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How to adjust your outdoor running routine when winter weather strikes

By Stephanie Koons, AccuWeather staff writer

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For many dedicated runners, braving the elements while running requires strategic planning and dressing for winter weather.

According to Jeff Dengate, an editor at Runner’s World, winter running brings out a sense of childlike wonder in many people, and it is more fun than running on a treadmill.

“As adults, we won’t really have an opportunity to play in the snow and be kids,” he said.

winterrunner

(ViktorCap/iStock/Thinkstock)


There are no absolute rules when it comes to deciding whether to run in winter weather, Dengate said.

“My general rule of thumb is to use your head,” he said. “There are no bad (weather conditions), just bad gear choices.”

Chris Michel, a digital editor at Runner’s World, also said that low temperatures and/or wintry precipitation aren’t necessarily deterrents to runners that are properly prepared.

“As long as the walkways are clear, it’s OK to go running,” he said.

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Dress properly for winter weather

Brian Dalek, a digital editor at Runner’s World, said that winter runners should “dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it is outside” with the caveat of adding just 10 degrees Fahrenheit if it’s super windy.

Rather than overdressing, Dengate advised using light layers. A basic outfit would include a base layer, such as a long-sleeve tech shirt (which wicks moisture and dries quickly to keep you cool while exercising), a windproof running jacket, running pants and/or tights.

During particularly cold spells, runners may want to a mid-layer in a material such as fleece or Gore-Tex—a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane. Mittens are generally warmer than gloves and wearing a hat with a visor is also recommended.

“Wearing multiple layers is the biggest piece of advice,” he said. “You’re always going to feel 10 to 15 degrees warmer once you get going.”

In icy conditions, runners may want shoes that provide more traction. Athletic shoe companies such as Brooks and Asics make winterized versions of running shoes with extra grip, and people can also buy separate traction devices that fit on the bottoms of their shoes. A cheaper alternative is to purchase half-inch hex screws from a hardware store, Dengate said.

Warm up properly before running

Dalek advised runners who are braving the cold to move around inside enough to get the blood flowing without breaking a sweat.

He recommended basic warm-up moves such as arm/head rotations, tree trunks and knee circles. Other options are running up and down stairs, using a jump rope or doing a few yoga sun salutations.

Be seen while running in the dark

With limited daylight during the winter months, runners will most likely be running in the dark at some point. Tall snowbanks on plowed streets can also make runners harder to see.

Dengate advised wearing light clothing with blinking lights and altering routes and schedules to take advantage of daylight.

“It’s actually a lot of fun going running in the lunchtime (hour),” he said.

Wear reflective material as well as a headlamp or use a bright flashlight to be able to see potholes and black ice.

Start your run facing the wind

On windy days, Dengate said, runners should start their runs into the wind and finish with it at your back, so they’re not blasted with wind after they’ve broken a sweat. Starting a run into the wind also enables a runner to get the hard work out of the way in the beginning and take it easy on the last stretch.

Recover quickly post-run

Your core body temperature drops as soon as you stop running. To bring the body back to baseline, Dalek said, get out of your workout clothes—head to toe—as soon as possible.


For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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