Plan ahead

Winter brings with it shorter days, colder weather and poor running conditions. The most important tip is to plan your runs ahead of time. Check the weather, your running route and be aware of your start and planned end time of your run. Organize your running clothes so that you can easily grab an extra shirt or running tights without having to look around for them.

Have alternatives to running in the event that bad weather keeps you indoors. Even if you can't run, do something for exercise. Something is better than nothing.

Dress properly

The human body naturally protects its organs, which means when you body is cold all your heat is directed to your torso. This is why it is important to not only layer your clothing, but also protect your fingers during cold weather running by wearing gloves. Most sports and running shops have running gloves that aren’t too bulky, but keep your fingers warm. Another tip is to use hand warmers inside your gloves (those little self-heating packets).

Wear tighter fitting clothing closer to your body to help retain heat. There are many great clothing choices out there in the marketplace (possibly too many), but even a t-shirt or cold weather shirt followed by a long sleeve shirt, covered by a sweatshirt could be good enough depending on the cold. For extreme weather conditions, a jacket will be required.

Don’t forget to cover your head in extreme cold. Hat and earmuffs are the usual choices. Both will protect your ears, however hats will keep heat from escaping from the top of your head.

Lastly, be careful of wind and cold on your face. You may want to wear sunglasses to protect from wind (watering eyes) and if you have difficulty breathing due to the cold, you can purchase a neck gaiter, use a bandana or if you wear a turtleneck shirt, pull the neck above your mouth to help warm the air. If you have difficulty breathing in cold weather, it may be best to skip the run or run inside.

Seek alternative routes

Post-inclement weather can leave roads, sidewalks and running paths in icy or poor running conditions. That doesn’t mean you can’t run; you may just have to seek alternative routes.

If you use a watch that measures distance or is GPS enabled, you could just go out and run. The watch will measure your distance and let you know when you reach your running goals. For those without watches, go out and measure out a couple of smaller loops, closer to home. You may end up running shorter loops multiple times, instead of one larger distance run.

As far as determining whether or not road conditions are proper for running, that is up to you. Personally, I would rather run indoors than risk injury that could sideline me altogether. As much as I dislike the treadmill, it is better than a set of crutches.

Let people know you are out

During the winter months, the days are shorter and it gets darker much earlier. To be safe, let somebody know your running route and your planned time of returning. During your run, carry your cell phone, an identification card or a piece of paper with an emergency contact’s name and number.

Running with a partner is another great safety tip. Don’t have anyone at home to tell you are out for a run? Ask a friend if you could call them when you run with the planned time of finishing. Give them a call prior to the planned time you told them. If you do not call them, ask them to call you. You can even do this via text, instant messaging or by voice mail.

The most important tip is Safety before anything else. Even though you may want to get in that run, realize that if the roads are icy, temperatures are very cold and driving is difficult, it is always better to find an alternative or curl up in front of the fire for an extra day of rest.

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