Winter Running Survival Guide (+ Marathon Training Update!)

Life, Running / Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Hi Friends:)

It’s been a bit! I haven’t updated for a few fun reasons: My home wifi was disconnected for a bizarre and ridiculous reasons, so yay. I’ll do a life update post at some point soon, but for now, let’s chat about wintertime running.

Here in Boston, temperatures routinely hold just below freezing this time of year, and precipitation comes in awkward, sloppy spurts. I’m up and out the door before the sun comes up most days, and I have to shuffle the students I coach out the door for our after-school running practices in an effort to get them through their miles and back inside before darkness rolls in. As I’ve done twice before, I am wondering every morning why I chose to sign up for a spring marathon. Living in New England is a challenge for anyone in the wintertime… but for runners it offers a whole new bunch of challenges.

Cold, darkness, and snow may be the underlying causes, but the symptoms of winter are pervasive in my quest to hit my milage each week.

Along with cold comes ice, and obvious danger when you’re out on the sidewalks. Heavy snow brings hours of shoveling duties that often leave me too exhausted and sore to even consider a run.

With darkness comes an increased risk of getting hit by a distracted driver while you’re out on the roads. Not only that but lack of sun = decreased Vitamin D levels, which can leave you feeling foggy and depressed. And did you know that Vitamin D deficiencies can contribute to bone injuries, and have been linked to other joint/ligament issues like Bursitis and Tendinitis?

That all being said, I have figured out how to keep myself logging miles safely and happily throughout the Boston winter, so I thought I’d share.

Firstly… VITAMINS!
I take a multi vitamin every day, as well as Vitamin D, magnesium, and Calcium supplements every other day. It keeps my bones strong and my attitude positive.
I got so Vitamin D deficient my first year as a teacher that my knees and ankles became painful, I was afraid to see a doctor, since rheumatoid arthritis runs in my family. I’d just turned 23, I hadn’t even taken up running as a hobby yet, and I was damn-near devastated at the thought of an auto-immune disorder taking so much from me at such an early age. Then I googled “causes of joint pain” and found a few articles saying vitamin D deficiencies could cause bursitis. So I picked up a jar of supplements at CVS and within 10 days all my symptoms were gone and I was feeling so much happier.

I know when to hold ’em and I know when to fold ’em. Which in this context means: I know when to run outside, and when to hop on a treadmill or catch some cross training. Ice and/or temperatures below ~10 degrees require changing up plans. I do a TON of spin classes this time of year, plus some yoga, barre, and bootcamp to build my strength and flexibility when I’m not able to run outside. I actually pay for a ClassPass account just during January-March so I can get my cross training on without spending a billion bucks.

Finally, the one everyone really wants to know about…GEAR AND WHAT TO WEAR!!

When there’s a dusting of snow or slush on the ground and I only have to log a few miles, I sometimes pull out my beloved Brooks Cascadia trail sneakers. They’re not very cushiony, so I’m not a fan of wearing them for running over 5 miles or so, but they’re water resistant and Gore-Tex lined so they work great. I also wear these for hiking; they were my main game when I visited Peru and it was pretty mucky in the mountains.

One pair of trail runners, so many uses!

If there’s 2-5 inches of snow and/or I have to run less than 5/6 miles, I whip out my Yack Trax. I bought these for $25 when I was training for my first marathon, and I end up using them a couple of times a season. They’re super effective on snow and crunchy ice and easy to slip on over sneakers. However, they feel a little funny underfoot, they’re not effective on slick ice, and they rub against my sneakers and wear holes in the mesh outer, so I don’t like to use them too often.

just look at that slush.

If it’s actively raining or snowing, I layer something insulated- like a thermal Under Armor mock neck- under something water resistant. I also like to cover my ankles with either high socks or calf compression sleeves, but that’s just me. I often will wear both a headband AND a baseball cap in these conditions.

Shoutout to Boston 2018, where I got sleeted on in 30 degree temps for 26.2!

crying and laughing at the same time. Soaked through, but I didn’t get hypothermia like ~3000 other runners did- thanks to my wicking long sleeve and amazing L.L.Bean raincoat.

