Winter running: how to be a snow ninja

winter running

Snow ninjas ready to take on Old Man Winter

Every weekend, I wake up wondering why on earth I signed myself up for a 30km winter race. Not only has the weather been tremendously cold and ugly, but 30km is the longest distance I’ve ever done so this training is intense. Every weekend, I schedule a long training run and on Saturday morning, I wake up, look outside and ask, “remind me why we signed up for this again?”

But once the temptation to curl up in a blanket and watch TV subsides and we actually go out and complete our intense winter run, I’m filled with a pretty awesome sense of accomplishment. Take this past Saturday for example. We got up, ate breakfast, and ran just over 14km before 10 a.m. It totally justified all the food I ate at the cottage all weekend.

Most people look at us like we’re insane for getting up early on a weekend and voluntarily running 10+km in the frigid temperatures. I’m not going to lie. It’s not always amazing. But I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way that is actually making this training experience pretty pleasant so far. So, to inspire you to stop hibernating this winter, here are a few tips on how to be a snow ninja.

Get some winter running gear

Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. The right winter running gear is so essential. I messed this up big time in my early days of winter running (see my story here) and it made me hate the experience. My go-to outfit for those super cold days consists of three main layers:

  • A base layer that is either a dry fit tank top or long sleeve (depending on how cold it is)
  • An insulation layer that is a lined, long sleeve shirt, and
  • An outer layer. My go-to is my black, lined Nike jacket. It has a hood so I can put that on for the super intense days
  • For pants, I go with thick running tights and leg warmers if it’s super cold. Leg warmers rock. Not only are they an awesome 80s throwback, but they are actually super functional and keep your legs toasty warm.
  • You also need some light running gloves, and a headband or hat for your ears. Some reflective gear is important too if you’re running at night.

OK, that’s a lot of gear. But it’s important. Trust me.

Drink water

A no brainer, I know, but if you’re like me, you probably don’t feel as thirsty when it’s cold. Bring water with you on long runs and drink it as you go. If it’s below zero, your water is going to freeze in just over an hour. It’s just the way it is. Drink it before it goes completely solid. I also just read on a running forum that you can try bringing warm water so it takes longer to freeze. Brilliant!

Tread lightly

It’s been slippery out there lately, and running on snow and ice is obviously an added challenge. I’ve found that running with very light, short strides can help you get past the icy bits without landing on your butt. It also forces you to really think about your stride and concentrate as you run. However, if it’s too icy, play it safe and hit the treadmill.

Warm up

I often just run right out the door without warming up, but when its super cold out, warming up is important because your body warms up much more slowly in the winter. Try to warm up for at least five minutes before you get going. I’ve noticed that it makes those first few kilometres a little less painful

Find a friend

Run with someone! I have to give a big shout-out to my fiancé Graham for being such a great running partner this winter. Not only is it great to have someone to motivate me to get out the door, but I also feel safer knowing that if I fall on my face, there’s someone there to pick me back up. Try to find an insane winter runner in your life and team up for weekend runs.

Do you run outdoors in the winter? What tips help you defeat winter?


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