Winter Running Tips

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Published on November 4, 2014

Winter Running – Stay Safe

Winter is coming. For some people, it’s the season for steaming hot chocolate and lots of presents; for others, it’s a season for traffic jams and expensive snow tires.  For runners, it’s the season with the highest injury rates. How can you still run in winter, but stay safe while doing so?

Important Points to Keep in Mind

  • When the temperature drops below -30°C, including the wind chill, consider working out indoors.  
  • Asthma patients have a greater risk for an attack when it’s cold and dry. If you are running and have asthma, it’s a good idea to bring your puffer just in case.

What to Wear

Multiple layers:

It is important that you not wear bulky clothing and be sweaty in freezing weather or cold for more than 10 minutes into the run.

Base Layer: wear the tight fitting fabric and add extra layers depending on the temperature and your tolerance to the cold.

Mid Layer: fleeces are good insulating layers.

Top Layer: a breathable windbreaker or windproof shell is the best choice.

Limit Skin Exposure

Keep your head and extremities covered with hats, mittens, and neck warmer.

If you are a novice winter runner, try keeping a weather log to find out the perfect combination for you.

Proper Shoes

You can use your regular running shoes or all-season or winter running shoes. Some runners use strap-on running spikes for better traction in icy conditions.

Wear thermal socks for maximum warmth and better fit.

Keep your Skin Lubricated

Apply body lubricant and lip balm to any exposed skin such as lips, nose, and ears to help protect it from cold and dryness. Petroleum jelly is great for both.

Sunscreen is important in winter too! If it’s sunny, apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses.

Let’s Run!

  1. Warm up properly in the warmth. Warm up with moderate exercise (walking on a treadmill, jumping ropes, a few sets of stairs) for a few minutes indoor to get your circulation going before you head out. Start your runs at a slow pace and build up slower than your normal pace.
  2. Make sure to change your direction and pace gradually to avoid slipping or pulling muscles that are not properly warmed up.
  3. Be aware of your surrounding and your body condition.
    1. On icy roads, increase your stride width (feet a bit further apart) and shorten your stride.
    2. When running by yourself, run in small loops near your home in case you need to cut the run short. Bring your cell phone, cab fare, and ID with you and inform someone of your route and approximate time of return. 
    3. Strengthen your core and buttock muscles for better balance control.
  4. Stretching is also important. After your first few runs, you may experience slight muscle soreness in the legs due to more work that your muscles were doing to keep your balance and modified stride.
  5. Keep your water bottle under your jacket to prevent freezing.
  6. If you have symptoms of frostbite such as burning, tingling, and numbness, cover the affected area and seek shelter immediately    

So what’s in it for you?

Benefits of Winter Running

Running is an excellent weight-bearing cardio work out. Weight-bearing activities are important to prevent osteoporosis especially for women living in the Northern hemisphere with our long winters.

Although it may not make a huge difference, winter running may also have a few more benefits to warmer weather running. In order to stay warm, your body needs to use extra calories on top of the calories you are burning during the runs. Winter running is a great motivator to get up and outside, to challenge yourself and feel the excitement of achievement.

Joyce Lee, BSc, DC, CSCS
Graduate Studies and Research Program
Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College
6100 Leslie Street,
Toronto, OntarioM2H 3J1