Successful Winter Running

Tanya Boyer, publisher of Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon Magazine, shares tips for successful winter running.

We live in Utah. Winters include snow, slush, ice, wind, and brain-freezing temperatures; but only some of the time. While there will be days that are just too miserable for an outdoor run, don’t let the winter stop, or delay, your outside running and walking altogether.Wintertime is beautiful, charming, and one of the best seasons to be a runner; not to mention the adorable winter running outfits that are readily available. Here are five simple tips to help you enjoy winter running rather than cure it.

Set A Goal
To stay motivated through the winter, most runners have found that they need to actually sign up and pay the registration fees for a race, and mark that date in bold on their calendar. The race then becomes a real goal with a real completion date. Be sure to include scheduled workouts from your training plan on your calendar so they become as important as any other “to-do” item. Your official entrance to the race will motivate you to get out the door days you would have rather stayed in your cozy, warm home. Visit to see a complete list of races in Utah and the surrounding states.

Watch the Air Quality
For those of us that live along the Wasatch Front, the word “Inversion” is a regular part of our vocabulary. Inversions occur during winter months when cold air is trapped under warmer air. Pollutants – including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide – are also trapped. When the concentration of pollutants becomes high, a red-alert air advisory is issued.Watch Kevin Eubank and his weather team, or visit to check the air quality, and never run outside on a red-alert day. You may think the cardio benefits of a run are greater than the harmful effects of air pollution, but that isn’t the case. During exercise you breathe harder than normal, sucking the bad air deep into your lungs. The pollutants affect breathing and respiratory function, limit oxygen going to the body’s organs, and essentially poison your body. The results include asthma, coughing, scratchy throat, headache, watery eyes, chest pain and strained breathing. On red-alert air days, hit the gym, track, or do a workout at home.

Warm Up Before Going Out
The first five minutes after you step outside for a winter run/walk are the most painful. Your brain often remembers the five minutes of pain and forgets the free and invigorating feelings you enjoy while running outdoors. Warm up in your house and get the blood flowing by doing a few jumping jacks, jumping rope, running up and down the stairs, or even give the kitchen a quick scrub. When you head out for your run, you won’t feel the harsh “bite” of the cold.

Wear Appropriate Clothing
A key to enjoy winter running and exercise is to make sure you have the right clothing.The January 2010 issue of Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon had an article from the staff at Salt Lake Running Company. It explained to layer with the proper gear for outdoor conditions following the SupportVIP acronym:

   • Support – bra and underwear of a non-cotton material.
   • Ventilation – base layer made from technical fabric to wick       sweat, possibly with a zipper at the neck and mesh at the       underarm or side for ventilation. Some sports bras also       contain a mesh back for ventilation, which combines two       layers.
   • Insulation – Depending on the weather, you may or may not       need insulation, or an extra layer for warmth (ie. vest, another       shirt over the base layer).
   • Protection – Some days may require a light waterproof or       windproof shell to keep you warm and dry. If there are       chances of getting wet, or if there is a strong canyon wind,       you will want this protection layer. Jackets are available that       do not add much weight or bulk.

This rule also applies to your feet and hands – wool socks, gloves, and glove liners may be necessary.

Mix it up
Cross-training exercise – swimming, yoga, snowshoeing, biking, weight training – will give you variety and do much to keep you motivated to run. Often, these days become your workout “treat” days, and you’ll look forward to them with much anticipation. As an added bonus, cross-training will strengthen muscles not normally used in the run, but those which will ultimately make you a better runner.

Tanya Boyer is the publisher of Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon Magazine. Her main job, however, is that of mommy to three young children and wife to the most patient man in the world. Triathlon and running are her way of staying young and mobile.

Rocky Mountain Running & Triathlon Magazine is an information source for runners and triathletes in the Mountain States. The magazine is available for free pick-up at specialty running stores, bike shops, and fitness centers. To subscribe for home or office delivery, visit

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