With winter temperatures officially upon us, it’s important to take all the necessary steps to ensure your outdoor workout isn’t doing more harm than good. We talked with a few local running coaches for tips to running in the frigid weather.
Wear the right ensemble
The base to any winter workout is clothing. Most runners know that layering is important, but it is possible to overdo it. According to George Buckheit of Capital Area Runners, “The best approach is to accept the fact that you’re going to be cold for the first five to ten minutes of your run and to make sure you’re wearing enough layers to keep you warm mid-run, but not so many that you’re drowning in sweat.” Most technical running gear proves to be the perfect option as it is designed to wick away sweat and keep you warm without being bulky.
Terry Weir, head cross-country and track coach at George Washington University, says long sleeves, a jacket, and leggings may be obvious, but it’s just as important to cover your feet with the right gear. “Compression socks are big these days and are great for the winter,” he says. American University’s head track and cross country coach, Matt Centrowitz, suggests mittens rather than gloves, as they allow your fingers to stay warmer.
Rethink your warmup
When approaching a new routine for the winter, the biggest change to keep in mind is the warmup. Spending a few extra minutes on it will help prepare your muscles for the cold and get your respiratory system acclimated to the cold air. Weir suggests a routine that keeps you constantly moving: “You don’t want to stretch cold muscles and should keep moving the whole time. Try faster repeats just to get warmed up.” If you prefer to warm up indoors, jumping jacks or a jump-rope routine can also help prepare your muscles before heading out.
Plan your route
Thankfully, the District doesn’t get hit too hard with frigid sub-zero temperatures—but the wind can still make running outside uncomfortable. Centrowitz suggests never starting with the wind at your back on an out-and-back run. Instead, go into the wind to start so that it’s at your back on the return, when you’re more fatigued.
When it comes to top routes, every coach we asked suggested running along the covered portion of K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway. There will never be snow, and the length makes for good speed workouts. Rock Creek Park is another top spot. “Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park is closed to traffic on the weekends, and the roadway is very well-maintained and kept clear of snow and ice, so it’s a good go-to location for weekend runs in the winter,” says Buckheit. The trees also serve as a good barrier to the wind. Weir suggests trying out West Potomac Park and Hains Point; he says it’s usually one of the first areas to get plowed and doesn’t have much traffic.
Bring a friend
Staying motivated is one of the toughest obstacles when confronting winter running. Grab a workout buddy who can help keep you accountable for a regular schedule (and vice versa).