Outdoor winter running

Galen Eye Centre

Don’t let the weather dictate your outdoor running schedule

Credit: 
Via Flickr

Trying to get your cardio in during cold Canadian winters can leave you with limited options, but while the great outdoors can seem unapproachable with 20 inches of snow on the ground, outdoor winter running is a great way to brave the cold and stay active — if you know all the tricks to prevent frostbite. 

Layers

The most obvious change you’ll need to make as the temperature drops is finding ways to keep warm while still being able to move. Your parka isn’t exactly ideal.

A common rule of thumb is to pretend it’s about 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. Your body heats up a lot during exercise, and if you’re too warmly-dressed, you’ll overheat. 

You may have been told that leaving the house with your hair wet will make you sick — the same principle works here. Once you overheat and start sweating a lot, you put yourself at risk for getting a nasty cold. 

The best way to avoid this is going for things like thin sweaters, long sleeved tops and vests. As for bottoms, doubling up is sometimes necessary. 

The idea is to be as dry as possible, so active-wear with moisture-wicking or water resistant properties are a good investment. 

If you want to cut corners, some runners swear by wearing garbage bags — yes, garbage bags — over their torsos to break the wind and keep warm. 

Plastic Bags

This one sounds a little strange, but bear with me. Your feet can get neglected when you’re worrying about staying dry, but they are just as important as the rest of you. 

Most running shoes aren’t outfitted for snowdrifts. So, in addition to wearing warm socks, putting a plastic baggie around your foot before slipping it into your shoe is an effective way of keeping your feet dry after you accidentally step in some slush. 

TIMING

As the days get shorter, daylight hours are harder to come by and daylight hours when you’re willing and able to go for a jog are even less. Going in the middle of the day is ideal because it’s warmer and you’re at your most visible.

However, if you can’t fit it in your schedule and decide to run after sunset, reflective tape and clothing are going to be important new additions to your wardrobe. Joggers need to watch out for cars during the best of conditions, but at night with snow and ice, it’s even more important to be as visible as possible.

Location, location, location

When I run in the summer, part of the fun is exploring where I live. My favorite locations are the paths through the waterfront park, and down King Street to the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour. When I run in the winter, going anywhere near the lake is going to be an issue.

The wind chill is real, especially in Kingston, and running along Lake Ontario can be beautiful but dangerous in freezing temperatures. The ice on the paths is difficult to manoeuver and sometimes the land and the water are hard to distinguish. 

It’s best practice to find regularly-paved roads and sidewalks for your winter route, in well-lit, high-traffic areas in case you slip and need help. 

One of the best parts about winter running is that everyone else is either inside, or trying to get to wherever they’re going as fast as possible, most of the time without even looking up. 

When you’re out running, heated up from the movement and with no one around you, the world feels a little quieter. You can really appreciate how beautiful a winter night or a morning snowfall can be. 

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