Don’t Let the Cold Nip at Your Heels

Tips for cold-weather running

Now that you've bought a new pair of shoes to train in, all that's left is to get out there and start running. We know how hard it can be in the cold, so we asked Dutch DeGay (our run ambassador from Boston) to give us some tips on how to get the most out of our winter training regimen. Dutch is a testament to what willpower can do: after having suffered a career-ending parachute injury (broken back, pelvis and ankle) while serving as a Captain in the 1st Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, he left the service...and proceeded to balloon up to 245 lbs in the process. Since then he has completed triathlons, completely changed his lifestyle and has a goal of finishing his first-ever IronMan this summer.

By Dutch DeGay

1. Get motivated.

You’d be amazed how much more fun an outdoor run can be with a positive attitude. You’re going to breathe in fresh air, take in the snowy sights and get in some miles. If you’re afraid you’ll bail out on a run, then ask someone to join you. It’s a lot more difficult to stay in bed or cancel a run if someone is waiting for you. Remember, you’re running for a reason. All these miles in the cold will pay huge dividends when the warm weather rolls around and racing season starts. Not only is winter running a great break from indoors and a way to “build” your mileage base but I have to admit that a run during a light snowfall may be one of the most peaceful and surreal things I’ve ever experienced.

2. Dress for success.

Yes, it's cold but you’re going to warm up as you run—so the rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer. Always start with a hat or gloves and go with layers so that you can take them off as you get warm. Your “base layer” should fit snugly and wick sweat. A “mid layer” should insulate and keep body heat from escaping and the “outer layer” should be wind-resistant and/or waterproof in case of rain or snow. The goal here is to have your clothing adapt as you warm up and cool down and to changes in the weather. Unzipping a jacket, pushing up your sleeves or stowing a jacket, taking off a hat or putting away gloves allows you to adjust your temperature on the run. Winter also means fewer daylight hours and poor visibility conditions so wear bright-colored, reflective clothing so you are noticeable to area traffic.

3. Remember to hydrate and fuel.

When it’s cold out, it’s easy to overlook your fluid and fuel needs. A good rule of thumb is to drink about a cup (8 ounces) every 20-30 minutes while you’re out. If it’s icy or the footing is difficult, slow down in order to drink. Remember this is a training run so you’re not trying to set any land speed records. You’re building base miles or enjoying a grand day out. No need to fall while fumbling for fluids and no need to forgo hydration to be “fast”. Don’t forget fueling, too. If you normally take a gel or eat every 45 minutes to an hour on a long run, you should do the same in the cold.

4. Adjust your running style.

Even the best running shoes can’t protect you from all icy or snowy conditions. If there’s snow, ice or excessive water on the ground, shorten your stride slightly and pay attention to your footing to avoid a slip. Your foot plant should always be under your center of gravity in order to provide solid foot strike. Consider traction devices to slip over your running shoes in order to give you better footing. As I said earlier, you’re not focusing on running a personal best, you’re logging miles and enjoying the outdoors. Slow down, pay attention and make the run enjoyable.

5. Take care of yourself.

When you’re done, get inside or someplace warm right away. Although you’ll feel warm after finishing, those wet clothes will get cold quickly, and so will you. As you get cold you’ll tighten up and that’s the enemy. Get into warm, dry clothes and stretch out those cold muscles from your awesome run. Congratulate yourself on a job well done! Maybe reward yourself and your running partner with a hearty breakfast or cup of cocoa.

Look, anyone can get out and log miles in the spring, summer, and fall, but it takes a true champ to face Mother Nature in the dead of winter. Remember, you’re running outside to get off the treadmill, take in the scenery, log some miles and most importantly, enjoy the experience.