If you're a runner and have ever debated about staying in (on the treadmill) or heading out (in the snow), what option would you choose?
I spent my first-ever winter as a runner paying homage to my treadmill. Heck, I seriously was so new to the running gig, I simply did not know any better.
Summer eventually returned, and I took most of my runs outdoors. Only, when winter came back that next year, I had changed as a runner. The comfort zone of the treadmill had morphed into a vortex of boredom for me. Having gotten used to rolling hills and varying terrain, my body no longer liked the repetitious belt and unchanging scenery of my treadmill's locale.
UGH. What's a runner to do?
I became a winter warrior and took most of my runs outdoors.
Consider the temps.
How cold is "too cold" will vary from one runner to another, so I don't believe there are any hard and fast rules on this. Even if the temp reads 35F (technically above freezing), if the wind is wicked strong, it's gonna feel a good 5-20 degrees colder. Likewise, 35F at the break of dawn will feel different than those same temps at high-noon on a sunny day.
Consider the terrain of your route.
A flat route may feel colder than one that is laden with rolling hills. The inclines not only will block some the wind (briefly, depending on which direction it's blowing), but your body will have to work harder as you climb those inclines, thus keeping your body temp elevated as a result.
If you're out, on an open road, you will have ZERO protection from the wind. Conversely, a route that keeps you on city streets, with some wind protection (via buildings or houses), might make the cold temps more bearable. Often times, I map out my route in accordance to the wind....I prefer a head wind, right outta the gate, which will yield a tail wind for the return trip back home.
Consider the length of your run.
A short run (2-3 miles, for example) may not be long enough to get you thoroughly warmed up, so you may need to wear an additional base layer. A longer run (4-7+ miles) may have you feeling overheated if you wear too many layers.
***arm warmers - my personal favorite. They can be (somewhat) easily removed if you start to feel too warm.
***a headband - it may be too cold to wear on its own, but layered under a hat will give you a little more warmth
***flannel-lined tights - these can be worn on their own, or as a base layer under a thinner pair of tights.
***a puffer vest - not necessarily a Marshmallow Man poofy endeavor, but anything with some extra filler. It will keep your core warm without the bulk of a full jacket.
Consider your safety.
If snow is a factor, step with caution. For me, this means more of a concerted effort to step "down" as opposed to stepping "out" with each foot strike. Ideally, a mid-foot strike will have a little more stability on a slick surface than a heel strike.
If it's really early in the morning (or very late at night), you may be able to run in the middle of the street (if -and only if- there's no immediate traffic). Usually, the middle of the street will have the most level grade. Also, it's less likely to have uneven ridges (hidden under the snow) as is common on a sidewalk.
With the limited daylight, be sure to have a light source. Whether it's a headlamp, flashlight, or other handheld device, it's important to see where you're going.
It never hurts to bring a friend. A lot of my early morning runs are with a friend. Often times, some of the daylight runs (on the weekends) are done that way as well. Not only is it fun to have someone to chat with, it's also great for assistance should either of you need it.
A few final thoughts:
As much as I prefer to be outside this time of year, this is a very personal choice and I respect not everyone will agree with me. It's no secret that I will choose a cold run outdoors over a sweaty session on my treadmill, but if there's ice or extreme (sub-ZERO feels-like temps at play), I either keep it inside or I skip the run altogether. Also, I have run in the early morning hours (in the dark) for several years, and I feel very safe in doing so in my area. That's also a very personal choice. Nobody needs to be a hero; if outdoor running, especially in the winter or in the dark, is not your thing, then don't do it.
So, I ask you again, are you an indoor hibernator or an opt-outside warrior? Any favorite tips for winter running? What's the coldest weather you've endured in your running shoes?