A winter run provides a new perspective on "off-season"
The magic of a winter run is truly something special.
Staying fit through the off-season provides a challenge to so many of us. It's during this season, however, that we can break through our fitness barriers and make some pretty remarkable gains for next year's backpacking or hiking season. Whatever it is that gets you outside, adding a winter run into your routine over the next several months is going to put you in great condition come spring.
Here are some of our top strategies for gearing up for a winter run.
1. Don't be silly - start chilly!
Yeah, it's cold out there, but you're going to want to start off your winter run wearing less clothing than you'd like to. You'll be generating a ton of heat as your engine warms up. You should also start with a slow and steady pace, only cranking up the effort after the first mile. This gives your body plenty of time to adjust to your activity.
Sweat is the real enemy during winter runs or any winter activity. By starting out cold you'll let your body warm up and provide all the heat that you need without going overboard. A wool baselayer and an outer insulating plus wind blocking layer is often enough to keep you comfortable down into the single digits. Everyone is different so you may want to experiment with what works for you.
Speaking of chilly, your phone batteries are likely to get a little bit chilly out there too. Part of why we love our West Slope Case is that we can toss our phone in it to keep tracking our runs and listening to music even as the mercury drops.
2. Traction is king
It probably goes without saying that with winter comes ice and slippery conditions. You may have snow tires on your car so you should put some traction on your feet as well. A winter run can easily go south when you're slipping and sliding. There are a few options for you in the traction department.
- YakTrax - These simple devices are great for slight snow and ice on paved or gravel roads. They slip right over any shoe and secure with a rubber band that hugs the shoe.
- Micro Spikes - Micro Spikes are like mini crampons. They also attach to most any shoe and utilize a rubber band to stay tight on your feet. These are really great for snow-packed and icy runs or hikes. The sharp teeth do a great job gripping the ice but are a bad choice for long stretches of asphalt or gravel.
- Snow-Specific Shoes - For runners who are out there as often in winter as in summer a pair of specific winter shoes is a great idea. You can find some pairs like the Salomon Spike Cross that combine a Goretex liner for waterproofness and warmth and also have carbide spikes included in the lugs of the shoe. These types of shoes will see you rack up long miles in comfort on your next winter run.
3. Stretch it out.
Add stretching into your winter run routine and your body will stay more limber in the cold. The key here in consistency. Stretch several times a week for a minimum of fifteen minutes and start reaping the benefits almost immediately. There are some basic yoga poses like the pigeon pose that will really help to open up the hips. This will keep your body in balance and stave soreness. Having increased mobility will help not just on your winter runs but in all walks of life. I swear that last bit wasn't a pun. Unless you want it to be.
4. Stay hydrated.
Hydration is difficult in winter for a few reasons. First of all, we always feel less thirsty in the cold, even though we are still sweating and losing water. Second, it can be a challenge to find a solution to keep your water from freezing solid, especially when out on a longer run. So here are some pro-tips.
- Start with hot water in your bottles. This should keep your bottles from freezing for at least an hour longer than if you start with cold water. Try putting some delicious tea in there too!
- Get an insulated sleeve, bladder, and hose. There are plenty of options out there for insulated water bladders. They all share one common flaw, however. You'll find the bite valve still freezes. To prevent this, you can hold the hose and valve at a slight downward angle and give the bite valve a pinch. This will release water that is trapped in there, thus preventing the freeze.
Additional considerations for staying fit through winter.
Running through the winter season isn't the only way to keep up with your fitness. Consider adding some basic weightlifting into your routine. Not only does weight lifting help with your cardio but it improves bone density, builds muscle, and helps to stabilize your whole body. You can find either dumbbells or kettlebells at many used sporting goods stores. If you had to pick one, go with the kettlebells. These amazing pieces of equipment can give you a full body workout with just a few minutes a day.