When I’m out running in the dark I try to always wear a blinking light and/or a headlight, plus a SUPER ugly reflective vest that I got a 2-pack of on Amazon for like $4 when I was training for my first marathon.

Note the reflective jacket and vest I wore during this pre-5am run last winter.

When it’s in the high 40s-low 50s which thankfully it has been for many of my Saturday morning long runs throughout the last two years- I wear un-insulated running tights and a lightweight long sleeve top. Sometimes I’ll start with some light gloves and maybe a headband, but end up tucking those into my running belt after a few miles. I also love wearing sunglasses for running, as snow is super reflective. And don’t forget sunblock on all exposed skin!

When it’s in the mid 30s-low 40s, I have a few options of what to wear. I always wear a headband and gloves, even if I know I’ll take them off after a while. My bottoms at this temperature range are almost always full-length running tights (not fleece lined). On the top I’ll sometimes do a light long sleeve with a vest, or a insulated long sleeve on its own, or a light long sleeve with a windbreaker.

Terrible picture, ugly windbreaker… but it was misty and windy that day so this combo did the trick!

I make my choices in this tricky 35-45 temperature range based on a few factors. Will I be running in the dark so my reflective windbreaker is helpful? Is there a stiff breeze that my vest can keep my core from feeling? Is there a chance of rain/snow? And, most importantly, what’s clean enough to wear?

It was 31 at the start of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon and 42 at the finish. Since this was a race and I was going somewhat faster than my practice runs, I opted for a medium-weight long sleeve over a tank and 7/8 inch Lululemon tights.

When it’s 25-35, I like to wear my trusty fleece-lined, thermal leggings; I’ve gotten expensive pairs from Athleta and I’ve gotten inexpensive pairs from Old Navy, so there are a variety of options for these sorts of things. They look a little bulkier, but they make a huge difference! I also grab a lightweight jacket or thermal vest; I love my super simple Columbia vest, but I feel like every runner has different vest preferences. Headband + gloves, thick or thermal long sleeve, and I’m out the door.

Sidenote: I honestly have no idea how anyone survived before fleece-lined leggings were a thing.

Before a 30-ish degree long run with my charity team last year.

Temperatures under 25 degrees freak a lot of people out, but as long as you plan and prepare, I’ve found that you can safely train until temperatures dip below ~10 degrees. When it’s under 25 and NOT windy, I wear thermal leggings, a thermal top, a neoprene-like thermal jacket that I got at a warehouse store originally to be part of a Katniss Everdeen halloween costume (look, it works, so whatevs), a hat, gloves, and a Lululemon neck gaiter. If there’s wind, I layer a light wicking layer under all that above, which means 2 pairs of leggings, 2 tops, a coat, a headband underneath my hat, and so, so much laundry.

Me and my dad at a 5k where there was a windchill of -8. SO. MANY. LAYERS. I PRd, weirdly, so that was cool.

Fun fact; when temperatures are in the 30s or below, iPhone batteries crash. In these conditions it’s important for you to keep your phone close to your core- like in a waistband pocket, or your bra- and not in a jacket pocket or in an external arm band. And you should never be carrying a phone in your hand while running- especially in potentially icy winter conditions- because hands should always be free in case you trip or slip on ice.

Oh and, a training update:

February 3rd-10th:

  • Monday: 6 miles
  • Tuesday: Barry’s Bootcamp (interval/speed training: ~2.5 miles)
  • Wednesday: 7.8 miles
  • Thursday: 3.6 miles+ Spin Class
  • Friday: Barre Class
  • Saturday:  11.75 mile run
  • Sunday: Yoga
    • Total Weekly Milage: 31.65

February 11th-17th

  • Monday: 3.62 miles
  • Tuesday: Spin Class (too snowy and icy to run)
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 3.03 miles+ Spin Class
  • Friday: Spin Class (too snowy and icy to run AGAIN)
  • Saturday:  13.5 mile run
  • Sunday: 4 mile hike
    • Total Weekly Milage: 20.15

If you’ve read all the way through this until the end.. GOOD FOR YOU! holy moly, that was a lot more information than I thought I had on this whole wintertime running topic. Please ask me any questions you might still have in the comments!

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