Winter Training Tips

By Team RunRun Coach Keith Laverty

I’m right there with you… Getting out the door on a dark, COLD, and rainy, winter morning or evening gives you the shivers literally and metaphorically speaking. Hitting the snooze button a couple more times feels more tempting than ever. But with that said, here are several tips and tricks that will help insulate you from the winter blues!

  • Sign up for a race in the winter or late winter/early spring. This simple step is one of the best ways to help stay consistent in the winter. With a race on the horizon, this can begin to light a fire in your day-to-day training! Lots of events begin to open up in the month of March in the Pacific Northwest including TRR Racing Partner, Rock Candy Running’s  Little Backyard Adventure 12- and 6-hour
  • Ease into each run and allow more time for warming up. This includes easy runs but also erring toward a longer warm-up for those harder, quality days too! I tend to recommend a minimum of 15 minutes to my athletes but upwards of 20-25 minutes on the coldest of winter days! Not only will this reduce a risk for injury, this will also help increase range of motion and an increase in force capacity of a muscle. 
  • Adjust effort and pace expectations. We run slower in the cold! Take a look at the chart below. It’s crystal clear that colder temperatures have a direct impact on the ability to run faster! Lactate production can increase in chilly temps, not to mention the added weight of more clothing/layers, affecting running economy. So my big takeaway? Go easy on yourself and adjust your expectations before the run!

A temperature/pace guideline chart: Note the expected slower paces associated with the cold!

  • Bundle up! Layer up! Having the appropriate gear can set you up well to handle most winter runs safely and comfortably. More specifically, consider each of the following:
    • Top Layers: I think two layers could suffice in many situations for running in the cold but three layers is probably best  in harsher conditions! It can also depend if you tend to “run hot” or not; and your sweat rates. But either a short or long-sleeve tech shirt for base layer, then your windproof light jacket or rain jacket. Long-sleeve base layer w/ a vest can be a great option too!
    • Comfortable beanie to cover the ears. 
    • One general rule of thumb that I like to use for wearing long tights/pants or not is if the temperature is roughly 47-48 degrees or below, then I’ll wear long tights to cover the knee joint and keep that area warm. The one exception could be if it’s about 50 degrees but with a heavy downpour and/or windy/stormy! Again: Risk of injury reduction and comfort!
    • Socks: I have to recommend merino wool!
    • Shoes: There are lots of GTX models out there but. I tend to think it’s generally a  little overkill and usually a heavier shoe; not as breathable. However, if you have a winter adventure that involves multiple hours in the rain/mud/snow or more extreme environmental conditions; then a GTX shoe would be useful!
    • Gloves or mittens! However, mittens over gloves if you have any sort of Raynaud’s or extremities turning cold very quickly. Otherwise, a glove or mitten is a must to help regulate core body temp too.
  • Incorporate more cross-training and indoor training: Winter can be a prime opportunity to mix in more cross-training that’s only going to pad on more aerobic volume! And quite often, with less impact on the body, including cycling or skiing. 
  • Embrace the treadmill: In even more unsafe conditions outside, I recommend you queue up your favorite podcast or Spotify playlist, and let the minutes click away on the treadmill. Better yet, cover up any of the metrics on the treadmill such as the distance. Is it just me or do others find the mileage ticking up by only 0.01 too much of a distraction!
  • Motivation: Remember that mood (and motivation) follows action. Let the action of running and staying moving be motivating in itself! 

See you on the trails!

Photo: James Holk

Keith Laverty is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with him, check out his coach profile.