Learning To Run In The Winter

When the winter of 2010 came along, like every year, I stopped running. My weight always stayed about the same for the next few months after that. Then in January, my weight always started to increase. I just thought it was caused by eating too much over the holidays but this year, I decided to carefully watch what I ate. Yet my weight was still climbing. If diet wasn’t the problem, could it be that my metabolism changed after I had stopped exercising?

I should mention that I live in Minnesota and have all of my life but I also hate winters. Doing anything outside other than walking to and from my car was just something that I avoided during the winter months. However, watching all of the progress that I had made over the previous summer get wiped out simply because I didn’t want to go outside was more than I could take. It was time to get out and run in the snow and cold. Or at least try.

The first obvious question was what do I wear? It was about 20 degrees outside and I had one pair of sweatpants and a few sweatshirts. That should so it. I added a long sleeve t-shirt under the sweatshirt as well as some gloves and a winter hat. I just used my regular running shoes. I chose a 2-mile route, walked out to the end of the driveway and took off.

The first thing that I noticed was how many people don’t shovel their sidewalk. Most of the first block was a narrow path of packed snow. It was two footprints wide so if someone approached from the other direction, one of us would have to leave the path. This caused dogs to become a major issue. First oaf all, if they weren’t dog trained well enough, there was no escape. And second, they left their mark all along the path. I decided pretty quickly that, although the street isn’t exactly the ideal place to run, it was better and probably safer than the “sidewalk”. Luckily I don’t run in an area with a lot of traffic.

The next thing that I realized was that ice was more difficult that I had realized to run on. I didn’t fall but there were several close calls. Running in the street helped somewhat because the surface had less ice and snow but it was pretty obvious that I needed more traction.

The most significant thing that I noticed was that the only thing that was cold was my face. In fact, everything else was getting too warm so I tied the sweatshirt around my waist and by the end, I was also carrying my gloves and hat in my end. This was significant because it was really the only thing that kept me from running in the winter.

I went out once or twice a week for the remainder of that winter doing 2-mile runs. I wither wore a long sleeve t-shirt or on colder days, a sweatshirt with a short sleeve t underneath. I also added a face mask that covered everything except my eyes whenever the temperature dipped below 20 degrees which also solved the problem of taking in ultra-cold air.

I even went out for a run in 2 degrees one day without any real issues. The biggest surprise of all was that I began to thoroughly enjoy running in the winter. At least for short, half-hour runs. Not only that, I like it so much that I actually found myself looking forward to winter last year just because running had become so enjoyable. As far as the controlling my weight over the winter, I am now able control it all year and keep myself from having to start all over from scratch when spring finally rolls around.

The next year, I purchased a pair of strap-on cleats for my shoes. They are made of rubber which stretches around the bottom of my shoes and have little half-inch, rounded blades scattered all over the bottoms at different angles. I was told by another customer at the store that they worked better than the others that had spring-like pieces of metal on them. The cleats are a must if you have to deal with a lot of icy surfaces. I fact, I find myself seeking out ice because they are easier to run on with the cleats since cleats on pavement doesn’t work very well. The feet have never slipped once on ice with the cleats.

I also upgraded from sweatpants to a pair of running pants and add full-length spandex underneath when it’s really cold. I also picked up a running over-shirt that acts like a coat but it fits tighter. One thing that’s especially nice about winter running is the ability to control your temperature using layers so I use multiple thin layers instead of one or two think layers. These additions have really helped for comfort and allow me to run for longer periods during the winter. I did a 9 and a 13-miler last winter and had no trouble at all.