Five Tips to Keep You Safe, Fit and Motivated this Winter

By David Harding, Ottawa Running Club

Winter is a time of early-evening darkness, slippery roads and cold temperatures that can be less than ideal for maintaining a regular routine of outdoor running. Here are some tips to keep you going until the snow melts and the thermometer climbs:

  1. Every little bit counts – Winter conditions can make it challenging to get out the door for your run. But even 20 minutes of running a couple of times a week will pay dividends later in the year. Focus on frequency, rather than distance or intensity. Tell yourself that you just need to get started – you’ll be amazed at how you can keep going once you’ve taken those first few steps! And if you can make short mid-week runs a habit now, it will be easy to continue with them when the evenings are warm and the grass is green.
  1. Be safe – Running in winter means being cautious of your footing on icy roads and sidewalks. Wear reflective gear and lights when running at night, and try to run along well-lit routes. Be aware that traffic cannot slow down or stop as quickly as on clean roads, and be very careful of vehicles turning at all intersections. On windy days, be careful of the effects of windchill—try to run against the wind at the start of your route and with the wind when finishing.
  1. Get rid of the moisture – staying warm when exercising outdoors in the winter is primarily an issue of moisture management. When exercising, your body will generate sufficient heat to keep you warm, as long as any perspiration is allowed to wick away from your skin and you maintain a layer of insulation that traps in the heat. Wear layers of clothing (e.g., base, mid-layer, outer shell) and choose fabrics that are designed to allow moisture to move through the layers and keep you dry.
  1. Run with friends – It’s well-known that running with a group or a training partner helps to keep you motivated in your training. This is especially true in winter, when some mornings the temperature makes you want to roll over and pull up the duvet. Knowing you have someone waiting to join you on your run will help get you out the door, and afterward over coffee you have some friends to trade stories about how tough that run really was!
  1. Be the best you can be – Keeping to a pace or a training intensity can be challenging in winter weather, and your training has to adjust to the conditions. Do the best you can with what is thrown at you on that day, and know that your body will thank you for it later. Focus on your posture and running form, rather than on pace. Take pleasure in the fact that you got outside for some fresh air and were able to do something that you love to do. It’s a good reminder to always bring the best you have to every task.

See you out there!

David Harding is the Head Coach of the Ottawa Running Club and the owner of DEKK Coaching, a personal coaching business dedicated to helping athletes achieve their goals in endurance events. David is also a passionate distance runner and triathlete with multiple Boston Marathon and Ironman Championship finishes, and was a Silver Level All-World Athlete (top 5% in age group world-wide) in the 2013 World Triathlon Corporation events. After many years of competing, he is excited that his 2013-2014 season was his best yet!

Photo: Ian Hunter