Winter Running Survival

Winter Running Survival with Kevin Collins from Elevate Fitness in SyracuseBy Elevate Fitness Run Club Coach and Running Programs Director, Kevin Collins

As a runner, winter running is my #1 dislike. I’ll gladly run 26 miles in 90 degree heat before a 5k in the freezing temps. I may be different, but to those who share my misery December (Yes, even December) through the end of March, let me also share with you that I have only two days off running in the past two years (15 minutes or longer counts for me as a legitimate “run’). This takes some luck too, of course, but my love of running fitness under most obstacles finds its way. I’ve had more extreme streaks, In training for the 1996 Olympic Marathon Trials, for example, I once averaged 48 consecutive weeks at an average of 18 miles per day on twice daily training both morning and evening in Upstate NY. You can bet I trained through some horrific weather. So why do I do it and HOW do I do it?

Let’s start with the “WHY”…..

  • While I hate running in cold, I hate being out of running-specific shape MORE.  You’ve heard the phrase “Summer bodies are earned in the Winter”. Remember that Spring has no mention here. Spring is too late. Don’t spend Summer getting in beach body shape by Thanksgiving. Be ready BY Spring so that the dawn of Summer is your arrival. If you have a race to prepare for, why not just be prepared? When a runner is truly seasonally committed year-round, that Half-Marathon you saw in two weeks and decided to do on impulse is all yours. You are getting ready for nothing, you are simply ready. “Perma-fit”.

 

  • I always had a significant goal whether driven by a race, a challenge or desire for better fitness. My current goal is simply no days off in 2019. It’s a goal with an audience of one – just me… or least I am the only one I care not to disappoint. A personal undertaking that brings a zest for daily life. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, but even if it is, the goal of each regarding preparation share one result: Fitness.

 

Now let’s discuss some HOW tips. Training through the winter does have some obstacles, here are some tips I’ve learned as a CNY Runner for nearly 40 years…

 

  • Don’t always believe the weatherman’s hype. You should always choose safety above all else. “Safety over boredom” is a rule all runners should follow. As mentioned, I have a 15-minute rule. I will test any conditions on a 15-minute run before skipping. That’s a 7.5-minute jog down the road, turning and jogging 7.5 minutes back to the house. It takes approximately 10 minutes of even a light jog for the body’s blood to warm provided you properly dressed (two layers on bottom, three on top). Judge cold after that 15 minutes. If the conditions pass the 15-minute test, give it another go and finish that 1-hour run!

 

  • Stay close to home. Even a half-mile block in a neighborhood makes a convenient “track”. If suddenly confronted with extreme conditions that are intolerable, don’t get yourself stranded! Safety should be less than 2 minutes away.
  • Stay close to “powder”.  I have a rule in freezing weather that if it looks “wet, assume it’s ice, don’t step there”. Get your grip on the powder. Ankle deep snow is actually very stable to run in.
  • Stay out of traffic. Parks or neighborhoods are best during winter. A surface suited for running is not always suitable for drivers. Don’t put yourself at risk. If you can reduce the chances of getting hit by a car to “zero” by running on a footpath, in a park, track or an open field, do it!
  • There is no such thing as cold weather, just improper location. Most people don’t have the luxury of training down South as I did while training for the Olympic Trials, but here in Syracuse, we are blessed with gyms that have indoor tracks if you don’t like the treadmill. With friends joining you, a track is timeless. The minutes or miles will roll by just like a car road trip with friends.
  • GET a treadmill. As runners, we all know the misery of the treadmill (AKA: “DREADmill”) Time, in fact, seems slower on a treadmill because pace changes while both natural and common while running outside don’t take us out of the natural mindless “dream state” as a treadmill does. Think of it as a form of “sleep apnea”. Every time you slow down or pick up the pace, you are made aware by the restrictions of the steady pacing of the treadmill and you end up pushing buttons to accommodate much like an annoying alarm clock going off while you sleep. Can you sit in a chair and stare at an hour hand? Yeah, me either, BUT the treadmill IS convenient, safe, effective. Do you LOVE being runner fit MORE than you hate boredom? I do. Get one and/or keep that gym membership. They are your savior!
  • Worship the Winter Hat. Is there any piece of warm running apparel more convenient than the beanie on your head? It obstructs nothing regarding the running movement. Virtually weightless. It should be the first cold weather running apparel added on exiting Summer and the last cold weather apparel coming off entering Spring.
  • Ignore your friends. You hear it every time you go out into the icy, cold blackness: “What are you CRAZY?…Can’t you just take one day off?” Add a sled, skis or snowshoes or shovel or talk of snow forts and snowball fights to the situation and they’ll ask if they can come. It’s not the weather runners, it’s the running they don’t understand. Don’t buy into their own excuses.

 

Want to try one of Elevate’s Run Programs with Kevin Collins? Fill out the form below for more information!