It may be gray, wet and cold outside but don’t let that be the reason not to run your favorite outdoor trails for 3+ months. Take a break from the treadmill and head outside, into cooler temperatures, and onto your favorite trails. During winter months, outdoor exercise can boost your mood and the colder weather will allow you to burn more calories during the same workout as your body expends extra energy to keep warm. Before you head out for a winter run, make sure you have suitable clothes, shoes and an understanding of wintertime conditions in order to have a fun and rewarding run.
The key to dressing for a winter run is layering. When getting ready for a run, dress for conditions that are 10-20 degrees cooler than actual outside conditions. You should be cool when beginning your run as your body will heat up once the workout picks up. Begin with a snug, yet breathable baselayer made of fabric that wicks moisture from your skin. Avoid cotton as cotton retains moisture and will make you colder once you begin to sweat. Compression tops and bottoms are great as baselayers as they are tight fitting and retain heat well. Next up, add a midlayer that insulates while allowing moisture to escape. Fleece and wool are both good options. The thickness of this layer depends on the outside temperature and intensity of your exercise. If it is windy, running tights can be worn to insulate the legs. Finish off your ensemble with a lightweight and breathable wind-proof and water-resistant jacket. Add an additional insulating layer made of technical fabric for warmth without the bulk, as needed. Include a hat and mittens if temperatures are near freezing and a ski mask if conditions are below freezing.
As winter conditions entail running over wet, icy and snow covered ground, your footwear needs to have good traction. Trail running shoes are great for running in powder as they have deeper treads and thus better traction. You can even opt for strap-on traction device with metal cleats or spikes that are worn over regular running shoes. When running in rain, choose a pair that has water-resistant uppers and is free of mesh. Make sure you wear technical, non-cotton, moisture wicking socks so your feet stay dry and comfortable.
Before heading out for your run, warm up inside by stretching or doing light cardio to get your blood flowing. By doing this, the outside temperature will not be such a shock to your system. As there are more obstacles in the winter, run slower than usual and take shorter strides. It may be cold out but you still need to drink enough water to stay properly hydrated. In cooler temperatures, your body cannot regulate hydration levels as well, so you need to drink enough fluids to replenish the fluids lost to perspiration as well as the fluids lost in exhaled air.