Embrace the brrrr! Tips for Winter Running

Cooler temps, mountain snowfall, and wintry weather are back in force. Many new trail runners are wondering if and how they can continue enjoying the trails throughout the season.  Well, I am here to tell you that now is not the time to resign to the boring old “dreadmill”.
Trail running during the winter is possible and in fact, can be quite the adventure!

Here are some basic tips to make winter running a little more bearable:

1. Stay Warm

To prepare for the cold, I layer up and do my full 10-minute functional warm-up before I head out to run. Warming up before your run does two things:

  • Increases blood flow and helps to prime your muscles to run more efficiently.
  • Helps with layering and avoiding frozen clothing. After you warm up you are able to shed at least a layer or two. Many people overdress when running in cooler temperatures, not considering how much extra exertion running in the snow is.  Sweating profusely early in the run will drench your clothes and cause them to freeze.

* Side-note: In the situation of a winter trail run, I recommend using a pack and bringing more layers than you think you need. Conditions at the trailhead can be completely different from your local weather at home. The last thing you want is to twist an ankle or worse on the trail and freeze in the woods.——>  View our winter clothing and packing checklist HERE. 

2. Be like a car:

I like to use a car as an analogy for the body when talking about running mechanics.  This is especially fitting when talking about winter running.

  • Make sure you have snow tires and maybe even 4 wheel drive (shoes with aggressive tread or wear/carry traction*).
  • Don’t make any sudden changes in speed or direction while on ice.  Slow down before you reach slick sections of the road or trail.
  • Keep your momentum moving forward and your body perpendicular to the slope. Focus on short, quick steps. This will help you be light on your feet so you are hitting the ground with less force and surface area.

*Depending on what type of terrain you will be running on here are some ideas for types of footwear traction you should consider:

  • Tread: Look for shoes that have large, widely spaced lugs and sticky rubber. Here’s a great article with info on how to choose a proper winter shoe and a variety of brand options to choose from.
  • Nanospikes: Are best for road runs or trails with packed snow/ice. We love the Katoohla Nanospikes and especially the Korkers Ice runner as they use the Boa system device to completely envelop the foot to where you can tighten it for a perfect fit without pressure points.
  • Microspikes: Katoohla Microspikes  have larger spikes which will dig into and better grip on the trails with thick/chunky snow/ice

3. Make it fun:

If it is really cold (I’m talking single digits) or we’ve experienced a recent snowstorm, I like to consider my outing an “adventure” vs a run.  Then I will put on my snow pants, high boots, buff, ski gloves and head out to accomplish whatever I can.  If I am feeling especially playful I will bring along one of those flimsy, roll-up sleds, and run up any hill and then sled down it.  Several friends and I coined the term for this new sport several years ago called “slunning.” It’s actually a great workout (think hill repeats in the snow) and a ton of fun!

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