With the new year, and this year the new decade, many people are hitting the gym to get more active and healthy. My favorite way to get my heartrate up, or just clear my mind, is to go for a run. Unfortunately, I find running on the treadmill to be extremely difficult. And if you want to train for these early spring races, such as the Shamrock Run, you better be ready for cold weather running.

Average Hourly Temperature in March for Syracuse, NY

The average hourly temperature, color coded into bands. The shaded overlays indicate night and civil twilight.

So if you want to get outside while it’s still cold outside, here are 5 tips to keep your cold weather running injury free and somewhat enjoyable.

First, dress for the weather.

This seems simple enough, but your target clothing should be for weather that is 15-20 degrees above the actual temperature. Once you get going, your body heat will account for the difference without getting too hot. You are going to need to start with a base, like some cold gear or long johns, then layer up from there. It is easier to take layers off than to put more on while you are away from the house. I prefer my outer layer to be a full zip sweatshirt, because you can open and close the zipper to control your temperature. Be sure to cover your head and hands to keep from getting frostbite. I typically wear some runners gloves and ear covers while leaving the top of my head uncovered.

Don’t skip your warm up.

A good warm up is important for all types of exercise, cold weather running is no different. When you are running in the cold, your muscles and joints can get tight and stiff. A proper warm up can get the blood flowing and make the weather outside not feel so cold. Warm ups should always be dynamic (always moving) because static stretching (long holds) tends to turn muscles off rather than on. Some moves I like doing to get me started are some jumping jacks, high knees, and lunges, to name a few.

Take it slower than normal.

When you are working out in the cold, your heart is going to beat a little harder to help keep your body moving. Your heart rate is a measurement of how hard your body is working, and when you run the same pace in the cold, your heart rate is going to be higher than when you run that pace inside, so you are going to need to slow your pace a bit. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, like a fitbit, just try to keep your activities aerobic (with oxygen), and this can be done by being able to speak in near sentences, or in my case, you can sing along to your music.

Get a good grip.

This one is fairly obvious, but you are going to want to have good shoes with good traction. When cold weather running in Syracuse, it may be tough to find running paths that are clear of snow and ice. On unclean surfaces, the soles of your shoe will be very important. I also suggest focusing a bit more on foot placement than you may other times of the year. You don’t want to catch some ice or snow chunks and get left out in the snow with an injury. Optimally, I would try to get to Onondaga Lake Park or the Creek Walk where it should be fairly clear. When I lived on Tipp Hill, people rarely shovel their sidewalks, so I was either running on packed snow/ice, or in the street, which made it tough.

Keep it short and sweet.

As with anything in the cold, you want to minimize your total exposure time. This probably isn’t the right time of year to be doing your long marathon training runs outdoors. For the most part, unless you are an experienced runner, I would limit your time outdoors to 60 minutes or less. I would also plan your run to end close to your home or car because you will cool down much faster in the cold weather. Once you are in a warm place again, don’t forget your cool down (static) stretching.

Get out there and have some fun, and join me at the Shamrock Run on Tipp Hill. The Shamrock Run is one of the first running races I ever did, and the route goes past my first house, so it will always have a special place in my heart. For registration information, please visit www.tipphillrun.com.

As always, if you find yourself with a training injury, schedule online with us and we’ll get you back to cold weather running ASAP.