It’s cold outside. No. It’s very cold outside right now. If you’re anywhere above the Mason-Dixon line right now, you’re experiencing some crazy arctic air temperatures over the last several days with no immediate end in site. Sure, we might be used to cold temperatures around this area, but the temperatures we’re seeing right now are well below normal. Lately, we haven’t even seen the high temperatures get out of the teen’s and the lows have been having in the low single digits. However, even though it’s crazy cold, training must go on and for many people right now, you’re either in the thick of a training plan or just starting up your plan for a late spring half or full.
When it starts getting cold like this, I see a lot of runners do one of three things: 1) just not run and take a rest day, 2) take to the treadmill or 3) suck it up and run outside. Well, there is no right or wrong answer to this. All 3 options are perfectly acceptable. Not everyone has access to a treadmill and not everyone has the great winter gear to keep you warm. With cold weather running being such a topic right now, I wanted to share some tips and thoughts on these 3 options. Just know though, no matter what you ultimately do in winter, it’s your path and journey and you do what is best for you.
I’m not one to readily go jump on a treadmill, but this past week I have been that person. I’ve run in some crazy cold temps before but I’ve mainly been holding back from running outside because of the ice still on the sidewalks. After the snow we got on Monday, some of the sidewalks (and roads) were pretty bad around me. I live in a neighborhood where not everyone actually takes care of the sidewalk and it makes it pretty dangerous sometimes. I wasn’t about to risk injury just to get some miles in. Falling on a run, especially on ice, is currently not in the agenda, so I had no issues taking my runs to the treadmill. While it isn’t my number one choice, I did get some miles in and had zero falls.
A lot of people (oh, sure, that includes me) give the treadmill a bad name: The Dreadmill. To me, it’s just boring. It’s hard to push myself on there. When I get tired, it’s easy just to hop off to the sides versus if I am outside, I can push through it a little easier. I discovered this week though, that my gym has a media cardio room. This room is blacked out and you get to watch a movie while you run. This definitely made the miles go by a little easier. One day they were playing Beetlejuice and another day they were playing My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Otherwise, when I am on the treadmill, I have to have some type of music going or watch the small TVs on the machine. Either way, I still always find myself about 20-30 seconds per mile slower than I would outside. While in my head I am telling myself this stinks, at the end of the day, I am still getting in my workout and miles are miles. The one thing I don’t do at all on the treadmill and I should, is a dedicated workout. A quick search on Pinterest provides lots of options. This helps keep things different while you’re on there and helps get in a better workout versus sitting on one pace the entire time.
The biggest thing I have learned though is that the treadmill isn’t a bad thing. It’s not. I promise. It’s more about your attitude going into it. It’s just like another other workout. If you go into with a bitter taste that you’re working out on the treadmill, then it will most likely just be a bad workout. However, if you go into being positive, then I bet your workout will be a lot better. And certainly do NOT think that you were wimping out by hitting the treadmill versus going outside. That just isn’t true. Taking to the treadmill is just the best and sometimes only option runners have.
If you decide to bundle up and go outside, that’s great too! Just make sure you’re dressing for the right temperatures. You don’t want to look like Randy from The Christmas Story. Sometimes too many layers is a bad thing. Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you won’t start sweating. You will. And you will probably warm up sooner than you think on your run.
About two years ago, I found this amazing guide and it has helped with how I dress for my winter runs. The biggest thing for me is keeping my hands, head and torso warm. While I might not take the guide to heart every run, it gives me the start I need.
For me, I have found that most runs I am perfect in a pair of fleece lined tights. My legs are doing most of the work, so they are getting warm and staying warm pretty quickly. For my feet, if it’s about 20-25 degrees, I am okay with one pair of socks, but once it gets below that range, I am throwing on two. Depending on the temperature, it might be two regular pairs of socks, but usually when it’s getting to be colder than that, I am adding a pair of wool socks. Once my toes get cold and numb, I am miserable and it’s hard for me to keep running.
In addition to that, I’ve become a master at the upper boding layering. Well, maybe not master, but I’ve learned a lot from when I first started running. Last year I sunk some money in a Saucony jacket and it’s amazing! It’s fleece lined and protects me from the wind and snow/rain. I can wear that and a long sleeve into the 20’s and feel great still. Once it’s gets lower than that, I might need a thicker layer underneath. Otherwise, getting a jacket like that was well worth the investment. A lot of people go with some thicker top layers and a vest to keep the torso warm. I have one vest and love that option, but tend to stop wearing that when it gets around 25 degrees. The biggest thing to keep in mind, that even though the feel like temp might be 5 degrees, still plan for the 20 degree warmer rule.
As for the accessories, I will throw on one pair of gloves or a pair of gloves and some mittens to keep my hands warm. I usually don’t run with hand warmers, but some people do live by them in the winter. I’m not partial to any particular hat, but whatever you wear, just make sure it covers your ears. It might seem silly, but I’ve gotten a lot of free race hats that don’t cover my ears well, so there is zero point in every wearing them. In addition to the hat and gloves, once it’s dipping below 20 degrees, I am wearing a gaiter around my neck and it’s usually pulled up to cover my nose as well. A lot of people I know have purchased a pair of ski goggles and run with those. It helps keep their eyes more protected. I’ve not tried that trick, but with the way the temperatures are going lately, it might be worth the small investment.
Lastly, it’s not necessarily an accessory, but I cover my phone when I go out. I always run with my phone and when I had my Samsung Galaxy, I had no issues, but when I switched the iPhone, the battery drains so quickly out in the cold. To try to combat that as much as possible, I’ll wrap it in a pair of gloves and then stick it in a drink coozie. It might look silly, but it actually works to keep it warm. It’s not 100%, but it’s better than nothing!
If running in the cold just isn’t your thing or the treadmill isn’t an option, don’t be afraid to just rest. Rest days are the best days. Right? There is even an amazing Twitter and Instagram out there called Rest Day Brags. It’s not a big deal if cold, inclement weather ends up turning into a rest day. The only and best advice I have for that, is enjoy it. Curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and watch a movie that’s been in your Netflix queue for months and months. Or even meet up with the friends you haven’t seen in awhile because training has taken over your schedule. Whatever you end up doing, if you take a rest day because it’s too cold or too snowy/icy, don’t be mad. Enjoy it with zero guilt.
No matter what you choose, do what is ultimately best for you. Some people won’t ever go to the treadmill and some just won’t run outside. No one is right or wrong here. Every runner does things differently and that’s absolutely okay! Just be smart when you hit the sidewalks and roads outside and if you’re on the treadmill, get that playlist updated. No matter what, happy training and just get to the start line in one piece!