Beating Winter

Anyone who has tried to run consistently through the winter knows that winter running can be tough. The days are short and cold and the nights are long and even colder. The wind is no longer the warm summer breeze we once knew as it now cuts through our layers like an icy sword. Ice and snow cover our beloved routes and what little room there was on the side of the road is claimed by the slowly building snowbanks.

But winter can be beaten. With the right tools, your winter training can be some of the best you’ve had all year. Here are a few tips to help you out:

1. Wear the right apparel.

There are two schools of thought as to what the “right apparel” means. The first can be summed up in an old Scandinavian proverb that says, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” The second view was expressed nicely by Bill Bowerman when he said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only soft people.” Of the two, I think the Scandinavians had a little more sense.

So what is bad clothing for winter running? In short, almost anything made primarily of cotton. The issue with cotton is its ability to manage moisture, or the lack of it. Cotton is a very absorbent material, and when it gets wet, it tends to stay wet while losing a significant amount of its ability to insulate.  What this means for winter running is that when a cotton layer gets wet because of sweat or snow/rain, it will stay wet longer and not provide the same insulation as a wool or synthetic blend.

Ideally, a good winter running outfit is made up of several layers. First, and maybe most importantly, is the baselayer. The baselayer is what you put on first and sits next to your skin. A good baselayer will wick away sweat and keep you as dry as possible.

Next comes the midlayer. The midlayer depends heavily on how cold it is outside and how warm you want to be. It can be anything from a light technical t-shirt to a heavy ¼-zip pullover. Again, it should be a moisture-wicking fabric that complements the baselayer underneath it.

Finally, you have the outer shell. For the winter, your outer shell should be partially wind and water resistant with some ventilation along the sides or the back. Completely wind and waterproof jackets are nice, but many don’t allow moisture to escape and you may find yourself thoroughly soaked by the end of a run.

Throw in some warm non-cotton socks, a good hat, and gloves, and you’re ready to run!

2. Get a little extra traction.

Sometimes there is no escaping the snow and ice. Your regular running shoes may be fine in nicer winter weather, but on the days it’s bad, you may want to find some extra traction for your feet. There are a few different ways of doing this. You can “winterize” your current shoes by adding a set of Yaktrax or Stabilicers for some extra grip. Another option is to pick up a pair of shoes designed for winter running, such as the Saucony Razor ICE+, equipped with Saucony’s Runshield upper and Vibram Artic Grip rubber on the bottom.  

3. Power in numbers.

Sometimes the hardest part of running in the winter is just finding the motivation to get out and run, especially as winter drags into February and March. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to have a friend or friends to run with. If you don’t know anyone crazy enough to run with you all winter, or even if you do but want to meet some more people just like you, check out our Winter Warrior program that starts in January. The program is completely free and groups meet in our Portland and Brunswick locations.


4. Sign up for a spring race!

Having a spring race on the schedule is great motivation to keep you moving in the winter months. One of the more popular races in our run groups is the Sugarloaf 15k/Marathon on May 21st. For some of the crazier runners out there, our Brunswick Run Group has a couple of relay teams signed up for the first ever Riverlands 100 on May 13th.

5. Don’t be afraid to switch it up.

If there is enough snow on the ground, winter is a perfect time to try out some other activities like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Both of those activities will get your heart pumping and changing activities will strengthen your legs and body in ways that running won’t. You may be pleasantly surprised in the spring to find that your running has improved from mixing up your activities over the winter.

6. Reap the rewards.

Finally, one of the best parts of running in the cold is getting to soak up the warm afterwards. And one of the best ways to soak up the warm on a cold evening is with a warm drink, such as a Cinnamon Bourbon Hot Toddy. It’s warm. It has bourbon in it. And it’s actually an effective remedy for colds.

Stay warm out there and Happy Running! (And please drink responsibly!)

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