Living in the Northeast, I spend half of my year training in the cold weather. Most of the running events held near me are held in the spring or fall with the longest distance race being held the weekend before Thanksgiving (Philadelphia Marathon). If I were to only participate in these local races then I could avoid training in the winter all together. Of course, the main reason I started training for long distance running and walking was to find more excuses to travel to Disney World. And two of Disney’s main events are right in the middle of the coldest months for those of us in the northern half of the country. That left me with no choice but to spend some time training in the winter.
For winter training, you really have three options:
1) Run indoors on a treadmill,
2) Run on an indoor track, or
3) Run outside
I am thankful that I have all three options available to me. At my gym, not only do I have treadmills, but there is also an indoor track. The track is about 16 laps to a mile though. It can get pretty repetitive and boring when you get into the longer runs that are required. Try going around the track 100 times or more.
Treadmills have their own pros and cons too. I’m not a huge fan of treadmills myself. I personally don’t like the feeling of your feet being pulled behind you instead of your feet pushing you ahead. I also like the feel of the wind blowing through my hair as I move forward (however slight it might be). Thankfully, some of the treadmills at my gym have fans installed in them and they give you that feeling. One of the benefits to using a treadmill is being able to have an idea of your speed and distance for your workout. Some fellow Disney runners have said that training on a treadmill allows them to have a consistent pace when they actually run in their races too. My favorite reason to use a treadmill is being able to watch TV or movies while I work out. Enchanted is my favorite movie to watch while working out!
Of course, I do prefer to train outside whenever possible. I love the fresh air and being able to look at the nature around me. There are some tips that you need to be aware of before you run outside though.
1) Dress in layers
I’m not kidding here. I’ve worn as many as 5 layers when I train in the winter. I start with a comfortable sports bra, followed by a compression mock turtle neck, a running jacket, a fleece long sleeved pull over and a fleece vest. During the 2010 WDW marathon, a friend of mine removed more layers along the course than most of the other runners had on at the start of the race (and she still finished with a few layers on)!
2) Cover your hands, feet and head
Yes, I really said feet. You may want to consider wearing warmer socks. Your local running store will carry socks that are designed for keeping your feet warm while still keeping them dry. Invest in a pair of running gloves too. I haven’t invested in these yet. I still wear cheap fleece gloves from Walmart. I usually only wear them until my hands get warm and then take them off and stick them in my pockets. I’m also not a big fan of wearing hats. I only wear them when it is really cold. I prefer to wear a winter headband to keep my ears covered.
3) Avoid overdressing
The rule of thumb is to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer outside than it actually is. This way, once you get outside and start moving you don’t get overheated.
4) Don’t forget your eyes
If the ground is still covered with snow, you may have to deal with a strong glare from the sun. Make sure to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes!
5) Don’t stay in wet clothes
Make sure to get out of your sweaty clothes as soon as you get inside. After completing the 2010 WDW half marathon, I had to wait in line for at least 30 minutes before I was able to board a bus back to my resort. My friend who was waiting with me had lips that were turning blue. As soon as I got back to my room I took off all my wet running gear and wrapped myself up in a dry towel. Once I could feel my fingers again, I was able to hop in the shower, but it was at least an hour after the race before I started feeling warm again.
6) Don’t forget to stay hydrated!
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need hydration. Every time you exhale you are losing some fluids. And every though it is cold, you will still sweat under those layers. Make sure to keep some water with you and keep sipping on it just like you would during a summer run.