Athletes are a people of measurements and checklists. Nutrition, training, pacing, progress, schedules, and the list goes on. In that spirit, here are a few measurements: 40-50 degrees; 5-8 miles; 30-90 minutes. As the seasons change, it isn’t unusual for daytime highs in winter to average over 40-50 degrees cooler than summer highs. Despite that, if you’re training for races of any distance, you’ll probably log an average of 5-8 miles a day (30-50 miles per week). Depending on your pace and distance, you’re looking at 30-90 minutes of active outdoor time each day. That’s a lot of time spent in a lot of cold, to use some less specific measurements. So, based on those measurements, we’ve put together a checklist! Settle down—we know, it’s exciting. To get you ready to perform your best all winter long, here are five must-haves for winter running:
- Traction and Waterproofing – There may be icy or slushy spots on wintery runs, so get yourself a pair of shoes with great traction. They’ll also need to be waterproof or water resistant. If you live in an especially snowy region, and plan to get most of your miles outside this winter, The North Face Ultra MT Winter may be right for you. Snug fitting, waterproof, and with a Vibram IceTrek outsole, it is meant to (carefully) haul through the sludge. Looking for something more traditional? The New Balance 910 is a trail runner with Gore-Tex fabric for waterproofing and plenty of sturdy traction to grip slick surfaces. Shopping tip—go with what fits you and your climate. Traction is a biggie, even if wet mats of leaves are your biggest winter-footfall foes.
- Warm Hands – When it’s cold out, numb hands can be a disaster. If you fall or need to grip something, you’ll need your hands warm and responsive. If you’re in very cold or windy conditions, please meet your new friend, the Manzella Windstopper Ultra. It’s three layers of warm, wind-blocking comfort. Too much warmth for your needs? The Icebreaker Quantum provides the warmth and wicking magic of merino wool. Comfy, too! Shopping tip—beware the bulky, super-insulted, good-Antarctic-living gloves. You’ll go from toasty to toasted to gloveless when your hands are hot and sweaty.
- Hot Head – While the old “you lose almost 50% of your body heat through your head” idea may have been debunked, what’s still true is your exposed body loses heat. And who likes cold ears? You don’t need that in your life. What you do need is The North Face’s Passing Through Beanie. Light weight, full coverage for those chilly ears, and dense, wind-blocking polyester fabric make this a welcome companion on any winter run. Shopping tip—again, match your area’s climate. You don’t want a sweat-swamp under that topper. Get something that covers you up and insulates just enough.
- Put a sock on it – That waterproof shoe is going to be great! And warm! Socks are a personal choice—some like a crew, some a no-show, some like padding, some like arch bands. Our recommendation here: go merino. Wool is where it’s at. It’s naturally anti-microbial. It’s a wicking wonder (new euphemism? I kid.). It insulates but is still incredibly breathable. The options? Endless. Shop around! Shopping tip—we’re serious: no cotton. You know why your dishtowels are made of cotton? It absorbs. Do you want all that absorbed sweat hanging around, stinking and chilling? No. You don’t.
- Stay Safe—This, of course, is a year-round concern. But things change in the winter. The ice and sludge you may slip on makes cars an even less predictable partner on the roads. And those days, though. So short. If you’re going out in the evenings, wear your reflective/lit/blinking safety gear. Drivers are more attuned to the weather than to you sometimes. And dusk sneaks up on us sometimes. Keep your phone with you if possible. Slips and falls may leave you less-than-ready for the run back home.
Well, on that cheery note, we wish you all the best in your winter training sessions! Don’t let the cold keep you inside. With the right gear, the right plan, and the right weather (really, some cold is just too cold), you’ll be running outdoors all winter long. If muscle cramps are generally part of your summer routine, they will probably be part of your winter regimen, as well. Head over here and pick up your supply of HOTSHOT, the only product scientifically proven not only to treat but also to prevent muscle cramps! We’re always here when you need us —on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Happy training!