Almost the entire Eastern seaboard of the United States begrudgingly rang in 2018 with the dauntingly sounding “bomb cyclone” that brought about turbulent winds, snow, ice, coastal flooding, and bone-chilling temperatures as it crawled up the coast.
While the first storm of the new year was an extreme case, winter is upon us as more and more people are relegated indoors in search of warmth and comfort. But, just because the temperature has dropped, doesn’t mean your motivation has to wait until the snow melts and spring has sprung.
Cold weather shouldn’t be a deterrent for physical fitness, especially running. New York Road Runners (NYRR) coaches Gordon Bakoulis, Roberto Mandje, and Elizabeth Maiuolo share their tips, advice, and motivation to help runners get outside and conquer the winter elements.
How do you find motivation/motivate others to get outside and run during winter months?
Roberto Mandje (RM): Finding a running partner or joining a group is a great way to not only be held accountable, but to find motivation during particularly tough training spells. Once runners know they’re going to be sharing the conditions with a friend or large group of people, they suddenly find it much easier to accomplish. The synergy and support a group provides can help make any tough condition easier to tackle and more bearable. The same goes for running during those shorter days. Having people to run with will make it seem more manageable. Instead of running solo in the dark, you’re now running with one or multiple people and trading stories, which makes the run seemingly pass by quicker as your mind will be kept distracted from the cold/darkness.
How does one stay mentally tough in order to conquer the winter elements and go for a run?
Gordon Bakoulis (GB): One, try to run at the warmest time of day if you can—lunchtime or afternoon. Two, find a running buddy so you can motivate each other. Three, set a goal, such as a 5K in two to three months (early spring). Four, if you’ve run in the winter before, look at your old running logs for inspiration. Five, think about how good you will feel afterward: energized, accomplished, focused, calm. Six, of course make sure you’re dressed for the cold—today’s fabrics and designs do a great job of protecting against cold, wind, snow, etc.
How does running in the winter and colder temperatures compare to other times of the year?
Elizabeth Maiuolo (EM): As with any workout with an added challenge, it will become a harder workout when it’s really cold out. Your body is mostly focusing on functioning and warming you up, so the running is a bit secondary in these cases. You might not be able to hit the same pace you would on a regular day, but you will still get amazing benefits from the workout.
How does the warm-up change, if at all, prior to running in the winter?
GB: Muscles may take longer to warm up in the cold, so start slowly and ease into your normal running pace. Be careful running on snow because it can be uneven and slippery and can conceal ice and obstacles. Avoid running on ice, especially on hills, because of the risk of falling. Take a few minutes to stretch after your run when muscles are warm and loose.
What sort of clothing/apparel do you recommend for cold-weather running?
RM: I recommend wearing synthetic layers. The layers will both trap heat towards your body, but will also help wick away any perspiration that should occur. Running tights that are winter-specific would be highly recommended. These sort of tights typically have a thicker feel to them in certain areas (calves, hamstrings, etc.) than your typical thinner running tight. Windproof running jackets are a must-have. Often times winter winds will gust and cut through whatever you’re wearing. Armed with a solid running winter-running jacket will greatly mitigate the wind’s effects. A running buff/scarf is also a must-have. If the weather is cold enough, it can irritate your throat and make breathing more challenging. A buff/running scarf will help keep your neck, mouth and even nose sheltered from the conditions. A good pair of running gloves or mittens is another must-have. If you’re like me, then hand warmers are also a must. You can purchase these at most drug stores or running specialty stores. These cheap heated packets can last up to 10 hours and be the difference between an enjoyable run outdoors and needing to cut a run short to seek shelter. Lastly, a beanie will serve the purpose of covering your ears and trapping any heat that might be lost through your head.
How does the cold affect personal records (PRs) and times, if at all? How should runners manage expectations?
GB: Experienced competitive runners can run very fast in the cold—look at the winning times at the NYRR Midnight Run. Most people do find it hard to run PR times in sub-freezing temps because of the extra layers of clothing, the initial muscle and joint stiffness, and the possible uneven/slippery/snowy terrain. In cold conditions, run by effort rather than trying to maintain a certain pace—use a heart rate monitor, run with a friend who’s about your pace, or simply tune into how hard you’re working. Training in the cold is a great investment in fast times in spring races.