My Helpful Tips for Winter Running

Now that winter is officially here and we are on our second big storm of the season (I think. I’m not really counting), I spend a lot of my time thinking about the weather. More specifically, I spend a lot of time trying to divine the state of the sidewalks.

You see, I like to run (if you haven’t gleaned that already from my many posts on the subject). Not only do I like to run, I need to run. It is essential for the health and well-being of my family relationships. So even if it is -15 out. Even if the snow is blowing and the roads haven’t been cleared, I usually make myself go out.

I also walk home from work. It is about an hour walk that takes me over Mount Royal (which, in all fairness should probably be called Hill Royal). So I do a lot of snow shlepping, which by the way is great exercise- although you are walking the same distance as usual, it is seems like twice as long- there is a lot of slipping.

Here are a few rules of the road (ha!) when running or walking:

1. Don’t let the weather report scare you. Always look at the weather site before leaving the house, but don’t let it scare you into skipping your run or walk. Many times I have not gone running because the radio announces a windchill worthy of Hoth. Then I go outside and it is totally fine.

2. Test it out before you chicken out. This is a continuation of rule #1-the only weather I don’t go running in is freezing rain and when it is below -20 without the windchill (I am wimpy that way). However, sometimes it isn’t as bad as you think. Take today for instance- it was ice pelleting outside (I am not sure what the right verb is for that) but the sidewalks were very runnable. In fact, I had such a good run I extended it for longer. So go outside and test the state of the sidewalk, fully prepared to go back inside and find an alternative exercise session.

3. Cramp on/cramp off, it’s the crampon! Yeah. I don’t wear them. Some do, but I find them annoying. The first half of my run is on bare sidewalk, making the crampon not only useless but kind of painful. Besides I can’t get the damn things to stay on.

4. Plug out. Sometimes I like to listen to audiobooks when I run, especially if I am having trouble motivating myself to get out of the house. However, I tend to not wear them when I am running at six in the morning after a big snow fall. The snow removal people are out in force and they are usually at the tail end of a 12 hour shift. They are not stopping. It behooves me to get the hell out of the way before they run me over. Now, as you all know, snow has the effect of muffling the sound of vehicles. So you’ve gots to stay alert lest you want to be road pancake.

5. Be ready to jump. This is a corollary to #4. In winter, the roads shrink. Which means that sometimes what used to be the side of the road is now the middle and there is not enough room for the snow, you and the car careening toward you. Be ready to jump into the snowbank. I like to pretend I am an MI6 agent during the cold war (cold war- ha!) sneaking into enemy territory. Duck and cover- zee Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! And then dive for that snowbank like it’s the only thing between you and a kalashnikov.

6. Appropriate apparel.  If it is below -15, I like to wear my balaclava (Not Balaklava- apparently that is a town in the Ukraine and would be too heavy for running gear). It is black and sleek and makes me look like a running ninja (see #4 for spy/ninja avoidance techniques). It also keeps the nasty wind off my ears and my chin from freezing off. However, it is ordinarily too hot so I usually wear a fleece neck warmer and a fleece tuque that I can pull down over my eyes when the snow is blowing into my eyeballs (which hurst like the bejeezus. Just sayin’.) I have thought about wearing goggles but a- I don’t have a pair and B- I run when it is dark and I don’t think googles would help my visibility (unless they were of the infrared variety) and c-I don’t want to.  I wear my regular runners and my regular socks and last year I treated myself to an actual pair of winter running pants which I love. Otherwise just stick a pair of long johns under your jogging pants and you are good to go.

Thus concludes my HELPFUL TIPS FOR WINTER RUNNING. May you go forth bundled and ready to trip and stumble and shuffle your way to health.


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