Living in Vancouver, we’re pretty fortunate to be able to run outdoors year-round. Sure, logging 10km in a downpour may not fit your idea of fun, but unlike our friends on the East Coast, we at least don’t have to deal with giant snowbanks.
But rain aside, physical activity is essential when it comes to staying happy and healthy through the cold, dark months of winter. Exercise of all kinds releases endorphins that can take your mood from “sad” to “super pumped” in minutes.
And on top of that, we have a beautiful outdoor playground right outside our doors. Whether you prefer Stanley Park, the False Creek Seawall, or the North Shore trails, there are hundreds of gorgeous running routes to choose from. Why should we only enjoy them for half of the year?
Winter running requires a few extra considerations, so give the following five essential winter running tips a read before you head out for your next run.
1. Don’t Skimp on the Warm-Up.
Warming up is always important before getting your sweat on, but it’s especially so when it comes to training outdoors in cold weather. A proper warm-up allows your muscles to get warm (hence the name), but it also preps your joints for extra movement by increasing protective fluid production and range of motion. Skipping this step puts you at risk of injury, which can make for a long and sad winter.
Wherever possible, do your warm-up inside so you don’t get too cold before you start your run. Dynamic movements such as leg swings, lunges, short yoga sequences, and glute bridges are some of my favourite ways to prepare my body for a run. Take 5 to 10 minutes to perform a few rounds of these movements before hitting the pavement.
If an indoor warm-up isn’t in the cards, don’t sweat it. Just do your best to eliminate the time spent standing around outside. If you’re meeting friends, either pick a spot where you can meet indoors, or wait in your car.
2. Find an Accountabili-Buddy.
When it’s cold and wet out, staying on the couch under a fuzzy blanket with a Golden Turmeric Mylk Latte can seem way more appealing than heading out for a run. But remember how good of a mood booster exercise is?!
Your Accountabili-Buddy is a friend who can help you stay motivated when you just want to hide inside all winter. Studies have shown that we are much more likely to remain consistent with our exercise habits when we’re held accountable by others - and what better way to do something good for yourself than to get out and sweat and catch up with friends!
Pick a friend who you know will push you to stick to your commitments. This might be one of your existing friends, or you may have to find someone new from work or your gym!
Running with someone else is also safer when visibility is limited, AND you’ll have someone to celebrate with over tea once the run is done.
3. Dress for the Occasion.
Winter running attire requires a little more attention than summer running attire does. How do you stay warm without getting too hot? How do you stay dry? What if it’s slippery outdoors?
Breathable layers that have lots of zippers will help you stay warm without getting too hot. Lots of jackets contain zippers in the armpits and on the back, so as you start to warm up you can open them to get some extra air in.
You can also opt for a light sweater with a vest over top to keep your core warm, and a light scarf or neck warmer to avoid heat loss around your neck. A good rule of thumb is to dress as though it’s 10 degrees warmer. You might be a little cold when you first head out for your run, but you’ll quickly warm up.
On the rare occasion we actually do get snow here in Vancouver, trail shoes made from Gore-Tex can provide extra traction and they’ll keep your feet dry. Yaktrax are also an option for those super snowy days.
4. Quickly Change Post-Run.
Hanging out in cold, wet clothing after a run isn’t a great way to celebrate your accomplishment! The longer you stay in your running gear, the harder it will be to get and stay warm. Bring an extra change of clothes to keep in your car or your local running shop so you’ll have something warm to change into before heading out for the post-run socializing.
Hydration needs aren’t as apparent during cooler months as they are during the summer, but your body loses almost as much fluid in the winter as it does in the summer! Proper hydration is essential when it comes to preventing cramps and improving performance and recovery.
Make a conscious effort to take a sip of water every 15 minutes, even if you don’t feel like you’re thirsty. If you’re out for a longer run, add some of your favourite electrolytes to your bottle.
Keep in mind that overall hydration is just as important as mid-run hydration. Drink ample throughout the day, both before and after your runs.
Article by Ariana Fotinakis. Ariana is a personal trainer, life coach, and triathlete living in Vancouver BC. For fluff-free fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle advice, check out her website https://evolutionbyariana.com.