Spring races are hard to get ready for when Winter lingers and impacts your training. And there is only so much treadmill time we can take, right? Even in the worst of external conditions there is a way to continue training and be ready to PR early in the season. Some of these will be no-brainers for you, while others may seem really out there. Trust me though when I say they have all been tried and tested and found to be critical to successful Winter training.
1. Layer Up – We’ve all heard about layering, nothing new here. Except try this, next time layer based on what you intend to potentially remove once you get too warm. I often run with my long sleeve shirt OVER my jacket. That’s right, over, so when I get too hot I just take the shirt off and I still have wind protection. It also means I don’t have to remove layers just to put others back on.
2. Keep it Flowing – A major challenge is keeping water from freezing. Try wearing your hydration vest or belt under your outer layer. The head from your body that also gets reflected back will keep your bottles and/or hose from freezing up, even in the coldest of temps.
3. Mmm, Real Food – Trying to eat a gel packet in sub-freezing temps is equivalent to eating 3 year old glue, tasty, but not overly palatable. Winter is a great time to teach your body to eat real food while running (yes, it is possible). Carry along foods that aren’t overly dry and can be processed quickly. I prefer dehydrated mangos and rolled up tortillas with Nutella inside. But the options are endless and all yummy.
4. Traction – Slipping, especially around traffic, can persuade anyone to head for the treadmill. Purchase some traction devices, it will not only keep you on your feet but give you the confidence to run at your normal pace. Some great companies include; Hillsound, Yaktrax, Kahtoola, and StabilIcers. Purchase the brand and model that best fits your style of running and you’ll be grateful you have them.
5. Toasty Toes – Contrary to popular belief you can run in the Winter without your feet freezing. Most people think this has something to do with shoes and Gortex, but the truth is that it has mostly to do with socks. Forget cotton and actual purchase something that keeps the wetness away from your feet. Great brands include DryMax, Icebreakers, and Injinji.
6. Blood Flow – Outside of socks the number one reason for cold feet is a lack of blood flow. When your feet are jammed into your shoes and your toes aren’t allowed to move the blood is constricted and can’t circulate through your digits. Luckily, you are already on the right website to find the perfect pair of shoes for Winter running. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which model you try, Altra Zero Drop shoes will allow your toes to move and stay warm.
7. Turtelneck – It’s common knowledge that the number one place for heat loss is your head, followed closely by your hands. But what many people don’t realize is the importance of keeping your neck warm. And I mean all of it. Wearing a hood or getting a neck gaiter will keep an immense amount of heat in. Neck gaiters also all you to pull it up over your chin and cover up that gap between your beanie and jacket also.
8. Sign Up – One of the hardest parts of Winter running is staying motivated. Actually signing up for an event and shelling out money really helps motivate us to get out the door on the cold wintery mornings. But don’t just sign up, hang some kind of reminder of the race around the house to keep it fresh on your mind. If you can’t forget it you can more easily stay focused on the goal.
9. The Fallback – Unexpected weather changes, friends bailing, alarm clocks mysteriously not going off all contribute to the all-too-often lack of training we incur during the Winter. Having backup workouts, even if they involve cross-training can keep you on track to meet your running goals. Bike trainers, power yoga, pilates, and swimming are all great ways to stay in shape when you can’t head outside and need a break from the hamster wheel.
10. The “T” Word – If all else fails, do it, run on the . . . . oh, it’s so hard to say . . . the . . . . Treadmill. You know what, some people love it, and that’s great. For others it’s as horrible a thought as having your fingernails removed with a couple of spoons. But as long as your end goal, that one thing that keeps you motivated to train, stays fresh on your mind you will do whatever it takes to get there. Even if that means running on the treadmill. There are tactics to doing it without wanting to punch yourself in the face, but those would be an article all by themselves. Just knowing it’s a good backup and being willing to do it is important enough.
I have a pretty big race coming up the end of March. To be ready I’ve had to be focused with my training and committed to getting out there in some of the worst conditions and at crazy times of day or night. But I feel ready and with only a couple weeks left of training before my taper I know I have done what it takes to allow me to reach my goal. And I have used every one of these 10 items to keep me in top physical shape and ready to run far. Hopefully they will work for you too.