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How to Run in the Winter Without Freezing to Death or Falling

There are benefits to be had by sucking it up and getting out there in the bitter cold.
How to Run in the Winter Without Freezing to Death or Falling

It’s hard enough to get up and out for a run when it’s a balmy 70 degrees outside. But subtract 40, 50, or more degrees and it’s damn near impossible. However, skipping your workout or retreating to the treadmill aren’t your only options. In fact, sucking it up and getting out in the cold can actually be even more beneficial than running in more comfy temps. Some experts say you can run longer and further in the cold—thus, burning more calories. What’s more, dealing with the cold encourages your body to turn white fat into calorie-burning beige fat, according to research. So if you’re ready to stop being such a wimp and suck it up already, here are seven tips to maximize your chilly sweat sesh, courtesy of Mile High Run Club Coach John Henwood.

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You need a goal and structured plan to motivate you to stay on track and get out there on the cold, dark winter days, says Henwood. “Make sure you have a goal race and a training schedule to follow to motivate you to stick to that schedule,” he says. Mile High Run Club actually offers 12-and 16-week half and full marathon training programs that include two outdoor running sessions a week. You can find out about the packages here. Or, you can also just sign up for a one-off session ($24) with them on Saturday mornings (long runs), Mondays (track), or Thursday (speed endurance/temp/hills). Even if races aren't your thing, running with a group—or just one running buddy—can seriously up your odds of sticking to your routine.

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“You may certainly need to run at a slower pace for a little longer at the start of the run in cold conditions,” says Henwood. But before you even start to run, do a solid dynamic warmup since your muscles will be “cold” and take a little longer to get up to speed. “Warm up exercises can include dynamic exercises such as front leg swings and lateral leg swings to open up your hips, followed by some front lunges,” advises Henwood.

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There’s nothing like some hot new running gear to motivate you to get out in to the cold! “In cold conditions, wear a t-shirt with a long sleeve over the top, (go for the more expensive long sleeve as it makes a difference in warmth), a long pair of tights, warm socks, and a beanie,” says Henwood. Reflective gear is also key in the winter if it’s dark or overcast. “If you're planning on running on a surface where it's hard to see because of the weather conditions, wear a head lamp,” advises Henwood. Check out the best shoes and gear for running in the snow here.

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If you’re going to be running for more than an hour in any weather, it's important to hydrate. It’s easy to forget this simple thing when you’re not sweaty, but know that you are sweating—it’s just evaporating. “I go for 4-5 ounces every 30-40 minutes of either water or water mixed with an electrolyte drink,” says Henwoord.

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“Take a shorter, more compact stride running in the snow,” advises Henwood. “You'll find you will use your core and hip flexors more as you lift your foot out of the snow during your stride.” This can prove valuable once you’re running on solid ground again, too. Even the pros have shorter, more efficient strides.

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If it’s freezing and snowy out there, stick to a long distance run or a shorter steady-speed tempo run rather than speed drills. “If wanting to do speed work, you want warmth to not pull any muscles, so I wouldn't do speed in any conditions where you can't warm the body up well enough, or could slip over, or can't as run fast as you want to run,” says Henwood. Long runs bore you? Here are some things to think about to fix that.

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All of this said, there are some time when you should stay indoors. (Note, there are these fancy things called treadmills and they negate your excuse for skipping your workout altogether.) “In icy conditions, deep snowy conditions, and conditions with poor visibility—stay indoors,” says Henwood. While we’re all about not letting the elements get in our way, it’s just silly—not to mention dangerous—to risk injury when the ground is slick with ice and you can’t see your hand in front of your face because the snow is falling so fast and furiously. Here are 4 great treadmill workouts for anyoneand here are 9 ways to max out your treadmill workout.

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