Outdoor tennis may have come to an end, but there’s no need to limit your exercise to gyms and indoor programming until courts re-open in the spring. Just recently, I shared a number of ways to stay active and fit throughout the winter months, but today, I thought I’d offer my fellow outdoor winter runners some tips to help them stay safe and injury-free. Between now and March, I divide my weekly runs among my favorite outdoor routes and trails, and the treadmill and track at my fitness club. Remember: once the temperature dips below -27ºC, it’s best to workout indoors.
My 10 tips for winter runners:
- Focus on fun. This is not the time of year to obsess about your running times, form, breathing technique, or sense of style. The next few months are a perfect time to try out some new routes, to enjoy running with friends of varying paces, to register for a holiday season or New Year’s fun run, and to introduce others to running.
- Dress in layers. When it comes to dressing for winter running, think layers. You’ll want to choose clothing made some synthetics that wicks moisture away from the skin. Non-synthetic materials trap moisture – which means that when you sweat, you’ll get wet, cold and risk skin irritation and rashes.
- Don’t over-dress. It’s easy to over-dress for winter running, I still do on occasion. Dressing for 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is will enable your body temperature to increase gradually and reduce the risk of overheating and excessive sweat. You should feel chilled when you walk out the door. If you’re warm, remove a layer. Make sure your winter running wardrobe includes a running jacket, hat or headband, gloves, tights and a few long-sleeve shirts.
- Add traction. Many runners use shoe traction devices like Yak Trax. They offer better traction and stability in the snow, but many runners find them unnecessary on sidewalks and city streets. I do without them.
- Stay Low. Reduce your risk of a fall or muscle strain by shortening your stride and keeping your feet low to the ground.
- Be Seen. If you run when it’s dark outdoors, wear reflective and brightly-coloured clothing and attach tiny lights (available at running stores) to your clothes and shoes to increase your visibility. Always run with identification and a phone.
- Warm up Indoors. Do a few minutes of light-to-moderate intensity exercise indoors before stretching. Preparing your body for your run is important.
- Hydrate. Be sure to hydrate before, during and after running to avoid dehydration – this isn’t just a warm-weather concern.
- Protect Skin and Eyes. If you’re running during the day, use sun block on any exposed skin and to wear sunglasses too.
- Be Safe. Although it’s ideal to run with others at this time of year, it’s not always possible. Carry a cell phone, stay relatively close to home, and let someone know the route you plan to take and when to expect you home.