It's January and winter is definitely here. If you're a committed runner, nothing will daunt you, but you do want to be intelligently prepared for the rigors of the road. Ice, slush, and wind can be a true test to your form, and without a daily fitness practice, including a warmup that focuses on alignment and core strength, you may come up against some unwanted challenges.
Many of you who run like to go out first thing in the morning. If it's before work, you may be in a rush to get out there and so decide to forgo stretching. Not a good idea, especially in cold weather! If you want to get the most out of your training, take the time to concentrate on stretching ham strings, the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, ankles and feet, along with the neck and spine, and especially the lower back. Impact from running on a hard surface will always test your durability, and in winter with changeable elements, you can be prone to injury if not thoroughly warmed up before you go out.
A winter run should be about maintaining your form rather than working for speed, which will keep you from taking unnecessary risks on slippery ground. Find a fitness technique like Body Activation that includes exercises that help runners strengthen and maintain the body for endurance and distance. Aligning the feet, shins, and pelvis to avoid injury in the hip and IT band area; creating flexibility in the back to allow for impact; strengthening the abs to fortify the spine; and focusing on core muscles are just some of the ways a good technique will work for runners. By maintaining consistency in your workout habits, running in any weather will become a joy and a breeze.
Making sure you have the right running gear for winter is also essential. Make sure your shoes have Gore-Tex uppers instead of mesh, and that you are wearing socks that keep your feet dry and warm. Use a jacket that has zippers in the underarm and neck area to open as you heat up during your run. If you prefer wearing a vest, make sure it is well insulated. For very cold and windy conditions, use a cold weather jacket or a fleece top and wind pants. And of course, wear mittens or insulated gloves, a skarf, and sunglasses to protect your eyes. If you're running in the dark, light yourself up with reflective wear for safety.
A winter wind can be deceptive. You'll feel it as you start, but later in your run you may become indifferent to its power. Try to run with the wind at your back to keep yourself from becoming chilled. And of course, at the end of your run, take the time to do a few stretches to cool down.
Once you're home, change into warm clothing immediately, have a cup of hot tea, and enjoy the triumph of your body over the elements!