Advice, Stories, Editorials, Absurd Rants, and Utter Babbling Nonsense from our extensive Runhole team in the field.
Runhole's Guide to Winter Running
by CRO Jon Nicholson
If you live in a climate not tragically afflicted with bullshit cold rain, freezing rain, snow, snowstorms, thunder-snow, snow-squalls, snowpocalypses, or falling frozen frogs, this article may not be for you.
Of course, you may enjoy the experience of Schadenfreude, so if that’s the case, please keep reading as well.
If you don’t know what that means, you're probably a good person but look here:
Winter is coming (if it’s not already here for you).
What does that mean for your running? It’s up to you.
There are some who dutifully move their running indoors to a gym or a treadmill. Don’t be those people.
Winter running outside is a magical gift. Don’t see it that way? We understand.
This is your guide to the Mental and Practical concerns of this heroic endeavor. We’re here to help.
This is where the magic happens, I promise. When April comes around and you suit up for your first race, THIS is where you reap the benefits of outside winter running.
Developing a tough mental attitude is work. It means while other people are nestled in their warm beds, dreaming, you’re chugging along in the cold. Use this. Imagine yourself as the last hope for humanity. Imagine an army of the White Walkers chasing you. I’m not saying doomsday scenarios are the best, but winter running is a quiet introspective time where you’ve intentionally put yourself in an uncomfortable position. You ARE a warrior. You are unstoppable. You are a force of nature cutting through the cold and snow.
It’s not about withstanding the storm. You ARE the storm.
Let that thought lift you.
These runs will be etched in your brain (and social media obviously). They become your wellspring for confidence. You go into the spring in good form, not starting at the beginning like many.
Remember, maintaining your fitness is ALWAYS easier than building it again from the bottom. You’re crazy to put yourself through that each year.
To be fair, I am NOT against indoor work in the winter. It’s useful, can be very challenging depending on the activity, but it’s usually the easiest choice- but easy doesn’t make us mentally tough.
The grind makes us tough.
Blasting through the wind, snow, and cold makes you a tough.
Peeling off those layers and waiting for the shower to reach 4000 degrees makes your tough as you stand there shivering like a wet bunny in the grass.
Reasonable Advice for a Change
1-Dress in layers. What you want is pockets of air to remain warm while repelling the cold. This is usually best achieved by 2-3 layers depending on the temperature (target 20F above the outside temperature) Better to take off a layer than need one during a run.
Layer One: polypropylene, wool, or a hybrid that wicks the moisture away from your skin.
Layer Two: (if needed) fleece
Layer Three: windproof jacket (as light or heavy as needed- just make sure it cuts the wind)
2-Gloves: Up to you. Everyone has different circulation. I almost never need them, but if frostbite is a concern, do it.
3-Hat: a great way to keep your head-furnace going and an opportunity to show how special and unique you are by sporting something that makes a statement to the world.
4-Shoes: you need grip. Use your trail shoes if they have big enough lugs to keep you stable, or bolt on some studs onto an old pair. You can also buy specialty winter shoes or strap on some yaktrax.
5-Socks: multiple thin pairs layered are better than one bulk pair. Same layering logic as shirts. Again, depending on the temperature and your circulation, your call.
6-Scarf or neck gaiter: a great way to shield your face when running into the wind and avoid frostbite on the really cold runs.
7-Pants/Tights: this can make a big difference. Investing in a good pain of wind-stopping pants over a base layer of tights is a really good idea*.
*Somewhere there is videotape of me standing in the far corner of a CVS with my hands down my pants, cupping my junk, muttering “Nothing to see here,” to horrified shoppers loading up on last minute Christmas gifts. If you were one of these people, get over it. It was a matter of life and death and I will not apologize for my emergency cupping.
8-Hydration: if you have a camelbak, wear it under your jacket to avoid freezing. (you can also get insulated sleeves for the hoses and bladder). If you’re using bottles, don’t fill them with cold liquid. Go warm. And using an electrolyte mix with sodium in it will lower the freezing point as well. Don’t forget to drink even though you’re cold.
9-Safety: reflective gear is really important. It gets dark early, and on a snowy day (if you’re not on the trails) drivers do stupid things. My rule is EXPECT the driver to do something stupid* and always give yourself an out. Tuck and roll. Never assume they will pay attention to lights and stop-signs either.
*This rule applies as well to kids and balls. If a kid has a ball, it will mysteriously ALWAYS find its way to a road as a car is coming (with the kid chasing after it). Einstein missed this law. It’s real.
So that’s it. The tools you need and hopefully the motivation as well. And make sure to report these incredible feats of bravery to anyone who will listen. Bombard your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with images that will horrify and inspire the masses.
Be humble, but let motherfuckers know.
GUIDE TO WINTER RUNNING
Be the Storm.
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