By Lindsay Scott, Physiotherapist
Our top five strategies to keep your winter running on track and injury free
In the last few months, we’ve persevered through holiday ice storms and power outages, shoveled snow endlessly, and become more familiar with the term “polar vortex” than we ever wanted. All of this, and it’s only the first week of February. Winter months certainly don’t make it easy to keep your running and fitness routine on track, but we’re not ready to give up just yet! Here are our top five strategies to keep your winter running plan fun, safe and on track through this home stretch of winter:
1. Get Motivated
It isn’t easy to drag yourself out the door during cold winter months, but being active outside in the winter can be a lot of fun. Find some way to motivate yourself to get those first few minutes of activity under your belt, and you’ll likely find yourself happily working up a sweat in no time. A few tricks to consider:
- Buddy up – It is a lot tougher to hit the snooze button for the third time if someone is waiting for you. Running with a friend or group has the added bonus of being safer, especially when running in the dark or in icy conditions, and of having someone push you to work harder.
- Set those fitness goals – Look ahead to your spring and summer fitness goals and think of your winter activities as a head start. Consider signing up for a local race and remember that all that time that you log in the cold will pay huge dividends when the warm weather finally rolls around and you’re lining up at that start line.
- Slow down and enjoy – Enjoy the peaceful feeling of running during a light snowfall, embrace those rosy winter cheeks and fresh winter air, and get excited about the fact that you are doing your body a lot of good.
2. Dress for Success
People are often uncertain about how to gear up for a winter run. It has certainly been a tough go this year given how cold it has been. One tried and true approach to cold weather running gear is the three layer system:
- Base layer – a thin layer that will sit next to your skin. This one should be moisture wicking to make sure that you stay dry.
- Mid layer – this layer is all about warmth. It should still be light enough that you are a bit cool as you start out, as you will generate heat once you get going.
- Outer layer – this one should protect you from the wind, snow, slush and rain. Having some sort of venting system is also key to allow moisture to escape. This layer should keep you warm without being too bulky, and should allow you to peel off layers as you start to heat up.
A few other things to think about:
- Gloves and headbands can go a long way to keeping you comfortable on a run, and are easy to peel off if you get too warm.
- Safety first! While the days are thankfully getting longer now, fewer daylight hours are a reality of cold weather running. Make sure that you have gear with reflectivity so that you remain visible while logging miles in the dark.
3. Don’t Forget to Fuel and Hydrate
It’s easy to overlook your hydration and fuel needs, but even when it’s cold outside, you still lose water through sweating. Take those water bottles with you the same way as you would on a hot summer day, and remember to slow down in order to drink if it’s at all icy.
4. Adjust your style
Ice, slush, snow and wind are certainly added challenges that make your usual routine a little trickier through the winter months. A few small adjustments to your style and routine can go a long way to keeping you safe and healthy.
- If conditions are slippery, shorten your stride slightly and pay attention to your footing to avoid a slip. Your foot plant should always be underneath your centre of gravity to provide solid footing.
- Consider traction devices that slip over your running shoes to give you better footing.
- Don’t worry about how fast you’re going. You’re out there to stay healthy, enjoy the outdoors, and perhaps build a base for your upcoming race season. Slow down, pay attention and make the run fun!
5. Mix it up and have fun!
Embrace the weather! Take this opportunity to try a new winter sport or revisit those dusty cross country skis in your basement. Be flexible and adjust your workouts as necessary in order to make them safe and enjoyable. Take care of your body and don’t push through if something doesn’t feel right. Congratulate yourself on a job well done, and above all else, enjoy! Before long, we’ll all be complaining that it’s too hot!