I love summer. I love almost everything about summer. I love the heat. I love the humidity. I love the dry, dusty trails. I love the sunshine on my head and shoulders. I love having bare shoulders; in a perfect world there would be no need for sleeves. I don’t love the bugs, but they are a small price to pay for all the other awesomeness.
Unfortunately, it’s only summer for a few months. A lot of the year is spring or fall, not really one thing or another. And a cursed few months are actually winter. It would be really easy to hibernate all winter, sitting in the house in front of the space heater, wrapped in fleece slippers, blankets and a shawl. But that path leads to craziness (and maybe sickness, too. I find the winters that I get outside regularly are the most healthy).Winter will never be as good as summer, but with the right gear you can tolerate the cold, and still get to play outside.
One of the hardest things to do in the winter, especially if you are a new runner, is to not overdress. When you leave the warmth of the house (or in my case, not warmth, just a bit warmer!) the natural inclination is to pile on the warm clothes. But you should actually dress as if you were going out for a walk and the temperature was 20 degrees warmer. If you dress for the real temperature, you will worm up quickly, and end up carrying a lot of your clothes back home.
Resist the urge to run in your old cotton sweats, and invest in some high-tech polyester clothes. You can find good stuff for a discount at TJMaxx, Underarmour Clearance, or Sierra Trading Post. Start with a thin coolmax inside layer. Then add layers of fleece (different weights as needed). If it’s windy, a shell is a good top layer. I’ve started running this year in a softshell jacket from Underarmout with just a thin coolmax shirt underneath. So far, so good. Many people say that you need a hat in the winter because so much of your body heat escapes through your head. Personally, I can’t stand having anything on my head. If it’s single digits out, I will sometimes wear a headband over my ears, but I rarely tolerate it for long, and it usually comes home in my pocket. But, if it’s below 50 degrees out, I always wear gloves. Try lots of combinations, and see what works for you.
I like thin, smooth running socks, but in the winter that often leads to cold feet. I’ve found some wool blend socks from Wigwam that are not too thick to be tolerable. Normally, I just wear regular running shoes, but this year when it’s cold and wet, I’ve been running in boots. Ya, I know that sounds weird, but my boots are Inov-8 Roclites, and are meant for mountain running.
When the snow is less than a few inches deep, running shoes or boots are fine. If there is more snow than that, you might want to try snowshoes. Running in snowshoes is different from regular running. Your have to keep your feet further apart, and pick them up more. Snowshoes are really loud, too. They sound like monster flip-flops. But they’re an option for snowy days.
I’ve had people tell me that if they run in the winter, their lungs will freeze. Nope. Can’t happen. If the cold makes your throat sore, wear a scarf or balaclava over your mouth. But your lungs won’t freeze. The wind might make your eyes or nose run. Oh well. Wipe them and keep on going, no damage done.
The hardest part of winter running though, is just getting out the door. Inside always seems like a better deal than outside. But if you get outside, you will be happier and less crazy in the long term. So gather your layers, and get outside!!!