It almost seems comical typing this post now that I moved to Kentucky…..although I will probably jinx it now, but after 5 years of living in the northern part of Michigan, I had my fair share of days spent running in snow.
As thankful as I am to be away from it, it did teach me a lot about how to deal with winter running and why running in cold weather is actually a better option than running in the snow, but with the right winter running gear you can get your training in.
I probably did my runs on the treadmill less than 10 times during my 5 years there!
We learned how to be creative with our workouts; glide across the snow….okay, I never glided, but you learned how to be smooth-er; find what the best running shoes for snow were and how to be tough!
There were too many runs in blizzards to count, and we said goodbye to the sidewalks in November, hardly surprised if we did not see them again until April.
Cold weather running became part of my life.
However, in a lot of ways I was thankful for the snowy ground, it meant that when we did have the opportunity to race, we made the most of it, and we had a level of grit that no one else did…..especially as we did not have the luxury of an indoor track!
Here are my tips for running in winter when the beautiful white stuff decides to grace our presence:
Invest in winter running gear
Depending on if it is snowing as you head out the door (and which kind of snow it is), this will change, but dressing warm is incredibly important.
I would always rather be a little too warm than risk being cold, especially if it is windy.
You can check out my runners guide of what to wear running at every temperature for more pointers on what you need.
I give you specific examples of what to wear for the exact temperature you are in, and how that changes if you are in a workout or easy run, and the amount of wind.
I would also try to wear waterproof clothing as a top layer to stay dry.
I know it can be tempting to just stick with what you have, use that old sweatshirt instead of buying a new running jacket, but honestly, it is worth it. Over the years you will use the winter running clothes, you will not only make it worth your while, but make your runs so much more enjoyable.
Keep the snow out of your eyes running by wearing a cap
Caps are for summer, right?
Wrong….okay, not wrong, but they are also great for snowy runs to help you see better.
I usually would wear a headband over the top (or under) the cap, but the beak/bill keeps the snow out of your eyes a little more, which makes the run much more enjoyable, especially if they are the pellets that hurt your eyes.
Use SmartWool socks to keep your toes warm
These were my saviors in the winter.
These socks individually work 10 times better than 3 layers of socks (and then you do not have to worry about cramming your feet into your shoes).
Running shoes are notoriously bad at letting water in, and these SmartWool Running Socks keep your toes warm.
If it is really cold, you might also want to invest in some of these Hot Hands toe warmers to put in your shoes. Although they recommend you use them under your foot, I like to put them on the top of my foot, sticking them on my sock.
Just a warning though, this is not recommended by the manufacturer, so do so at your own risk, but I find it works better (and I don’t risk a blister) by putting it on the top.
Learn how to run in the wind
I mentioned this in my Running in the Wind post, but it is so important in a snowstorm.
It means that although the first half of the run is a struggle, as you are battling the elements, at least the snow is behind you….well, as best it can be, on the way back.
It also means you do not overheat and sweat on the way out, and then freeze as it blows back at you!
We all know how horrible it feels when cold wind blows on our sweaty bodies….brr!
Running in the snow is difficult no matter what direction you run in, but this at least makes it a littler easier.
Learn how to run on snow…relaxed
Sounds counter intuitive, but when you run on snow or ice, if you tighten up, you stress your muscles more, and it means you are more likely to tweak something.
Sure, your stabilizer muscles will be working harder on the snow than they will be on cement, but the more you are able to run close to your normal running form, the better.
I know thats easy to say, and trust me, I still struggle with this, but with practice you will get better at running across snow, so this should be easier.
Try to stay calm, and enjoy it as much as possible!
Run better on the snow by increasing your cadence
This means that you are more in control of your body, and you can regain balance if you slip a little.
This also means your hips are definitely under your center of gravity, which is easier for you to remain balanced.
Use Yak Traxs for deep snow running
When the ground is totally covered, it can be a good idea to strap Yaktrax to the bottom of your shoes to give you some grip.
These do not really work when there is only a thin layer of snow covering the ground. If they are able to touch the cement, you will wear them down very quickly, and they are not even very effective.
Yak Trax work best for deep snow, and times when the snow has freshly fallen. It works even better on those days it is really cold, and the snow is kind of powder like, it will help you grip the ground, and run normal.
You can also make your own screw shoes, which is explained HERE.
Try to land more on your mid foot
If you usually land on your heel, it can be easier to slip backwards, but by moving your center of gravity a little further forward, will mean you are a little more stable.
There is also a lot more grip on your shoes at the mid part of the sole.
This will also prevent you from overstriding, which is the biggest mistake runners make….and I used to…and still kinda do make.
On snowy days, looking at your pace not going to do you any good.
Your body is working much harder than it usually would just to stay upright and stabilize, so on those snowy days, just go by time, and just focus on easy effort.
Snow days are definitely runs that need to be as easy as possible.
If you need more persuasion, here is why I believe you should not look at your GPS watch for workouts.
Find good areas to run that are plowed in the winter
For us, that meant running most of our easy runs and workouts around the same 2 mile industrial loop.
Boring as it was, it was the best footing, and meant that we could get in what we needed to run well, and save our weary muscles.
Look around your town for the areas that are plowed and salted first. Just be aware, as cars may be focused on their own driving, rather than looking out for crazy runners, so stay alert!
I hope these tips help you, they are the best I have to offer from my five years in Michigan.
Can you run it?
Yes, you can!
Oh, and if you are racing Boston, make sure you check out the Runners Connect Blog for a whole host of helpful Boston marathon posts.
What is your best advice for running in the winter?