Tips to Stay Warm and Safe During Winter Running

by Courtney Poullas
It’s January, and that means winter running is in full swing! Running in any kind of extreme weather requires safety precautions before, during and after your runs. Below are some tips to make sure you can safely enjoy your winter running to the fullest.

Before You Run
The type of clothing you wear during cold-weather running is integral to your safety and success. Always choose moisture-wicking clothing; it keeps the sweat and other moisture away from your body. In cold temperatures, damp skin can cause hypothermia. 

When we see those crazy cold temperatures on the weather report, it can be easy to dress in layers upon layers upon layers before heading outside. However, you should try not overdress! When you overdress, you risk sweating more — and when you sweat more, your risk of hypothermia increases. 

Once you get moving, you’ll be surprised how quickly you warm up! A general rule of thumb is to dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer than the current temperature. If you choose to layer, make sure you wear thin, moisture-wicking layers.

When you’re dressed and ready to run, make sure to perform a light warm-up such as performing a brisk walk, jumping jacks or Spiderman crawls. Running on cold muscles can easily cause injury. Whatever you do, make sure the stretches are dynamic! Static stretching (regardless of the temperature) can cause you to strain, pull or tear muscles while dynamic stretching gently increases your heart rate as you stretch.

Finally, before you begin your winter training cycle, read and understand symptoms of hypothermia. The initial signs may be as simple as increased shivering and loss of energy, and the confusing part about those symptoms is that you may experience them running in the cold regardless of hypothermia. However, if you begin to experience any slurred speech, memory loss or unusual clumsiness, it’s time to cut your run short and get some help.  

During Your Run
Safety stops are crucial in any weather but even more so in inclement weather. No matter your route, make sure you’re aware of various indoor locations (restaurants, stores, homes of friends or family, etc.). You never know when you may need to cut it short — especially if you’re battling the elements.

In addition, make sure your electronics remain fully powered; your phone is your lifeline if you need help. There are various sleeves that extend the battery life of your smartphone and prevent it from shutting off due to extreme temperatures (both cold and heat). 

Even though you like running on the road, winter road-running can sometimes be just as technical as trail running. While you may be tempted to enjoy the sights and sounds that make winter running so beautiful, it’s even more important to pay attention to where your feet are landing! Ice and snow can cause nasty falls, so always make sure you’re mindful of the conditions of your route.

After Your Run
Once you arrive to your post-run destination, change your clothing as soon as possible. Remember, damp clothing increases the chance of hypothermia. If you’re headed home, you’ll have plenty of clothes to change into of course. If you’re not heading home immediately after your run, however, make sure to bring a change of clothes.

Also be sure to refuel and rehydrate. Running in any extreme temperature (hot or cold) requires you to expend more energy than if you were running in ideal temperatures. Refuel with a simple carb + protein such as a plain bagel with some kind of nut butter. Rehydrate not only with water or a hydration solution but also warm liquids like a cup of warm lemon water or hot tea. 

Finally, RELAX and get ready for your next run! Winter running is unavoidable in our region, and for many runners, it’s their favorite time of year to log miles. Following these simple safety tips will ensure you have a positive experience as you work through your winter training cycle. 

Visit the ‘Burgh Blog each month for more training tips and tricks from Courtney Poullas and the other 2019 Official Bloggers! You can also follow along as Courtney trains for the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on her blog Courtney Poullas
Courtney Poullas
2019 Official Blogger

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