Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow and that means an additional six weeks of Winter. Isn’t that exciting?! That little groundhog is showing us the way (in a fun way). Well, I checked the local forecast for this week and Phil knows his stuff. It is definitely going to be a very wintery week with temperatures going below zero (Fahrenheit) and we might even get more snow. I thought it was enough that the local Denver Broncos got beat-up in the Super Bowl, but apparently “the Denver Metro Area deserves more punishment”. Not funny! AT ALL! My marathon training has officially begun and I do not like those temperatures and the snow anymore.
I kicked off my marathon training with a ~half marathon distance run on Saturday. I ran on an indoor running track for the very first time. It was quite an experience, but definitely better than running on a treadmill. While I got almost hit by some crazy, arm-swinging walkers, I survived and actually enjoyed running on the indoor track – the closest thing compared to running outside and definitely more taxing than running on a treadmill in my opinion.
During training I am going to continue my daily Kosama Boot Camp workout as it provides me with a whole bunch of extra benefits that make me a better runner. It is a full body workout and really works those muscles and muscle groups that support your running – especially the core and back, but also hamstring and glutes. It’s almost a strange coincidence that the Runner’s World Magazine and website has more and more articles written about these type of workouts lately and it confirmed for me that I am doing the right thing. Of course, doing two workouts per day is not the norm and it is taxing my body quite a bit, but I see the benefits coming from this and so I am ready for it. The important thing is to know when to add extra rest. Initially I struggled with this last year, because nobody was able to tell me how much Boot Camp style workout would really add to my marathon training, but now that I have done it and know where things fit it in, it is going to be much easier. Personally I think too many runners are only looking at their overall mileage during the training and completely forget about the importance of cross-training. Don’t get me wrong, mileage is important and cross-training cannot make up for an overall lack of mileage, but if the difference is if I run 45 or 55 miles per week I think it does not matter that I am running “only” 45 miles per week.
Anyway, back to winter running. I will decide each day if I go running outside or if I hit the indoor running track again. The roads and trails are partially icy and I do not want to hurt myself by slipping and sliding. The temperatures are not a problem for me – I actually like to run outside when it is cold, but the mix of dry and snowy/icy trails is what I am concerned about. Speaking of not getting hurt during running in winter time. Here are some winter running tips and tricks that I follow:
I usually do not warm up when going out for a run. I never have really and I never had any issues with it. However, on really cold days I break that rule and do some stretching and warm-up exercises indoors before heading out. The reason for this is that muscles do not contract the same way in the cold as they do in warmer temperatures. When it is cold I try to get warm faster and that’s where the risk of injury increases, unless I warm-up and stretch before heading out.
2) Winter Running Clothes
During winter I always dress for temperatures that are about 15 degrees warmer than what it really is. That helps me to avoid “over-heating” and excessive sweating. I sweat a lot during running and while that is not a problem during warm weather running, in winter it will turn against me and I start freezing and shivering. So, by dressing a bit less warm I avoid the excessive sweating part which makes those runs much more comfortable for me. On the other side if things get really cold, make sure you are dressed warm enough. I ran a half marathon race in temperatures just slightly above zero and a two hour run under race conditions is something completely different compared to a 50-60 minute training run. I was wearing two hats because the first one would get wet from sweat and with the cold temperatures the cold would “attack” my head – the second hat kept me warm during the entire race. I also purchased a Nike Hyperwarm sweatshirt that helped me to stay warm and safe.
Hydration is an important topic for runners – no matter the season. In warm weather we know we have to stay hydrated. Winter however is trying to fool us, because we might sweat a bit less – but don’t get fooled, you still need to hydrate properly. Usually I put my water or PowerAde Sports drink into the fridge as I enjoy drinking colder beverages, but during winter that is not a good idea. One time it was so cold when I ran, everything was freezing up and I had problems staying hydrated. If you know you do not drink for the first 30-45 minutes on a long run – have your drinks stored at room temperature or even slightly above before heading out. With temperatures of 10 degrees or below I even place the bottles on a heating vent before going for a run so that they warm up above room temperature. By the time I get thirsty mother nature has cooled them down just fine.
Ignore the urge to check your performance too often and don’t try to run a PR (Personal Record) in really cold weather. Simply make it a run by feel and enjoy it. Your body performs differently in colder weather and there is nothing you can do about it. I am also less concerned about overall speed. Sure, I am happy if I can run a bit faster or have a great average pace going, but I know from experience that when I ran too fast I also increase the risk of getting hurt. Fortunately I never hurt myself really bad, but it sucked having to rest for two or three days because I hurt a muscle. I’d rather run a bit slower and take things easy. Distance is the better choice than speed when it comes to running in winter – at least for me.
These four items are the most important ones for me when it comes to winter running. I do have some winter running gear and it has served me well for the winter running here in Colorado. I know I do not have the right gear for weather like it is in Minnesota or Alaska during winter. Depending on where you live, please adjust accordingly.