Friday, December 2, 2016

Runners Don't Hibernate

The winter training season is slowly closing in on us. Some people choose to use this season as their down time to focus on taking a break and recovering for the rest of the year and that is a-okay. But, if you're like me and want to keep grinding along during the winter, you might find that this season presents many challenges. From the short days to the winter weather (I live in Chicago and have run in pretty much all weather) to the family holidays, it can be hard to get your training in. Here are some of my best tips for winter training.

Winterfest 5k during a historic Blizzard (2+ feet of snow!)
1. Stay warm. I have invested in so many warm running clothes and don't regret any of the purchases. You don't need a lot of gear and it doesn't have to be top-of-the-line, but a few quality pieces will make a huge difference. Some of my must-haves are wool socks to keep my feet warm and dry, glove/mitten combos to keep my fingers warm (and I can peel back the mitten if they get warm), a waterproof vest, a hat or earband, and a neck gaitor to keep my face warm. Play around with what works best for you. I find that even in the coldest of temps I am warm enough with two pairs of tights, an under armour long sleeve shirt under a jacket, and all the accessories to keep my extremities warm. If it's raining or snowing, I might add a waterproof vest as a outer layer. This varies from person to person so don't be afraid to try new things. Remember that you should be cold when you step outside- you will warm up when you get moving- and it's actually better to be underdressed than overdressed to prevent hypothermia.

2. Create an indoor training space. If you are focusing solely on running, this is probably the dreadmill or an indoor track. If you are training for triathlon or okay doing some cross training, this could be a pool, your trainer, or perhaps even a gym membership. Be flexible with your workouts and know that it's okay to move things around a bit due to the weather. I have my trainer set up in the basement for biking and I will use that as a back up on days that it is not safe to run outside. I like to turn on a documentary on Netflix while I bike to take my mind off boredom. Plus, you can learn things while you get your workout in :)

Frozen eyelashes after a very cold run!
3. Be visible. There is a lot of concern among runners regarding running in the dark, for good reason. However, with the right gear and a little extra consideration, daylight can become a nonissue. Invest in some bright reflective gear, possibly with lights, to make yourself visible to cars and other pedestrians. I often wear so much reflective gear that I feel ridiculous, but I know I can't be missed that way. My must haves are a reflective vest (with flashing lights in the back), a reflective bracelet, and my headlamp but I also have a variety of clothing specially made to be visible. Run without headphones in so you can be extra alert to your surroundings since your sense of vision will be diminished. Bring pepper spray if you have concerns about safety or try to find a running buddy (human or canine) that can help you feel safer. Finally, plan a route that you feel safe on. Try to avoid woods, desserted parks, busy streets, and unsafe neighborhoods when you run in the dark.

4. Make it fun. This one might be easier said than done, but try to find the joy in winter training. Learn to appreciate the quietness of a snow run, the beauty of frozen eyelashes, and the fun in stomping through a snowy trail. Maybe the fun part for you is that hot cup of coffee or warm shower waiting for you when you get back- and that's okay. Remind yourself how tough you are for getting in your workout despite the adverse conditions and think about your competitors who took the day off because they weren't as tough. On Christmas morning, don't think of it as a chore to go out and run, think of it as time for you to reflect alone on the year and all you are grateful for. If you find the positives to focus on, running in sub freezing temps just might become bearable.

Beautiful, isn't it?
Don't forget to exercise caution during the winter. Running through all kinds of weather is possible but there are some days when it's best to just not risk it. Always be careful in the dark, on ice/snow, and when running in dangerously cold temperatures. On these days, move to an indoor workout or try a new type of cross training like yoga or swimming. Just remember: runners don't hibernate.

Do you take it easy or train hard through the winter?
What are some of your favorite ways to stay motivated during the winter?
Craziest weather you've ever ran in?

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