When changing to winter running there are a few changes that will allow you to continue training through the winter. Clothing makes a big difference. There are fabrics that will wick away moisture as you sweat and still retain your body heat. Cotton should be avoided in the winter. Once you start sweating with cotton as the sweat cools it will freeze and make you even colder. The new fabrics will retain the body heat even while wet.
Layering of clothing is important. You want to be able to take clothing off if necessary. Don’t over dress. For winter running you should be uncomfortable in the cold while standing. If you are not you are over dressed.
The head and hands, wrist area, are areas where body heat can be controlled. Having a stocking hat or ear band and gloves that you can take on and off to allow you to regulate your body temperature as you run is helpful. In very cold weather mittens work best for keeping your fingers warm.
Tights and full, three quarter, or half tights work best for allowing you to have normal leg movement and keeping the legs warm. I will have my athletes warm up in full tights and then remove layers to three quarter or half tights to run a hard workout or to race.
Workouts may need to be adjusted because of the temperature. The faster the pace of the workout the more difficult it is to do in cold weather. I will quite often add a 400 at the start of a workout to make sure they are completely warmed up. For example, even if we are running mile repeats I will start with a 400 at the beginning of the workout and then go to the mile repeats. This makes sure that they have a good blood supply to the muscles before getting into the hard part of the workout.
Another workout I like when it is cold is to combine a tempo run, 3 to 5 miles depending on their level, then take two minutes recovery for each mile ran. After the recovery they then run a normal interval workout. Something like 8×400, or 400, 600, 800, 1000. A tempo run insures that you are completely warmed up and makes it easier to run fast on the track in cold weather.
Hydration in the cold weather is just as important as in the hot. Runners tend to not think about it in the cold. It is just as easy to get dehydrated in the winter as in the warmer weather. Because we are cold we do not think to drink. Several times in my coaching career during the winter I have had athletes that were struggling with workouts and I couldn’t figure out why until we did blood work and found that they were dehydrated. Force yourself to drink in the cold weather.
Good luck with your winter running.
by Paul Pilkington – Weber State University Head Distance Coach | Elite Athlete