Winter Running Challenges

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By Lora Erickson, BlondeRunner.com

Winter can pose many additional challenges for runners. Poor air quality and cold temperature can drive asthmatic runners indoors or to travel to higher elevations to get out of the inversion.  Obviously breathing bad air can pose health risks so it’s important to check and see if levels are safe to exercise in.  To check air quality in your area visit airnow.gov. Some people opt to run outdoor with masks however often complain of having a hard time getting enough air exchange and the condensation in the mask can be annoying.  I suggest taking the workout indoors if the air quality is bad.  Treadmills can have many benefits this time of year.  Not only do they provide a more giving surface and they obviously don’t have the concerns of slipping. It’s convenient and allows bathroom breaks if needed.  It is also easy to set a pace and just hold that pace on the treadmill.  While it can feel like a “hamster wheel” to some it offers safety from traffic and can be done any time of day or night.  I know many young mothers with small children that utilize a treadmill extensively; however, I often caution them when they start running outdoors more in the spring to do it gradually to allow the body time to adapt to harder surfaces.

If you really struggle with indoor or “dreadmill” running, I suggest cross-training on bad air quality days. Indoor cycling and swimming can have many benefits for runners and challenge the body in different ways.  I always like to suggest yoga for my runners and triathletes as well.  This is great for recovery and flexibility.  Don’t be afraid to utilize the snow for other fitness activities; like cross-country skiing or snow shoeing.  These are all great aerobic workouts to supplement the training.  It can also prevent burnout or keep you active if you tend to not to want to run in the snow.

While exercising outside on better air quality days I suggest dressing in layers. As your body warms-up you can remove layers to control temperature.  I often see runners wearing too many layers so usually in 20 degree temps I wear two layers on the top, earwarmers, gloves or mittens (sometimes with hand warmers) and tights.  If it’s snowing I also suggest a hat or visor so you don’t “blink” yourself to death.  Surprisingly, I often wear sunglasses to protect my eyes from the sun’s bright reflection off the snow.  Glasses can also block the wind from making the eyes water and tears from dripping down the lacrimal ducts causing your nose to run. This can be annoying and lead you to wiping your nose excessively.

Often while running outdoors the feet can get wet and cold and there are concerns of slipping. For this I would suggest running in trail shoes that have more traction and are generally more water proof.  I also like to use a water-proof spray on my shoes and clothes.  If you can stay dry you won’t lose as much heat.  Short gators can also prevent snow from getting in your shoes and melting.  If you are concerned about black ice and slippery surfaces you might consider using yaktrax, IceTrekkers, or Kahtoola MicroSpikes.  They can all be found at Wasatch Running Center or a local running store in your area.

If you are like me and it takes you a while to warm-up in cold temperatures but you don’t like to be stuck indoors, I would suggest warming up on a treadmill or indoor exercise bike then take the run outside. Remember running on slick snowy surfaces isn’t going to be as fast as you can go on a treadmill but it’s still a great workout.  If you usually train by pace I would suggest using heart rate numbers to train with during the winter.  Contact me if you need more training tips.

Another outdoor concern is traffic safety. I often find myself winding back and forth from the sidewalk to the street to avoid really deep snow or icy patches.  As always be aware of your surroundings and assume cars don’t see you.  I also suggest running against traffic, wearing bright colors with reflexive strips, blinking lights or utilize the Tracer 360 visibility vest (noxgear.com 20% off with code BLONDERUN) which can be seen from all directions.  I don’t use music as much in the winter so I can hear my surroundings better and stay safe.  It is also helpful to train with others as a group since you are  much more visible to traffic.

Either way, whether you plan to workout indoors or outdoors don’t let anything get in your way. Yes, winter can make it more challenging to get the workouts in but if you want the rewards you have to do the work.  No excuses.

Happy Training,

Coach Lora Erickson

BlondeRunner.com

About the Author:

Coach Lora Erickson is a nationally ranked and All-World Triathlete as well as certified running, triathlon, swimming, and cycling instructor. She has a true passion for nutrition education, fitness & health promotion and has been coaching for over 25 years. She works with all level of athletes and relishing the opportunity to help beginners harness their true potential.  She offers community classes, in-person and on-line custom coaching.  To learn more contact her directly at theblonderunner@gmail.com or visit BlondeRunner.com to read health articles. 

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