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Keeping running during the cold & dark winter months requires a little extra time & planning. Here's the time tested advice from our 2021 Running Lab Ambassador Team!
We know that winter running can appear to some as a bit of an oxymoron.
Why would anyone run in the winter?
Well, truth be told, outdoor activity in the winter can really boost your morale! In order to help get you ready to embrace the elements, we gathered our top winter running tips from our Running Lab Ambassadors.
The type of gear for winter is just as important as it is in the summer. Breathable but keeps you warm and dry. Out of all of this, gloves. Gloves for me are the most important thing for me. Running Lab has some great options to chose from and can help you find any kind you are looking for. If my hands are too cold, running that day is just difficult. So it's the little things I tend to focus on the most in the winter months. And coffee after, super important!!
If you are warm when you start you are overdressed. The first five minutes are the worst... once you get started you will be fine. Vaseline the cheeks or a rich cream on checks helps. Running during a blizzard or right after a huge snow fall will fill your heart ... and if you stop and do a snow angel it’s even more fun. Enjoy the beauty.
Always check the wind and the "feels like" temp before getting dressed. I always dress for 20 degrees warmer than the temp, which is what I call "dressing for the second mile". However, the wind adds another factor. If it's windy or you are running by the lake, like at Kensington, you may need a windbreaker or another thin bottom layer under your upper body. Conversely, is it going to be sunny? The sun will really heat you up! I try to wear less than I think I need because once I warm up, I don't need as many layers.
Shoes! I have different shoes for winter conditions. I like to feel the grip under my feet and keep my toes warm. For winter months I usually wear a trail shoe. I find my feet stay a little warmer and they tend to be more water resistant. Right now I am rotating my Topo MT3 and Topo Terradventure 2 for the really icy/snow covered days. Yak tracks and micro spikes, just are not my thing. Winter time I also tend to wear a wool based sock to keep my feet warmer. I also choose a sock which goes up higher, like mid calf.
My most important thing to know about winter running? Surround yourself with a tribe of runners who embrace winter running! Use their knowledge and expertise for a safe experience and frankly, to get you out the door! I had to buy traction, Noxgear, headlamp, knuckle lights - all a must for the shorter daylight days.
Seeing and being seen is essential in winter since we live our lives more in darkness than light. A reliable headlamp will help you see your surroundings. The higher the lumens on a headlamp, the brighter the light. Petzl has a headlamp the Swift RL that has 900 lumens. You can turn darkness into daylight with this headlamp. Having a reflective vest that provides visibility when any light shines from a passing vehicle you will help others see you. Amphipod has a cool vest called the Xinglet Optic beam vest that has tube lights that not only reflects but also lights up.
Wear a smartwool base layer on top. I was surprised how much I appreciate the Smartwool skirts! They really help to keep the upper thighs and butt warm - and not windburnt - on cold windy days, especially around the lake at Kensington! Bring a change of clothes and a hot beverage in a thermos for after your run. I bring disposable handwarmers for runs colder than 10-20 degrees to keep in my gloves.
You may not feel like you're sweating, but you are. On my long runs, I fill up my Nathan insulated bladder with Tailwind Colorado Cola to stay hydrated, caffeinated, and fueled! Also, I always keep my Yak Tracks in my car JUST in case I need them. Winter running is becoming my FAVORITE!!
There is NOTHING worse than being cold. If my hands or ears are cold, it can ruin my run! Finding a warm pair of gloves, as well as a warm hat will change my run from being uncomfortable, to LET"S DO THIS!! As the temperatures really drop, adding hand warmers to your gloves is a game changer. I would rather be too warm than to freeze. I have also put a buff under my winter hat to add an extra layer of warmth.
When running with a hydration pack make sure to either blow back into the line to make sure it doesn't freeze or my personal favorite of adding a shot of vodka to the water or hydration mix. Sunglasses. Yes, sunglasses. Again it's Michigan and although it may be gray and overcast when that great ball of fire in the sky may make an appearance and if your running area is covered in white snow that reflection can be blinding.
Winter running, what am I getting myself into? When I first started running, once the cold weather set in, I started hibernating. Now it is one of my favorite seasons to run in. I like being warm in the winter, probably warmer than most. Dressing in layers helps me achieve the right level of cold and wind protection. Smartwool is a key component in my winter wardrobe. From head to toe, literally, hats to socks and all pieces in between. I am frequently sporting my Smartwool base layers, vest, leggings, and skirt. I also love mittens over gloves in the winter. It seems like a lot to do, but it feels so good to get out and run in the cold and snow. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful scenes running in a frosty winter wonderland. If you are lucky, you will end up with some frozen, snowy eyelashes.
Plan ahead, in the afternoon it may be light out but by the end of your run it might not be. Lighting is important, there are a lot of options out there several of which are available at Running Lab. Headlamps to see and be seen, light up armbands, reflective and light up vest, shoe and knuckle lights. Moving lights create attention that you are out there bringing a driver's attention to you before their headlights do. I personally wear a Noxgear vest, and a Petzl rechargeable headlamp, both available at Running Lab.
Ambassador Jim guides us to “most importantly, enjoy the run. Mother nature can throws curve balls at us pretty quickly in the winter months, so just roll with what she gives you and have a great time.”