up.
5. Don’t Forget About Leakage
Running in the winter can still result in urinary leakage. This is NOT normal, despite it being common. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a sign that there is a dysfunction in your pelvic floor muscles. Your hips and knees will remain in proper alignment while running if your pelvic floor muscles are strong. Though when you have a dysfunction such as a leakage, other muscles in the hips, knees, and back must work harder. This can then lead to an injury.
6. Mask Up!
One of the biggest things I see when people are running is a completely exposed face. Yes, you are all beautiful and I love the rosy cheeks and runny noses but bundle up! I encourage every runner out there to wear a face mask when running in the colder temperatures. Why?
The air is colder and dryer during the winter. This means that it is harder for the body to warm up and humidify the air we breathe as it comes into the lungs. A mask allows you to create both of these things, we are able to breathe against something and warm the air before breathing it in. This reduces the discomfort on the respiratory tract and the risk of infections. If you are experiencing coughing, dry lungs or recurring respiratory tract infections, this is super important for you. And you’ll also look like a ninja!
7. Drink Water and Don’t Be a Hero
It’s easy to feel yourself sweating when running under the summer sun. But don’t forget to drink water to keep your body hydrated! You are still at risk of dehydration even in the winter. Be smart and listen to your body out there. If the weather changes, it’s too icy, you’re too cold, or you’re not feeling it, don’t use this as a time to push yourself. It’s okay to stay indoors. Try to plan your running time around better weather. Try not to run in a snow storm during the dead of winter. If you do run among the falling snowflakes, make sure you are visible to everyone around you.
If you’re a super human being and enjoy running during the colder months of the year, make sure to prepare yourself! Yes, I know, you’re Princess Elsa and the cold never bothered you anyways, right? To keep that statement true, follow my tips above. Be safe and don’t forget to prepare for those chilly winter runs and listen to your body. Stretch. Stay warm. Drink water. And stay cozy my friends!
If you’ve sustained an injury with running or have any further questions about how to bundle up during the winter season, come see Alyssa today!
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