Give yourself the gift of health and wellbeing and spend time outdoors this winter. Self-care should be a part of your everyday ethos. Running outside is a great way to sharpen your mental and physical fortitude, build grit, and upturn happiness.
You’ll Never Regret Time Spent Outside
Carving out time for yourself to exercise in the outdoors is something you’ll never regret. After a run or vigorous walk, you’ll unlikely to ever say, Wow, I wish I never did that. A Harvard study for environmental health perspectives determined that regular exposure to CO2 indoors (specifically in office buildings) is associated with negative consequences for cognitive function. Interpretation: Fresh air is good for your brain, as is any sunlight that you can soak up—especially in the winter months.
Strength will be your Ally
Building endurance, strength, and mental clarity is the modus operandi for winter running. The cold air will keep you sharp and afterward you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment. Gearing up to go outside when there’s snow on the ground takes mental courage and by doing the hard work, you’ll not only feel better in your own skin, but also, you’ll develop cerebral resiliency.
Running is a Mood Booster
Your body goes through quite a ride when out for a run. First, your breath will feel weighty and your pulse will quicken as oxygenated blood flows to your muscles and brain. Then, perhaps, you’ll feel endorphins being released for that “runner’s high” everyone is always talking about. Afterward, hopefully, you’ll feel relaxed and joyful. Exercise has the brilliant ability to produce an anti-depressive effect.
How to Get Started
To feel less stiff at the outset, warm up your muscles before heading outdoors. Generate heat by doing a round of jumping-jacks, burpees, lunges, and squats. Keep in mind that your pace and mileage likely won’t be the same during the winter as it is in the warmer months. Be kind to yourself and approach the activity with curiosity and a sense of adventure.
Dress for the Weather
In addition to a great pair of running tights, you may want to add a running skirt or extra pair of shorts. Make sure that you’re able to move in your layers unencumbered. And, if wind is something you’ll have to contend with, choose a jacket that is insulated in the front and breathable in the back. Jack Wolfskin, for example, has a hybrid design for their Tasman running jackets, with an elasticated back and sleeves in combo with a windproof front.
Have an Exit Strategy
Make sure you’ve tested your mettle on a shorter run outside before committing to a longer training run. It might be a good idea to do a loop rather than an out-and-back route—if it’s too cold, you can return to the warmth of home and if you’re burning up, you can shed layers. Also, have your cell phone handy so that, if all else fails, you can call for backup.
If you’re running when it’s dark out, as is often the case during the winter when there’s less natural light, than make sure you’re using reflective clothing or a head light. BioLite makes a bounce-free rechargeable headlamp with a moisture-wicking fabric. For added warmth, don a reflective beanie for your noggin.
Find an Accountability Buddy
Running with a buddy is a good idea not only for entertainment and accountability reasons, but also, for safety reasons. Find a friend that is willing to brace the weather with you and motivate you to spend more time outside, breathing fresh air and developing solid fitness habits. The support of a friend can help you meet your goals.
Protect Your Skin
You may have thought to wear long tights and warm under layers, but what about your ankles, neck, and face? Covering your exposed skin is important when the temperature dips below freezing. Wear knee-high compression socks like Swiftwick’s Aspire Twelve to protect your feet, ankles, and calves. Choose a face mask that is breathable, like Nathan’s Run Safe Face Mask.
Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Running in the winter might mean that you forgo visible sweating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get dehydrated. Nathan makes a handheld running flask as well as running vests that are compatible with water bladders. Be sure to drink fluids during your runs.
Shield Your Feet
Running shoes in the warmer weather months often have breathable uppers. In the winter, however, you’ll need a tougher shoe with better traction. Whether you’re on the road or muscling it on a trail, HOKA has got your back with their versatile hardwearing running (and hiking) shoes.
Keep Your Digits Toasty Warm
Wear gloves to keep your hands warm and in inclement weather, consider using disposable hand warmers. Running gloves, like reflective ones from Nathan, are a good choice.
Don’t Forget Recovery Time
After your run, you’ll want to recover indoors. Stretch, hydrate, and fuel your body. Don a pair of relaxed Oluna pants or Deckers x Lab recovery slides with ultra-soft memory foam. For something fun as well as useful, consider stretching and sweating in The Hot Yoga Dome—a portable, inflatable, pop-up yoga studio—for added relief.