I’ve decided to stay out of the gym for the few months that I’m here in Montana. I want to take full advantage of working out local and appreciating the abundant and beautiful natural scenery.
I like to run outside, but figured I wouldn’t very often here due to the perpetually snow and ice-covered ground. That, and the temps that tend to hover in the teens (it actually hit 30 the other day and I thought maybe I didn’t need a coat …. whaaat?!)
But I miss running, so I decided to figure out how to appropriately outfit myself — head to toe — to make wintry outdoor running warm and safe.
I’m not an expert in this area, so I consulted the interwebs and found lots of useful pro guidance. Here’s the best of what I found:
I also have a few personal takeaways, based on my first outing:
- Get (a) Grip. If you listen to only one piece of the experts’ advice, buy Yak Trax and strap them to your running shoes, so that you don’t break your bones on the ice and ruin your ski season (or other active pursuits). Don’t think that you can run in your snow boots. In a dumb move, I tried it and had achy knees for the rest of the day. Seriously, Yak Trax are the way to go. With them, snow and ice magically feel like black top — they’re that secure.
- You’re gonna to be slow(er). Even with your Yak Trax, you’ll likely still be slower than your normal pace. I’m not a particularly fast runner but I usually average about an 8-minute mile. With the snow, ice, cold, hills and altitude, I’m closer to a 12 or 13-min mile. My advice? Check your fragile runner’s ego and make your winter runs more about endurance than speed.
- Choose thin layers and versatile accessories. Expert advice says to dress for temps 15-20 degrees warmer than it is — I followed this and it was spot on. You’ll start out chilly, but then will quickly heat up and be glad that you skipped the additional layer. Choose a very form-fitting, moisture-wicking base layer and a hat to trap body heat. I also recommend sticking to non-bulky pants like leggings — running in snow pants is just awkward, and who wants to listen to that weird swooshing sound the whole time? If your legs are still cold, try insulated tights or better yet, knee-high or thigh-high socks. I like these from my friend’s sock company Treadfast. When you get warm, you can just push them down. Also, 80’s-style leg warmers are back in style (!), so if you want to channel your inner Jane Fonda, try these from American Apparel.
- Time Your Cool Down Right. Keep up the intensity (and the heat) while you’re outside, and do your cool down indoors where it’s warm. Otherwise you’ll freeze by the time you get home, as your sweaty body (yes, you may sweat a little) quickly loses heat.
- You still need to hydrate. Even though you may not sweat profusely, don’t forget to drink plenty of water before and after your run. Dry, cold air can be deceptively dehydrating.
- Skip the deep snow. It’s smart to retain visibility of what you’re running on. Not even your Yak Trax will protect you from hidden ice chunks, super icy patches and other obstacles under deep snow. Plus, your feet will get wet and wet feet = freezing, numb toes. If the snow comes over your shoes, go for a walk in your boots, strap on snow shoes for a hike instead, or wait for the plow to come through.
- Factor in the altitude. I’m currently living (and working out) at about 8,200 feet, and it’s no joke. It took me a solid month to build up my San Francisco-level endurance. If you’re new to or just visiting a higher altitude (say, on a ski vacay), take the time to acclimate (go slow and work your way up to your normal times/speed), and/or take it easier than you would at sea level.
Have fun and stay warm!