Running Through a Winter Wonderland: Tips for Exercising Outdoors in the Winter
January marks the new year and it’s a time of new beginnings and new goals to set. This is also usually the time of year when everyone flocks to the gym. While I, myself, love weight lifting; due to our current situation, I don’t feel comfortable going to a gym right now and I’m sure some of you don’t either. Luckily, our parks and trails are still open, so I’m sharing some tips that have helped me succeed in running and walking outdoors, even in this cold, dry Nevada winter.
First things first, dressing the part. Layers are going to be your best friend in the winter. It might take a couple tries to figure out what works for you, and if it’s particularly cold, you might also want to wear a hat or gloves. I personally cannot stand running while wearing a hat or gloves. I find they get itchy after I start to warm up, but I will wear them on a walk or a hike.
If it’s snowing or raining, make sure you have a waterproof outer layer because it’s hard to stay warm when you’re soaking wet. Wet clothes also become heavy, and make it hard to move. My waterproof jacket also has the additional benefit of being very bright, which is great because there’s less daylight in the winter. While people can see you clearly on your 6 A.M. run in the summertime, it might still be pitch black when running at this time in the winter. Wearing bright and reflective clothing can help keep you safe from cars, bikers, or other outdoor enthusiasts that may not be paying attention!
When you’re done with your run or walk, I recommend showering as soon as possible. If I don’t shower right away after being out in the cold, I will be cold the entire rest of the day. Also, make sure you eat enough and drink enough water afterwards. It’s cold, so you’re burning more calories and just because it doesn’t feel like you’re sweating, doesn’t mean that you aren’t. If it is raining or snowing, your shoes might become soaking wet. If you want them dry before your next run or walk, they do make fancy shoe dryers, but I’ve always just put some crumpled up newspaper in them to draw out the extra moisture, and it hasn’t failed me yet.
Now that you are dressed to brave the cold and recover from it, I’ve got a couple extra tips. It’s important to take the time to warm up before exercising outside in the winter, whether you do some dynamic stretches or you start off slow, warming up properly in the winter can help you avoid injuries. If it is icy, don’t worry about keeping up with your normal pace. It’s better to take it slow rather than risk slipping on ice and injuring yourself. As always, you should make sure that someone knows where you’re going, in case something happens; especially, since you could easily slip on ice this time of year. It’s also important to be flexible during the winter months. I don’t mean you need to be flexible to exercise, though you should stretch. I mean you might have to adapt your training plan depending on the weather. Never push yourself to exercise in conditions you aren’t comfortable in. You won’t get very far if you’re not enjoying yourself. To summarize, make sure you’re dressed appropriately, recover properly, and stay safe!
Let me know in the comments below if you found any of these tips helpful or if you have any to share!
(P.S. If you need some apps to help you with your training goals, try these out:
For Those Just Starting Out: If you’re just getting into running, it can be difficult to know how to start. The Couch to 5k app is an 8 week plan alternating between running and walking to help you build the strength and endurance you need to complete a 5k.
For Interval Training: Interval training is a great way to start if it’s been awhile since you’ve pounded the pavement, or it’s great for increasing speed and stamina if you’re a long-time runner. Download Ismooth Run to help you keep track of your speed and progress!
For (Virtual) Group Training: If you’re someone who needs some healthy competition to push you on your fitness goals, you can download Strava. Form a running group and compete virtually with each other. Set mileage goals, or just track one another’s pace to see if you can beat each other.