Cool runnings: staying fit and active, even in the coldest weather

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By Steve Guntli

Running can be difficult even on the most beautiful days. We all live busy lives, and with the myriad responsibilities that accompany adult life, it’s all too easy to seek the comforting respite of the couch. That goes double for the winter months, when the cold, wet and slippery terrain makes the prospect of running not only unappealing, but also potentially dangerous.

But despite our couch-dwelling impulses, it’s important to get out and get moving. Getting outside and working hard now ensures we will feel healthy and happy when the sun finally comes out. Plus there are those pesky New Year’s resolutions still hanging over our heads.

Running in the winter comes with its own set of challenges, and you need to be sure you’re properly equipped to handle them. Here are a few tips I use to ensure a safe, happy and healthy cold-weather run.

Warm up

Do a little exercise in your home before you run. This will get your blood flowing and make you feel better before heading out into the cold.

Dress for the occasion

You’d be amazed how much the right set of running clothes can make a difference in your experience. It’s a common sense move, but one people tend to forget. Many assume they’ll warm up in the process of running and head out underdressed, but this can be uncomfortable and ill advised.

I recommend a breathable, waterproof sweatshirt and compression pants, the tighter the better. Compression pants are flexible, breathable and hug your body as you run. Also, some light gloves will protect your hands from getting too raw. If the temperature is hovering around the 0–10° range, you may also consider adding a scarf or a balaclava to the ensemble, but honestly, when it’s that cold it’s probably in your best interest to just stay inside.

Light it up

If you’re like me and you get most of your running done in the late afternoon, it’s likely your run will turn into a race against approaching darkness. The best advice I can give is to invest in a nice headlamp. Not only will it help you light up the terrain, but also let oncoming pedestrians, bikes or vehicles know you’re there. To that end, wear reflective tape on your clothing so you’ll stand out.

Take your time

Sometimes when you’re running you’ll get in a groove and don’t want to stop or slow down. That’s usually fine in the summer, but in the winter, you have to watch where you step. Ice can be insidious, and while it’s sometimes easily identifiable by the crystalline reflections caught in your headlight’s beam, just as often you won’t see the ice until it’s too late. So take a break – if you suspect that long patch of sidewalk ahead might be slicker than it looks, slow your pace or walk until you pass it.

Go home and change

According to Runner’s World magazine, your core body temperature will begin to drop as soon as you finish your workout. So your first step upon returning to your home should be to change out of your wet, sweaty clothes as soon as you can. Put on some dry, warm clothes and make yourself something warm to drink. Trust me, after your run, a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate is just the reward you need.

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