Happy Thanksgiving, fellow runners! This winter is our first foray into cold-weather running, so I wanted to share some quick thoughts on our experience and the gear we’ve been using before I slip into a tryptophan-induced coma.
We all know how difficult it can be to motivate yourself to run sometimes, even on those days with perfect weather. This was our major concern heading into the fall. How were we going to keep ourselves motivated to run in cold, windy winter weather? One obvious solution is to run on a treadmill, but neither Steven or I particularly enjoy feeling like a hamster on a wheel and we don’t want to pay for a gym membership. That means we have been venturing out into the cold this year. Here’s a few simple tips and tricks that have kept us moving as the temperatures drop:
1. Sign up for a late fall or spring race. Many towns across the United States have Thanksgiving “Turkey Trots” or Christmas-themed “Jingle Bell Runs”. Sign up for one to keep you running through November and December. Then, sign up for a race in April or May to keep yourself going through March. Steven and I are planning on signing up for a 5k race in the spring, and we’re going to attempt our first half-marathon next summer. We therefore recognize that we’ll have to continue through the winter, as we don’t want to lose all of the progress we’ve made. In addition, we want to be prepared in the spring to start training for the half-marathon.
2. Stretch before you go outside. I know this one sounds really simple, but it took us a few tries to figure it out. If you do all of your stretching and warming up before you head outside, you can start running immediately when you hit that cold air and keep yourself toasty warm!
3. Set weekly distance or frequency goals for yourself. This is another fairly obvious tip and can actually be applied to any time of the year, but it is incredibly effective. Steven and I like to use the Goals feature of the Nike+ website to set goals for ourselves. You can set mileage goals for yourself (e.g. run 40 miles in 4 weeks) or goals to encourage you to run a certain number of times per week (e.g. run 12 times in 4 weeks).
4. Find a running partner. Running with a partner has helped immensely throughout my entire running journey, and it has been even more helpful when trying to convince myself to get out in the cold. Having a partner means that you are obligated not only to yourself, but also to another person, to run. For Steven and I, it is also a safety measure, as neither of us has time to run until after 6 PM, when it is already dark outside.
5. Have the right gear. If you’re going to expect yourself to get out and run when it’s below freezing outside, you have to outfit yourself with the proper running gear, both for comfort and safety reasons. Layers made from breathable fabrics are key. You should also invest in some gear with reflective material or strips so you are more visible in the dark if you must run in the evening, as it gets dark so early in the winter. If you are a Vibram Five Fingers runner like us, I have three words for you: Injinji, Injinji, Injinji! The Injinji toe socks are amazing and will help keep your toes warm. We’ve been able to test ours at temperatures down to 30 degrees and we remained completely comfortable. My final tip is for all of you other tall ladies out there. I’m 6’1″ tall with a 35-36″ inseam, so finding even regular pants that are long enough can be a challenge, let alone specialized pants for running. Three companies I have had the most success with are Under Armour and Athleta for long compression pants and Title Nine for non-compression running pants.
6. Don’t overdo it. Running outside in the winter is obviously going to present some unique challenges. There is a good chance that the weather will prevent you from running as often as you might during other seasons. Running in a snowstorm or in extreme cold could be dangerous, so don’t let yourself feel guilty if you have to miss out on a few days. Our goal this winter is not necessarily to push ourselves to run further or faster, but simply to keep ourselves in shape and that’s totally fine!
Meagan is a geochemistry research lab manager, runner, Netflix binge-watcher, and Mom to a rescue dog, a bunny, and a human child. She started running in May 2011 and ran her first half marathon in October 2012, followed by her first marathon in October 2013. In July 2018, she joined the triathlon world and completed an Olympic-distance race. After an extended break (pregnancy/maternity leave), she is making a long-overdue return to running and is preparing for a high-elevation half marathon at Crater Lake National Park in August 2020.