Advice for a Safe Winter Run

Don’t Let the Cold Stop You

Have you ever considered running for aerobic exercise? It might be easier than you think and can be a good way to burn fat and reduce stress inexpensively. And yes, you can keep on running through cold winter months.

Getting Started

Most people can ease into their own running routine. “Like the start of any exercise, it’s best to get your physician’s okay first,” says Dr. Eric Pifel, orthopedic surgeon, and runner. This is especially important if you are a smoker; have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or joint problems; are overweight or older than 40.

After you see your doctor, buy a good pair of athletic shoes for comfort and to avoid injury. Warm up before you run by walking for a short period first. This is especially true for winter running. “If you are a beginning runner, start slowly and do not push your body too hard. Start by walking and gradually add jogging to your routine,” says Dr. Pifel. “To help prevent injuries, avoid running too far or too fast too soon. Even with slow, easy exercise, it is normal to have small aches and pains at first but these will lessen as your muscles get stronger.”

The Winter Difference

Let’s be real: winter running isn’t always fun. Motivation is sometimes the biggest hurdle. But it’s doable and can keep you fit year round. If you prefer keeping your workout outdoors, consider pairing with a running partner. Not only is this good for motivation, it can be helpful to have someone with you as you dodge snowbanks and icy patches. Speaking of ice, invest in cleats for your shoes to maximize traction. And make sure you wear socks that wick away sweat. Freezing, sweaty feet can be the downfall of even the most diehard winter runner.

If you’re not a fan of cold, running indoors is another option. It’s just as important to properly warm up prior to running on a treadmill as it is for running outside in the elements. You may be in a heated, indoor environment, but your body is exposed to median colder temperatures and it’s important that your body is warm and ready for strenuous activity.

When on a treadmill, never take your eyes off your place on the machine. In addition to typical injuries faced by all runners, treadmills add an extra element of danger. All it takes is one glance at a smartwatch to cause a fall.

Just like asphalt, treadmills don’t offer much shock absorption. If you really want to burn calories without increasing the impact on your joints, boost the incline setting and maintain a moderate speed. For this same reason, be sure your stride is steady and comfortable, and that your steps are not jarring or unnatural.

Pace Yourself

No matter what time of year, the most common running injuries affect the knees and feet, resulting from overusing muscles. Athletes often use the term “runner’s knee” to describe a variety of knee injuries caused by overuse, poor stretching habits or muscle imbalance. It’s important to listen to your body. If running results in pain, try changing your running habits, or stop and rest for several days. See your physician if the pain persists.

Although running burns calories and improves endurance and cardiovascular fitness, it is not as good at improving flexibility and strength as swimming, bicycling, or lifting weights. A combination of activities will improve your overall fitness and reduce your risk of injury. And with the right know-how and mix of activities, you can enjoy running no matter what season it is.

Receive Care for Joint or Muscle Pain

If you’re experiencing joint or muscle pain, schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital.