Winter Running Tips for a Safe Workout

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. Don’t let the cold stop you. You can keep on running through cold winter months by following these winter running tips.

How to Get Ready for a Cold Weather Run

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 are older than 40.

After you see your doctor, buy a good pair of athletic shoes for comfort and to avoid injury. “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.”

4 Winter Running Tips

Let’s be honest: winter running isn’t always fun. Motivation is sometimes the biggest hurdle, but there are benefits to year-round training. The crisp air of a cold weather run is refreshing and rejuvenating. Continuing your routine when the days get darker helps maintain your current level of fitness, train for upcoming races, and lessens depression from winter cabin fever.

Running can cause injuries if not done carefully, and winter running can be more treacherous. Exercising outside in winter increases the risk of tendon and muscle strains and tears because our bodies take longer to warm up in cold weather. Winter jogging also increases the risk of injury from falls due to the trail or pavement condition. Use these winter running tips to stay safe and get a great workout outdoors.

Have A Workout Buddy

Consider pairing with a running partner. Not only is this good for motivation, but it can also be helpful to have someone with you as you dodge snowbanks and icy patches.

Watch Your Step

Winter running has more safety concerns than a warm summer run. Watch for uneven pavement, ice, snow, and salt. Cracks in the pavement may not be visible so pay attention to your environment.

Check the Weather

Always check the forecast before you start a run, no matter what time of year. You don’t want to be miles from home when a weather event occurs, like a snowstorm or a sudden temperature drop.

Warm-Up and Cool-Down

Colder weather requires a more dynamic warm-up before you run. Try jumping jacks, windmills, and stretching to get your body ready for the winter run. After your workout, you may be sweating but feel cold. Don’t let this fool you: a cool-down is still a great winter running tip.

What Winter Running Equipment Do You Need?

Running in the winter requires some special attention to what you wear and bring with you. Dress in layers, starting with a warm base layer like a long-sleeve shirt. Make sure you bring a change of clothes if you aren’t ending your winter run at home, so you aren’t wearing wet clothes in cold weather. Cover as much skin as possible when you go for a long run in frigid temperatures.

Bring reflective gear and a light if you run when it’s dark, and sunscreen and sunglasses if you run during the day. Remember, you can still get a sunburn even when ice is everywhere.

To run safely in snow and icy conditions, 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.

Bring enough water with you as well. Colder air dampens our thirst response. You may need to hydrate before you feel like you need to drink water.

Winter Running Alternatives

If you’re not a fan of the cold, running indoors is another option. However, it is just as important to properly warm up before running on a treadmill or an indoor track as running outside in the elements. You may be in a heated, indoor environment, but you are still exposed to median colder temperatures, and your body must be 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 and tracks don’t offer much shock absorption. If you want to burn more 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 Your Winter Run Carefully

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 crucial 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. With the right know-how and mix of activities, you can safely enjoy a cold weather run in the winter.

If the cold weather has you feeling pent up indoors, follow these winter running tips to keep yourself safe in the cold. If you’re experiencing joint or muscle pain after a run, schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists, call 414-817-5800, or visit our nearest Walk-in Clinic in either Brookfield or Franklin.