You don't need to stop running or walking outdoors just because it's cold, but you do need to prepare for the season. Here's how to stay safe on your winter run.The cold air, icy roads and dark mornings provide extra challenges for runners and walkers who keep up their outdoor workouts in the winter. But those aren't reasons to stay inside. You just have to know how to be prepared for the elements so you can stay fit and injury-free all year long. Here are some ways to ensure you stay safe on your winter run.
Photography: Getty Images
1. Start with a warm up.
When you take off at full force and your muscles are still cold, they're more at risk for injury. Tricia Kawahara, certified strength and conditioning specialist at Inspiration Training in Calgary, compares muscles to rubber bands—when they're cold, they're likely to snap, but when you move them around and warm them up, they become more flexible. Do five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching before you head outdoors.
MPG Conquer High Visibility Jacket, $125, mec.ca .
2. Dress for the elements.
Dressing for a winter run can be a challenge. Bulky sweaters might seem appealing when you first head out, but getting overly sweaty can make you more vulnerable to the cold further along in you run. Aim to wear several light, breathable or sweat-wicking layers in order to keep yourself warm and dry. An outer layer, like this jacket, should protect you from wind and water while still being breathable, and will help you be seen by traffic. This jacket's 360-degree pattern shows up when darkness falls.
Run and Done Toque, $32, lululemon.com .
3. Protect your extremities.
If you're used to being a summer-only runner, you might not think about covering your head, hands and feet when you leave for your workout, but these are some of the places where you lose the most heat, and your extremities are most vulnerable to frostbite when the temperatures dip below zero. Put on thick socks, gloves and a hat for winter runs. This toque won't even mess up your ponytail.
Asics Gel FukiiAttack 5 Trail Running Shoes, $125, mec.ca .
4. Prepare yourself for icy paths.
Ice and snow can make for dangerously slippery sidewalks and trails, so you need to be extra strategic about your footwear. Look for shoes with great traction or even carbide spikes to help your feet better grip wintry surfaces. These trail shoes are lightweight but offer heavy duty traction to help you deal with snow and uneven terrain. If you're planning to take an even icier route, consider strapping on some extra traction with a product like Icetrekkers, the equivalent of snow tires for your feet.
Nite Ize ShoeLit LED Light, $4.50, mec.ca .
5. Ensure you can see and be seen.
When the days are short, it's likely you're going to be out running or walking in the dark. Choose well-lit streets for your running route, and ensure you're wearing reflective clothing so you can be seen by any oncoming traffic. To add a quick hit of light to your outfit, attach these clip-on LEDs to your shoes. But remember: Light doesn't solve everything. Snowbanks can cause extra visibility problems, and drivers may have extra trouble stopping if it's slippery, so exercise extra caution.
Eclipse, $16, vapur.ca .
6. Keep hydrated.
Just because you aren't out in the heat doesn't mean you can ditch your water bottle. Hydration is just as important in the winter because you're still losing water through your sweat and breath. Make sure you hydrate before or during your workout. This anti-bottle from Vapur shrinks down to nearly nothing after you've emptied it, so you can roll it up and store it in your pocket while you finish your workout.
7. Turn the music down.
Music is a great way to spice up your run and motivate you to keep going, but blasting music too loudly or wearing headphones that cancel out too much noise around you can be dangerous, preventing you from hearing traffic. Make sure your music is at a level where you can hear ambient noise on the street, or consider removing an earbud so you have one ear free to hear potential dangers.
Road ID, free, iTunes/Google Play.
8. Stay connected.
It's a good idea to run with a buddy—not only to help keep you motivated but to stay safe. But if you have to run alone, always let someone know where you're going in case you experience an injury or find yourself in danger. Today, technology can help you stay safe by keeping you connected with your loved ones. Be sure to bring your smartphone along so you can call for help if you need to. An iPhone lets you share your location with someone (just click "Details" next to their name in your text messages), or you can download an app to show others where you are.
One of those apps, called Road ID (available for download on iTunes or Google Play), allows friends or family members to track your run. If, during your run, you stop moving for an extended amount of time, the app will notify your emergency contacts. You can even create a lock screen with critical health information, like allergy info, in case you can't communicate.
Of course, part of running safely is knowing when not to run. Pay attention to temperatures and road conditions, because sometimes it's just not worth it. If you need ideas for what to do on those not-suitable-for-running days, check out these 10 fun indoor workouts for winter.