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Cold Weather Running: Staying Comfortable this Winter!

Updated on January 19, 2011

Layers, Layers, Layers!

It's very important to put on the proper layers while exercising outdoors in the winter. Whether you are out running, skiing, or any other winter activity, being able to adjust what you have on is crucial to staying comfortable as your body temperature fluctuates. I recommend some type of moisture wicking base layer, a warming, insulating mid layer and a windproof outer shell. For your lower body, a thicker, insulating and windproof pant is usually sufficient because your legs stay warmer from the activity. With this basic combination you can adjust as necessary to changing conditions.

Protect Your Extremities

The majority of your body heat is lost through your head. A synthetic fleece or wool hat will protect your noggin and help keep you warm. If you're on a particularly spirited run, or your head tends to overheat easily like mine does, a fleece headband is usually the better choice. You'll still maintain some warmth, while keeping your vulnerable ears safe from the chill. To protect your hands, thick gloves, mittens or even socks work best. I find it's easy to get cold fingertips, especially while running, and it's better to err on the side of too warm. Convertible running gloves are ideal here. They provide dexterity when needed, but for the most part you can keep your fingers fully covered. As for your feet, a wool blend sock such as Smartwool are great during the winter.

Plan Your Route

During the winter months, where terrain can be varied and uncertain, its important to stick to a well known, and short route. You can run multiple loops if its a longer run. As icy conditions and shorter days come, you'll be safer if you plan a route that you know ahead of time. Always, be aware of the surface you are running on and remember to wear reflective clothing as the sun goes down.

Warm Up First

Before any run, its imperative to warm up your muscles and joints. Calisthenics or dynamic stretching, indoors if you can, to help loosen up your body will assist in keeping you healthy and injury free.

Stay Hydrated

This goes without saying, but it can be difficult to gauge your level of hydration during the winter. The air is usually drier and this puts an extra strain on your lungs. The cold also makes it harder to tell how much you are perspiring, so keep on drinking even if you don't feel thirsty.

Planning goes a long way during the colder winter months. Don't let the chilly weather keep you indoors!


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