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Cold Weather Running

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

With some preparation, you can run safely and comfortably through the fall and winter months

Understanding weather conditions is very important to planning your run. To ensure you have the most accurate information, check weather forecasts the night before and right before your run using the hour-by-hour feature available on most online weather sites. Additionally, you should be aware that weather patterns vary based on the micro-climates around region (a “micro-climate” is a local atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area due to a variety of factors such as bodies of water. e.g. Green Lake neighborhood), so you need to tailor your workout and clothing system for the exact location of your run. On long runs, keep in mind you may encounter more than one micro-climate. Once you have the most accurate information available, you make your final decisions on workout, route and clothing system. In the winter months, you should make your final clothing decisions 10 minutes before you head out the door. Before heading out the door in the winter months:

  • Check the temperature and overall weather conditions.

  • A thermometer that reads outdoor temperature is useful.

  • Know the direction the wind is blowing. (Tip: in the greater Seattle area, the wind comes from the south 90% of the time from September through April.)

  • Be aware of when the weather is due to change.

You may need to alter either the workout or the route based on the conditions

When faced with adverse fall and winter conditions such as constant drizzle, snow, freezing temperatures, icy roads and sidewalks or high winds, you may need to change your workout by modifying distance, pace or both. “Train Smart” is my first law of training and making decisions about your workout based on current conditions and other facts and not the emotion of really wanting to get in a workout is what I call “emotional resilience.”

  • Long runs, shorten then for bad weather so that you can maintain your body temperature

  • Speed workouts: tempo run, intervals, should be canceled for temperature below the 42 to 38 range, when proceeding with the workout and temperature is between 42 to 50, still take extra care to maintain core and leg temperature through out the entire run.

  • Your body is more susceptible to muscle strains, pulls and tears in cold and damp weather conditions.

Having the emotional resilience to train smart throughout the fall and winter months will go a long way towards preventing injuries, thereby preventing training setbacks.

Choose your route carefully to feature terrain that will protect you from the elements rather than adding to the inherent hazards of the fall and winter weather

  • Start your run into the wind and return with the wind at your back. This will lessen the chilling effect of the wind on your body after you have perspired and make the return trip easier.

  • Keep your feet dry by avoiding low-lying areas prone to standing or running water.

  • Plan a route that keeps you close to home, work or your car by running small loops from 1 to 3 miles. Longer loops can get you into trouble when the weather changes unexpectedly so if you are doing a longer loop, plan for support.

  • Run non-stop as much as possible by avoiding traffic lights, bridges and railroad crossing that open and close, etc. While you are running your body is generating heat, but the more you stop, the more body heat you lose.

Perhaps the most important safety tip of all - Use Good Judgement. If the conditions are icy, for example, is the run worth it?

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