Winter running can be such a daunting task for some; shorter days, cold winds, wet conditions, and slippery surfaces can all be deal breakers when finding the motivation to lace up and head out the door.
With the newest set of government-mandated COVID restrictions, this year will be especially tough for most because we’ve lost the choice of staying indoors and logging our miles on the treadmill.
We’ve put together this post to tell you that the crummy weather doesn’t necessarily have to ruin your run. Here are our top tips to help you embrace these cold Winter months:
Plan for your plans to be ruined – the only thing consistent about Winter weather is that it’s cold. Some days are colder than others, some days are colder still. Some days chunks of ice fall from the sky, other days the wind picks up to bone chilling speeds. With all that, we suggest to be flexible when planning your weekly runs. Consider bumping up your long run day, speed work day, or easy runs to different parts of the week than your usual days if the forecast is calling for horrible conditions.
Warm up – Throw your Winter running gear on and maybe hop on a stationary bike, do a few core exercises, anything to get your blood pumping and your temperature up. Having a light sweat already going before heading outside will help prevent those first few minutes of uncomfortable cold.
Adjust your effort – It is easy to get caught up chasing specific paces or hitting desired splits, we all do it. The Winter time presents new challenges to your running by providing slippery surfaces, high winds and the need for lots of potentially motion restricting layers. Instead of chasing times, it can often be the most beneficial to base your runs and workouts on perceived effort or your heart rate. By switching it up you can often get the same cardiovascular benefits, but greatly reduce your chance of injury or over exertion.
Layering – The general rule of thumb for layering up for a Winter run is to dress as if it is 10 degrees warmer outside than it actually is. This is because you generate quite a bit of body heat while you’re running or exercising. Essentially you should be a little uncomfortable with the cold for the first kilometer or two of your runs. Keep in mind that this doesn’t take wind chill into account so it can be tougher to layer appropriately on a blustery day; this is why most runners will agree a good wind proof outer shell will often be your most important layering piece.
Be seen. Be safe. – Another crappy thing about Winter is that days are way shorter than in the Summer. Sun doesn’t rise until after 7 am and then it’s dark again by 5 pm. If you’re working a 9-to-5 it makes it almost impossible to run in the daylight. Adding hits of visibility to your running gear can be literally vital to your safety. Think bright colors, reflective and light up accessories, anything that will help you stand out to motorists in low-light conditions.
Find a run buddy – If you’re like me, finding the motivation to get your run in when it’s 10 below is tough. Having a running partner to keep you accountable can make a big difference, someone that will notice if you don’t get out for your run. It can be your neighbor, teammate, or even your dog; not wanting to disappoint someone can often all the motivation you need.
Even if you do follow all of these tips and advice for Winter running: adjusting your training schedule, warming up beforehand, adjusting your effort, layering properly, being visible in low light conditions, or having a run buddy for accountability, Canadian Winters can still be too harsh for even the most die-hard running enthusiasts. There is no shame in taking a day or two off, many elite Canadian runners will deliberately schedule their downtime between seasons for January and February because they don’t want to run outside either. Remember that everyone experiences highs and lows to their levels of motivation, any run you do get out for will be one more than most of your competitors and you’ll still be a step ahead come Spring.