How to Embrace the Chill and Keep Running

4 strategies to help you quit worrying and learn to love the snow

Jan 18, 2016
Outside
Outside Magazine
25-35

Winter is a great excuse to mix up your workout—which you should be doing anyway.    Photo: Ben Herndon/TandemStock

It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s snowing. Other athletes will make these excuses to skip workouts this winter, but not you. With these four expert tips for making the most of winter weather, you’ll transform into an honorary chionophile (that’s an animal that thrives in winter conditions), primed to crush all those weenies who stayed in bed with hot chocolate when their smartphones flashed a below freezing temp.

#1. Layer Up

“It’s easy to see the weather and darkness as a reason not to work out,” says Dr. Jonathan Dugas, whose doctoral research focused on human temperature regulation. “But with a minimal investment in gear, you can solve that problem.”

The price tag might sting up front, but buying clothes like a moisture-wicking base layer, gloves, and a breathable wind-blocking top will make training outside a lot more enjoyable, he says. Check out our 2016 Winter Buyer’s Guide for some great gets, including these six killer running jackets.  

“Don’t be shy about getting the right gear,” says Dugas, a 2:48 marathoner and cyclist based in Chicago. “That way 95 percent of the time you’ll still be able to go out, save the few days when it’s absolutely arctic.” 

#2. Start Warm

“Sometimes they say if you start running warm you’ll overheat,” says multisport coach Eric Orton. “But sometimes mentally it helps to start warm.” So put on your favorite coat and a backpack and get going. Then stuff your extra layers in the pack when you heat up.

#3. Get Creative

“Use winter as a time to be adventurous and break away from routine,” Orton says. Try cross-country skiing in place of a long run. Jog to work. Instead of your regular group run, fat bike to a short 5K loop, run it with your crew, then fat bike home. Take advantage of a full moon and go for a night workout. Try snowshoeing.

“Sometimes we get so ingrained in what we’re used to doing that we’re scared to break away from it,” Orton says. “But from a performance standpoint, it’s one of the best things you can do.” The cardio fitness from cross-country skiing, for example, translates well into running. Skinning up a mountain will also give you the lungs and strength needed to kick butt on a bike, while snowshoeing helps maintain fitness for any leg-based sport. 

#4. Embrace Hanging Out

Yeah, we know, that’s what your lazy nemeses are doing in bed. But the idea here is to do something that warms you up and makes you happy. “Have tea, sit by the fire if you can,” Orton says. “Anything to physically and mentally get you motivated to go out.”

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