8 Winter Running Safety Tips

I, Heather Gannoe, will admit right now that I’m the worst Vermonter ever.   I loathe winter, I positively dread the six months (sometimes longer) of dark, cold, miserable weather.

And I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m what people often refer to (with a laugh) as a “fair weather runner”.  Don’t believe what those pinterest worthy memes tell you about how “real runners” endure more adverse weather than a postal carrier, in my opinion it’s OK to throw in your towel and skip your run during a blizzard.

But, hardcore runner or not, let’s face it: during the winter months, it is significantly harder to muster up the motivation to leave the comfort of your warm home and go for a run. While some of you (us) may find retreating to the warm gym to be appealing, other runners prefer to avoid the monotony of the treadmill and head outdoors. With the harsh weather that so often accompanies the winter months come safety concerns that all runners should be aware of.  So, here are eight safety tips to help keep you…and me, when I muster up the courage… running through the winter months.

Winter Running Safety Tips

See? I DO run in the snow.

Wear Layers

LAYERS, LAYERS, LAYERS!  That is the advice I give everyone who asks me for “what should I wear?” advice. Dress appropriately for the cold weather, but remember that your core body temperature will increase with activity. Layer with lightweight sweat wicking clothing designed for running, to allow you to remove or add layers as your body temperature changes throughout your run.  Further, many running apparel companies make winter specific clothing now, that will keep you warm without added bulk.  Make the investment, you won’t regret it.

And then put on more Layers: Hats, Gloves, Socks, etc.

When you run, blood flow is naturally shunted away from your extremities and towards your heart, lungs, and active muscles. This, combined with the fact that a significant amount of heat is lost through the large surface area of your head, hands and feet, means that it is very important to wear hats, gloves, and socks to keep your extremities warm. Find accessories that are sweat wicking, such as wool or other technical fabrics, to help keep you dry and warm. If necessary, wear face protection, such as a balaclava (not to be confused with baklava, while tasty, it won’t protect you from frostbite), to help protect your skin.  When in doubt: cover as much exposed skin as possible.  Remember, layers can be removed if you become too hot.

Be Visible

Because winter isn’t miserable enough, mother nature has also decided to take away available hours of daylight.   Further, winter storms can drastically decrease visibility to both drivers and pedestrians alike. Wear brightly colored clothing to ensure that you are visible to oncoming traffic as well as other runners and pedestrians. Headlamps and reflective clothing are also a great idea if you are running during dawn, dusk, or evening hours.

Plan, Know, & Share Your Route

Know where you are going to run ahead of time. If you live in an area where snow is common, snowstorms may pop up unexpectedly, and cover your tracks or make your route somewhat unrecognizable.  Occasionally this can happen even in places where snow isn’t common (see photo below).  Knowing ahead of time where you plan to go, and probably more importantly,how to get back, will help lessen the possibility of getting lost.

In addition to planning your route, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. This is a good idea for any runner in any climate, but even more so in the cold.  In the event that you do become lost, a speedy recovery, and return to warmth, is much more likely when someone has a general idea of where you might be.

2010 Myrtle Beach Marathon

2010 Myrtle Beach half marathon. Yes, that snowy tundra is indeed Myrtle Beach, SC.

Watch Your Step

Let me state the obvious: ice and snow are slippery.  Try to stick to well-maintained roads and sidewalks to avoid the possibility of slipping and falling on ice or packed snow. Wear shoes with significant tread, such as Icebugs, or use a product such as YakTrax to give you extra grip.  Don’t end up like this:

Stay Hydrated

This should be any runner’s #1 mantra, but you’d be surprised how many of us forget it.   Sure, it’s easy to remember to drink water during the summer months, when the temperatures are suffocating and sweat is more profuse. Though harder to force yourself to consume adequate water during the cold winter months, it is equally as imperative as it is during the summer. Be sure to properly hydrate before, during, and after each run to ensure proper hydration levels.

winter running

Pro-tip: a hydration pack keeps you hydrated AND holds extra layers.

Limit Exposure

Limit exposure to freezing temperatures in order to avoid frostbite or hypothermia. When checking the weather and temperatures before a run, be sure to factor in the effects of the wind chill. Wind chill measures how quickly water is evaporated from your body in the form of sweat, which is the body’s natural mechanism for cooling itself. Thus, a high wind chill may cool your body more than desired, and even drop your body temperature to dangerous levels. If possible, run during the predicted warmest times of day.

Be SMART!

Don’t be a hero.  If the weather is dangerously cold, or a harsh storm is about to blow through, skip your run.  Seriously, no one is going to revoke your “I’m a bad-ass runner” card, I promise.

Are you a cold weather runner, or do you retreat to the indoors (Hey…I’m not judging!) Have any winter running tips to add?  Comment below!

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Comments

  1. says

    I have either lived in Texas or ARizona for my whole life . . . . anything under 60 degrees is way too cold. I did run a 10 mile race once in 17 degrees — actually running wasn’t bad, it was waiting before and being sweaty afterward that sucked. I would definitely not fare well in VT so kudos to you for getting ANY runing in outdoors

  2. says

    Great tips! I haven’t run through a winter season yet but I plan to this year. I have all the gear I need and I literally live in the tundra (ok, North of Syracuse-close enough) but I will play it safe and get out there when I can!

    • says

      I feel you! I hate the cold weather…but I’m also not a fan of the treadmill. It’s a day-by-day “which is the lesser of the two evils” choice, haha 😉

  3. says

    Oh my, as a Floridian, I cannot imagine running in those conditions! I get hives if I run when the temps are below 50 degrees! Thanks for linking up with us today!

  4. says

    By NO MEANS am I a winter runner… I tried last winter and found out that it is not what I am made for. It is a challenge getting motivated to run for me any time of the year but during the winter… Great tips and if I should venture out there this winter, I will use every one of them!

  5. says

    Great tips! It never snows where I’m at so I don’t have to deal with the snow but I do have to deal with crazy heat and humidity all the time. However, they’re predicting we may get a few inches of snow this winter…but I’ll believe that when I see it. :-)

  6. says

    I’m a full on all season runner who does her thang in the foothills of the Rockies where it gets down to -40 c with the wind chill and I love these to keep me glued to the road no matter what the ice…

    http://www.icespike.com/

    I call them my clackers because when you go over dry ground you make a little clacking sound.
    And this year I’m running with my new stick…so far so good. It’s awesome to beat down on snow piles as you go! 😀

    http://buttonempire.com/2014/09/15/run-with-a-stick-its-super-fun/

    Anyhoo…running in the cold is the best. Everyone thinks you’re way hard core and it’s really not bad at all.
    Happy winter running!

  7. says

    We live in TX and I still don’t like the cold! Reading this I officially feel like a huge baby for complaining when it was 36 for my 8 miler on Wednesday. May need to book mark this when I start whining about the “cold” in our southern state! Great blog post. And I can tolerate the treadmill but it’s not my favorite!

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