It is not quite winter here in Atlanta yet and it probably won’t be any time soon, but I know many of ya’ll are already feeling the seasons transition from fall to winter. Winter running can have its challenges, but there are also some perks that come with running during the colder months. It can be challenging to stay motivated when it’s cold out but it’s important to stay active during this time so you are better prepared for spring race season.
While it doesn’t get incredibly cold here in Georgia like it does in other areas, it does get cold enough to think twice about running outside. I will be running the Walt Disney World Marathon the first weekend in January and two half marathons all before spring arrives.
VISIBILITY: Winter means shorter days and darker everything so make sure you have clothing and other items that allow you to be seen by others and traffic. Find items that work for your needs. Reflective clothing and shoes are a great place to start, but they are not near enough in most cases. Headlamps, clip on flashing lights, wrist lights and reflective vests are the way to go. I find that I run well with my headlamp sitting on top of a hat because I am less worried about tripping over a bit of raised pavement or hitting a hole. I also don’t worry about being seen by anyone because the light is pretty bright.
SAFETY: I hate even having to mention this one, but it’s a reality. Running in winter means that not only is it darker outside but that places once crowded with summer activities are bare. Most parks and streets will be packed with runners, walkers, etc during the warmer months but that foot traffic often clears out when it starts getting colder. Be sure you choose areas that you are familiar with and always let someone know where you are going, even if it is around your neighborhood block. Let them know when you expect to be back and always take your cell phone. It doubles as a flashlight and you have it if you need it for an emergency. Choose an area where you know others frequent or a place with heavy traffic in general.
ROUTE: You will want to make adjusts to your usual routes for winter. Try to find areas that are free of the elements like college campuses, active parks, an indoor track or busy streets where sidewalks are always clear from ice and snow. Many parks will shut off public water fountains and restrooms during the winter months so be mindful of that as well if you typically frequent those places. You might also find it helpful to run in areas where wind can be easily blocked by trees or other things.
GEAR: This is one of the most important tips in my opinion. You need the right gear to run during the winter. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can pull something out of your closet and hit the streets. Be sure that all of your clothes are made from tech fabrics. Cotton will become wet and cold once you start to sweat. I will be sharing a list of the specific items I love for winter running in a later post, but a good jacket and items that you can layer are the best place to start. If there is a lot of snow in your area you may look at getting a screw kit for your shoes for additional traction.
TIMING: During the warmer months we all want to get up early or run late at night when the temperatures aren’t too horrible, but winter is a different animal all together. If it is really cold where you are try waiting until the warmest part of the day to start your run. I think this is one of the biggest bonuses to running in the winter. You can sleep in, wake up with some coffee and breakfast, do some reading and then get ready for your run. During the summer it is so hot in Atlanta that I am always waking up hours before the sun, but the colder months allow me to take my time and get moving once the weather has warmed up a bit.
TREADMILL: When it seems impossible to run outdoors hit the treadmill. Come spring you will be BFFs with the treadmill, because no matter what the weather is outside you can get a run in. If you don’t love your treadmill be sure to stop back on Friday. This week’s Friday Five is dedicated to loving your treadmill and learning to use it to pump up your training routine.
BADASS: Winter running makes you a badass. Not only will you feel like a badass, but others will recognize it too. Last winter when it was 17 degrees out (this is the South, that’s cold for ATL) I had people craning their neck out their car windows watching me run up a humongous hill. It’s almost as if they were in disbelief that anyone could be outdoors in that cold let alone run it in up a huge hill. My coworkers think I’m nuts and my husband accepted that a long time ago, but there is an even bigger sense of accomplishment that comes from running in the cold when most people don’t want to walk to their car.
Whether you are new to running or just trying to make winter running more enjoyable I hope these little bits help you make the most out of the season. Maintaining fitness during the holiday season can be problematic with all the yummy treats, vacations and house guests, but staying active always make those things that much more enjoyable. As difficult as it is to stay motivated when it’s cold out all that hard work will pay off when spring comes. You won’t have to worry about ramping up for a spring race if you are already training in the winter months or working to maintain your mileage. Nothing says spring like a new shiny PR!
How do you handle training in the cold?
Do you train in the winter?