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Winter Survival Tips from a Trail Running Pro


by Peter Maksimow

It's that time of year. You know, the time when you might wake up for your morning run and experience single digit, or colder, temperatures. Instead of complaining that it's too cold, or, worse, giving up on running completely because of the temperature, I've put together some basic tips to help you get through the winter.

My personal favorite, and one that I personally put to good use, is to grow a beard. Problem solved! Ok, I know that won't solve all problems, especially if you're female, but the rest of my suggestions are a little more applicable to everyone.

winter running tips

Photo: Tim Bergsten

One: Cover Up!

When running or riding in very cold weather, exposed skin can become numb, turn all sorts of shades of red and purple, and is susceptible to frostbite. Gear has come a long way in recent years. We have technical wool socks like Swiftwick, climate-resistant and studded shoes from inov-8, tights that are flexible and skin-like, and gloves ... come on, GLOVES!! Wear them! That should be a no-brainer. Honestly, in my experience, this is usually an issue experienced only by males. Women tend to be more responsible and less hard-headed, but I digress! 

Winter Running Tips

Photo: Brandon Stapanowich 

Your body's natural reaction to being cold in certain areas is to send blood to those areas, and when you're sending blood to those areas, you are diverting it from working muscles, heart and, most importantly, legs. Don't be one of those hard-headed athletes and try to tough it out. Take advantage of the advances in technical wear!

Two: Think Seasonal!

During winter it is important to have appropriate beer-to-weather pairings. For example, if you are out in 0° for several hours, you will probably need a very chewy barrel-aged Imperial Stout to warm yourself up.

Running tips for Winter

As opposed to summer, when temps are soaring and you're overheated, and it would be better to pair your day with something like a tart Gose or a crushable Berlinerweiss.

In the autumn and fall – which is the same thing depending on where you get your news – a biscuity Oktoberfest, malty Dunkel or Nut Brown Ale is more appropriate. I DO NOT discriminate on styles of beer and I am not advertising for any particular brewery, but Manitou Brewing Company has all of these styles covered and happens to be surrounded by great trail running and mountain biking terrain. 😉🍻 

Don't forget to pack some Enduro Bites as solid fuel to make it home safely. You burn more calories while training in the cold and need to pay attention to being properly fueled to maintain body temperature. I've found that solid foods work best for this purpose. 

Running tips for Winter

Three: Base it on Effort!

So you planned a tempo run and there is a foot of snow outside on the ground, what do you do? Hit the treadmill? WRONG!! A treadmill is never a good choice, unless, of course, you are training for a treadmill race. And actually, not even then.

If you are planning to race outside, why would you get on the treadmill and artificially simulate conditions you WON'T be running in on race day? It's OK if you do your tempo run at a 8:00 minute pace through deep snow, rather than a 6:00 minute pace. You will likely be more working much harder than you would without the snow, anyway.

Also, if you are someplace like the Colorado Front Range, much of snow usually melts in one or two days anyway, so you can do your tempo run then! Or just scrap the tempo run altogether and strap on snowshoes for workout variety.

Winter Running Tips

Photo: Brandon Stapanowich 

The morale of the story? If Mother Nature gives you piles of fresh snow, you melt it down and brew beer!

Four: Don't Be Discouraged!

Plan to workout with a training partner to get motivated. Using peer pressure to your advantage is a great way to make sure you stick to your schedule despite the desire to stay in bed.

Winter running tips

Five: Jedi Mind Tricks!

The weather is terrible outside. That cat-floating-in-space-printed Snuggie and hot cocoa seem like a much better option than the date you have with frosty the snowman out in the blizzard. The most difficult part of your workout is getting ready to go outside. Your lazy-sloth mind tells you, "why make yourself uncomfortable when you can just you slip into this Snuggie?"

Do this before you talk yourself out of your workout: put on your tights, jacket, and shoes. Now you are all dressed, you can’t get into that Snuggie with shoes on!

The second most difficult part of your workout is getting out the door. Open the door. Take one step. Shake off creepy sloth voice in your head. Then a second step. Threshold breached!

The third most difficult part of your workout is the first five minutes. One: Balls, it is cold! Two: Why am I doing this again!? Three: Oh, right, that Snuggie! Four: That Imperial Stout is waiting for me! Five: OK, I'm warmed up, now I can do this!

Once you are 5 minutes in, you have overcome the most difficult parts of getting out in the cold weather. Congratulations you are now a Jedi! You have earned a dark and robust Imperial Stout. Not only will you feel so much better about yourself, you will deserve that Snuggie without the creepy sloth voice asking questions.

If you take anything away from this, you should dress warm, make sure to pair your beer and seasons appropriately, understand that effort can be as important as speed, and know that Jedi mind tricks really work. Otherwise, you can always just grow a beard.

winter running tips

Photo: inov-8 / Ryan Edy