Question:

I’d like to keep up my running during the winter. Do you have any tips for staying safe and comfortable? –Thomas L.

Winter creates many challenges, but it should not stop you from running. Many people seem to put running on hold during the winter season because they either do not want to brave the cold and early darkness, do not have the proper clothes, or do not have access to a treadmill (nor do they want to confine themselves to one until spring). However, follow these simple tips and you'll be able to run safely and comfortably in the cold weather.

1. Dress in Layers. The key to outdoor winter running attire is layering. Layers trap body heat as well as allow sweat to move through the layers of clothing. The moisture is wicked away from your first layer to your outer layers, and then evaporates – so you’re able to keep your body warm without overheating. For your upper body, I recommend wearing a T-shirt/tank made from synthetic wicking material as your base layer, then a long-sleeved top (fleece is a great option for when it’s very cold) as your insulating layer, and a jacket/pullover as your wind and waterproof outer layer. Remember, you don’t want to hold yourself down with baggy sweat pants or heavy jackets. For your lower body, wear tights/running pants and warm wicking socks.

2.  Warm Up Before Your Run. You do not want to head outside in the cold and just start running. Before you head outdoors, stretch and do a warm up that will gradually increase your heart rate, increase circulation, and mentally prepare you for your workout. I suggest doing dynamic stretches and cardio movements; here’s an example of a pre-run warm-up:

Dynamic Stretches

:: Leg Swings (front-to-back, side-to-side)
:: Walking Knee Pulls/High Knees
:: Lunges with Rotation
:: Push-up Toe Walks
:: Arm Circles

Cardio Movements

:: Jumping Jacks
:: Jump Rope
:: Run in Place, Stairs
:: Split Jumps

3. Pay Attention to the Weather. Extreme conditions will allow for winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings, and it is best to remain indoors when there are icy pavements, gusting winds, blizzard conditions, and/or sub-zero temperatures. Consider the time of day before you go running as well; you want to make sure you can be clearly seen by others. 

4. Run Inside. This is a reasonable substitute when running outside is not an option. You could use a treadmill or an indoor running track. I recommend you do the same type of running that you do outside. For example, if you run in a neighborhood where there are a lot of hills, increase the treadmill’s incline or set it on a program to have intervals of increased incline and flat ground. Treadmills also offer the convenient option to maintain a set speed.

Running is a fun, healthy activity any time of the year, but just as “it’s cold” should not be an excuse, it is important to consider the weather conditions and decide if it is safe to be outside. If you feel unsure about running outdoors, come into the Club, get on a treadmill, or hit the track.

–Krista Wiltberger, Expert Personal Trainer