Running through the colder months can be intimidating, especially when the ground is covered in snow. Winter running could actually make you a stronger runner, even improving spring race times. Unlike the warmer seasons, your body temperature will not increase as quickly, so energy will not be wasted on cooling the body down. This leaves more energy for longer runs, or a faster pace.
It is important to get use to running in colder conditions if you have a race planned for early spring. Chicago winters are known for lasting well into March and April, the start of race season. Muscles need to adapt to the cold, just like they adapt to the heat in summer. It is not uncommon for it to be snowing the day of the Shamrock Shuffle.
You can also think of winter running as one big dress rehearsal for race day. Play with layering your clothes to figure out what works for you. One good rule of thumb to follow, always dress for 20-30 degrees warmer than what the actual temperature is. Over dressing is a mistake I have seen runners make too often. This leads to overheating and your muscles will fatigue quicker. I have run comfortably in conditions below 0 degrees by dressing correctly. For very cold conditions, wearing a scarf around your mouth will help warm the air and avoid irritating your airway. You want to wear moisture wicking material, especially for your base layer to avoid retaining sweat. If your clothes become wet from sweating, the sweat will eventually begin to freeze, and no one wants to wear layers of wet clothing. Wool socks are a great way to keep your feet warm and dry, and sports brands make wool socks that will prevent blisters and wick moisture. Investing in a good pair of running pants is well worth the money. Clothing technology has improved and you won’t have to worry about layer your bottom half.
One question asked often is what type of shoes to wear if it snows. I have always just worn my regular running shoes. There are different gadgets on the market that can be used to prevent slipping. The majority of them slip over the sole of the shoe and help create traction, think of a chain on a tire. Some runners I know swear by running in a trail shoe. The sole of a trail shoe is made differently, also increasing the amount of traction to reduce slipping.
The last, and most important thing I have to say about winter running is do not forget to hydrate. It may be cold out and you might think that you are not sweating as much, but your body is still working. Proper hydration before, during, and after runs will help the muscles recover quickly for your next run. For runs shorter than 45 minutes, drinking 1-2 8 ounce glasses of water within the hour prior should be sufficient. Over 45 minutes, try to consume 8 ounces during your run. Longer than an hour, drink water every 45 minutes.
That being said, this winter’s weather has been wonderful, so lace up your shoes and get out and enjoy it!
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6901 S. Madison
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Lockport, IL 60441
350 E. Ogden Ave., Ste. 200
Westmont, IL 60559