Those of you in NYC (or really, most of the East Coast) will probably agree that the snow we received after Christmas and last week has overstayed its welcome and needs to melt away! Don’t get me wrong, I love it when the snow first falls and I even love running while its snowing, but after two weeks of sliding/tripping when trying to dodge snow piles on street corners and being confined to the Central Park drive instead of the dirt Bridle Path…it’s time to melt away.
Nonetheless, the snow isn’t an excuse to not run outside! If anything, it makes it a little more exciting and ‘wintery’ feeling. I am one of those people that would rather run outdoors in the cold, rain, heat, etc. than on a treadmill (aka dreadmill) but I understand some people do prefer to get their miles on inside and that’s just fine.
A coworker recently told me she is training for an upcoming marathon and has been doing all of her running on the treadmill because it’s too dark and too cold outside in the morning. She’s even done 17 miles on the treadmill. While at least she’s getting in her miles, and I applaud her for having the mental stamina to be able to run on a treadmill for that long, I tried to encourage her to try running outside at least part of the time. The sun rises around 7am or so, and if it’s cold, just layer up a bit more. Especially for a marathon, you need to be physically and mentally tough; getting outside in the winter mornings is hard but ultimately when you stop making excuses and get on with it, you’ll see results.
Here are some of my quick tips for training outdoors in the winter:
- Run in the mornings or afternoons, if your schedule permits. At least it’s lighter than later in the afternoon or at night. I love night running in the summer when there are more people out and it’s cooler, but in the winter I’d rather get out in the sunlight and before I just want to get under the covers and watch TV at night!
- Layer, Layer, LAYER! Dress as if it is about 15-20 degrees warmer outdoors, as your body will heat up once you get moving. I typically wear a DriFit short-sleeve or tank top underneath a DriFit or thermal longsleeve. I love half-zip tops because you can zip up if it’s a bit chilly and then unzip as you warm up. DriFit helps keep you warm since it wicks away sweat. Avoid cotton which holds on to your sweat and may make you chilly.
- Reward yourself for getting out the door: Pick something to treat yourself to if it’s especially hard to get out the door. What’s waiting at home when you’re done, a warm shower, a latte, warm oatmeal for breakfast? Whatever you choose, make yourself earn it! I admit I often treat myself to 20 minute hot showers after especially chilly mornings.
- Set concrete goals: I am very goal-oriented. I map out weekly mileage goals to hit and constantly track how much remains as we go through the week in order to hit that number. That goal number is easier to work towards day by day rather than saying “I want to run a lot this week”. I also have a certain time goal I want to hit in my next race, not just “Oh I want to run fast..”. I know each day I get out is one step closer to that certain time. Each day I skip my run out of laziness is one step further from that goal. Sign up for a race, challenge yourself to a weekly or monthly mileage goal, etc. Identify a goal that you can work towards and you’ll be thankful for those chilly runs once you reach those goals!
- Plan around the weather forecast. Here’s the weather forecast for this week in NYC:Given this forecast, I will probably plan my day off for Tuesday since there it calls for freezing rain. May as well be outside on the nicer days, and choose those days to go a little longer, and keep it a bit shorter on the days that aren’t as favorable. Keep flexible, though, because we know the weathermen don’t always get it right
I guess at the end of the day, whatever works for you to get your miles in is better than nothing! I would just urge others to stop making excuses on how cold or dark it is in the winter and try to enjoy outdoor running– it’s really not that bad!
That said, I do have to make a disclaimer. I recently turned to the treadmill to start my tempo run training. It’s easier to control my pace, and I have only done a 4 and a 5 mile tempo so far since I am building up. I’ll definitely return back out to the roads for my tempos in a few weeks once I get a better gauge on what pace is best for me! I loved doing tempos on the Lower Loop in Central Park while training for the Marathon and need to revisit that soon.
Here’s how my last 2 weeks have played out in preparation for the NYC Half-Marathon March 20th. I track my weeks Sunday through Saturday, like a calendar. I also aim to run 6 days/week, with 1 rest day.
Week of 1/2: Reached goal of 40 miles
- Sun: 8 miles in late afternoon, started to drizzle towards end
- Mon: 6 miles in am, went to gym for lifting/core in pm
- Tues: 6 miles in am
- Wed: Treadmill 4 mi tempo +1 mi warmup/1mi cooldown. 6:58, 6:58, 6:44, 6:31. Afterwards, went to Hatha Yoga class.
- Thurs: Day off
- Fri: 6 mi in am
- Sat: 8 mi in afternoon
Week of 1/9: (Barely) surpassed goal of 40 miles for 40.5 total
- Sun: 10 miles, longest since Marathon to date
- Mon: 5 miles in am
- Tues: Treadmill 5 mi tempo + 1 mi warmup/1mi cooldown. 6:58, 6:58, 6:44, 6:44, 6:31. Afterwards, did lifting/core
- Wed: Day off Planned this just in case of snow.
- Thurs: 4.5 in am. Legs sore from tempo & think I’m getting sick…
- Fri: 8.25 in late am home in NJ– random day off work. Afterwards, did lifting/core.
- Sat: 5.25 in am
Do you like to run outdoors or inside better in the winter? What are your tips and tricks for making it easier to get outdoors when it’s cold?