Mother Nature is not always kind to runners and in Canada, winter is here. This means snow and ice cover your favorite running routes, temperatures dip below zero, cold winds blow in your face and days are shorter. Whether you run before work or after, you need to prepare for the cold, windy and dark days.

However, winter running does not have to be a miserable experience. If you dress properly and think positively, you can learn to love it. Getting out for a run in the winter, even when you want to stay in, will give you a huge sense of accomplishment and pride. It will force you to get outside your comfort zone and make you a stronger runner. 

Furthermore, it may be easier for you to handle other adversities in life. Let’s look at how you can thrive when running in the winter.

Proper layering

Without a doubt, you need to layer up to feel comfortable running in cold temperatures. However, it’s equally as important not to overdress or you may over-sweat under all those layers. If that happens, your sweat can freeze as you begin removing layers, causing extreme discomfort and heat loss.

  • Wear a light, long-sleeve technical, moisture-wicking shirt as your base layer, which is closest to your skin. Avoid wearing cotton as your base layer because it retains moisture if you sweat, which can be pretty uncomfortable.
  • Add a mid-layer, which goes on top of your base layer and plays a vital role in keeping you warm, which should be a comfortable fleece jacket.
  • The top layer should be light, breathable, windproof and waterproof. Ideally, it has zippers that allow you to vent heat.
  • Fleece-lined tights that don’t restrict movement are ideal for your winter run.
  • Cover your head and ears so that you don’t lose heat. Wear a moisture-wicking headband if it’s not too cold or a running toque in harsher temperatures. You may also need to wear a breathable, moisture-wicking neck buff.
  • Consider investing in high-quality running gloves to help prevent frostbite on the fingers.
  • Wear moisture-wicking merino wool socks to keep your feet from getting cold and wet.

Safety considerations

Don’t blend in. When running outside, it’s important to make sure motorists can see you, particularly during these dark, winter months. Bright, reflective clothing, as well as lights will make you stand out and fluorescent yellow or bright red are excellent colours for your top layer.

Go slow. You may need to run slower to avoid slipping on ice. If it’s very icy and you have to do speedwork, it is best to do that indoors on the treadmill while doing your easy runs outside.

Be vigilant and always assume drivers can’t see you. If it’s slippery, a motorist may not be able to stop quickly enough to avoid you.

In order to run on slippery, icy or snowy surfaces, you’ll need some traction aids for your shoes to help prevent falls. Traction aids are spikes that attach to your shoes, and can be purchased at many running stores.

Dealing with Rain

If you live in a more temperate climate, such as the West Coast, winter rain may be more of an issue, creating a different set of challenges. When running in the rain, avoid wearing cotton to prevent chafing. You’ll also want to get some waterproof running shoes and a baseball cap to keep the rain out of your eyes. Your outermost layer should be a light, breathable, water-resistant shell. Avoid wearing a heavy rain jacket because it may cause you to overheat.

Additional running tips

Warming up is important for injury prevention. During your warm-up, start slow and perform some ankle rotations, leg swings, as well as arm, head and trunk rotations.

The way you run in the winter is a little bit different. Your pace may need to be slower to avoid slipping. After your run change into dry, warm clothing as soon as possible. 

Winter runner Simon Ong of Calgary says he enjoys doing his long, slow runs outside in the winter because time goes faster than on a treadmill. However, he does his speed-work inside in the winter to avoid icy surfaces.

With a few changes to your running routine and your wardrobe, you don’t have to avoid running during the long Canadian winter. Instead, embrace it and enjoy the benefits of running year-round, not to mention bragging rights.

You may also like “Running in the Rain”