Contributed by: Wendy O’Neill, Manager, Runner and Instructor at the Runner’s Mark in Mississauga, Ontario
One of the great things about running or walking is that it's a sport you can indulge in all year round. If you find that you only exercise in the summer, you will be surprised by how much easier it is to run or walk in the cooler temperatures. It is easier to breathe and with the correct amount of planning you will soon be a fan of winter running and walking. Here are a few tips and preventative measures you can take to ensure a safe and comfortable workout in the cold.
How you dress for the cooler elements can a make or break your run or walk. A big mistake many make is to overdress.1. Dress in layers: Wearing several thin layers of clothing helps trap warm air between each layer keeping you warmer than if you were to wear one thick heavy item.
2. Wear the right fabrics: Make sure that the clothing you wear is made from materials such as polypropylene, nylon, or synthetic fabrics. These will ensure that moisture will be wicked away from your body and keep you as warm and dry as possible. These fabrics do not retain moisture, unlike cotton which hold moisture causing you to be uncomfortable, wet and cold.
3. Wear a protective shell: It's critical that you wear some sort of windbreaker or shell to protect you from the wind and precipitation. Gore-Tex is the best material to wear as it does a great job of releasing moisture from the body while also keeping out moisture from the outside elements. Nylon also does a reasonable job for a lesser price. Be careful not to wear a waterproof plastic jacket as many won’t have breathability in them. The heat and sweat from your body will cause the inside of the jacket to sweat making you very uncomfortable.
4. Cover exposed skin as much as possible: A hat and gloves are a must once the temperature dips below freezing. Your body will lose heat through the head or any exposed skin, so cover up as much as possible. If it's really cold, you can cover exposed areas such as your face with Vaseline to reduce the risk of frostbite.
5. Socks & Shoes Like clothing, socks should not be cotton but a synthetic material. Cotton socks will remain wet, softening the skin on your feet, this can allow blisters to form and will also make your feet cold. Wearing two pairs of socks is also a mistake many make. The added thickness could make your shoes tight restricting the circulation in your feet. Stick with one good pair of socks and try a wool or padded sock if you get cold feet.
Try to stick with your summer running shoes if possible. All running shoes have mesh uppers to allow for breathability. This is even more important in the winter. If you are concerned about slipping you could try a trail shoe. These have a better grip on the sole and will help in snowy and icy conditions. Also available are Yaktrax or spikes which fit over the sole of the running shoe.
6. Be Seen: When running or walking in the dark always wear something reflective. Most traffic related accidents with runners are caused because they could not be seen by the drivers of vehicles. Clothing with reflective accents should be worn or you can purchase reflective strips which stick to your clothing. Small lights can also be used.
Follow all these guidelines and running or walking in cold weather will be safer, more comfortable and very enjoyable.