Maintaining Fitness in the Winter Months

running in the snow

Amy Will making tracks on a cold wintry day.

Staying motivated through the winter is challenging and this winter I’m doing my best to battle cabin fever.

The cold temps and shortened spans of daylight can really sap motivation. Where I live, we have what I will call a “seasonal imbalance” where winter consumes half of the year. Staying inside and being sedentary for six months just isn’t an option. Despite my dislike for the winter, I make the best of the season.

Here are a few tips to stay fit when it’s freezing:

Dress in Layers

Layers are perfect for running in the winter because you can add or subtract them as necessary. Dress warm, but be careful not to overdress because excessive sweat will freeze. Many sources suggest dressing for 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature.

Most of my runs this winter are in the -20°F to -10°F range. On a typical run in these temps, I wear my stocking cap, a neck gaiter, a light scarf, layered technical shirts and a light winter coat, layered tights, knee-high compression socks, and gloves.

If you are running in extremely cold temperatures, you may want to consider even wearing sunglasses or ski goggles to shield the wind. Frozen eye lashes aren’t a big deal, but running on a windy -25°F day can be hard on your eyes. While ski goggles may not merit style points, winter running is function over fashion for me!

Traction is a Must

Wear shoes that will maintain traction in the snow and ice. The roads on my usual running routes are solid ice and the Yaktrax Pro cleats have saved me a lot of pain this winter! They grip into the ice on the slickest routes.

Be Visible

Daylight is significantly shorter up north in the winter and it is so important to be visible to vehicles on the slick roads. Carry a light with you and wear reflective clothing to make sure you are easily seen.

Fuel Freezes

It is common sense that water and GU gels freeze in sub zero temperatures, but it’s still worth mentioning. Finding that your water bottle is frozen when you are halfway through a long run is rather unpleasant. Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but this has happened to me more than once!

Hit the Treadmill

On those days when it’s just too cold and possibly unsafe to brave the weather, jump on the treadmill for a workout. Since the weather is far too cold to take my son out in the jogging stroller, I am able to run on the treadmill while he is napping. To maintain sanity through the treadmill monotony, I mix it up with speed and hill interval workouts.

When You’re Not Running

Make the best of the cold and cross-train with other winter activities. If running in the winter isn’t appealing to you, try your hand at snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, or, my all-time favorite, playing ice hockey. And the list goes on. Get creative; even a snowball fight can count as cross-training!

I’ll end this with one of my slogans I saw at the Boston Marathon in 2012 . . .

Some people dread winter, others train in it. -New Balance

quote on running in winter

What do you think?
I would love to hear your comments below. How do you maintain fitness over the winter?

4 Responses to Maintaining Fitness in the Winter Months

  1. Trevor Spencer January 30, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    I’m glad to be living in climate with more moderate winters. If it was -20F outside I would let Angie do the running for me. 🙂

    Thanks for the post! Having a couple winter marathons on the calendar has helped me keep my fitness level up and get out the door to run on days when I would rather stay inside.

  2. Amy January 30, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    Winter marathons are a great idea, Trevor! Running a destination marathon is on my bucket list.

    I’m trying to convince my husband we need to go on a vacation somewhere warm one winter where there just happens to be marathon I could run at the same time.

    One ironic point about the “Some people dread winter, others train in it. -New Balance” quote; the Boston Marathon in 2012 ended up having extremely hot temps. Training through the winter is great, but didn’t exactly help in the heat and humidity 🙂

  3. Chris Monasmith January 30, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Great write up Amy. We are dealing with a colder than usual winter here in central PA and some days its hard to motivate my self to get out there. I just keep telling myself there are other running in colder temps….and all these marathons ive signed up for are keeping me honest too 🙂

    • Amy February 1, 2014 at 9:50 am #

      Thanks, Chris! This winter has been unusually cold for us in northern MN, too. It does involve much more motivation to get out in the cold temps 🙂 Best of luck with your future marathons!

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