Saturday, January 26, 2013

Running lessons: Winter running is great - even on the coldest days in January!

It's been a pretty cold week in HRM.  For a few days, temperatures dipped to -25 degrees C with the wind chill. See the photo above? That smoke is the result of the air being so much colder than the water. The city looked pretty floating on the sea smoke but it was difficult to leave my hands uncovered long enough to take the picture.

Despite the cold temperatures, I ran outside a couple of times this week and genuinely enjoyed it. Would I rather it had been warmer?  Of course. But, since I always prefer to run outside rather than inside, I long ago learned to dress so that I can safely and comfortably run even when temperatures fall to the -30s (which they often did when I lived in Ottawa). The key is to dress in layers - including a windproof outer shell - and to keep exposed skin to a minimum. However cold it is, I find I generally warm up quickly and feel downright toasty after only a few kilometres.

Friends and family often ask whether it hurts my lungs when I run outside in winter. Nope. In my experience, breathing in cold air feels pretty much the same as breathing in warm air. I suppose it might be an issue if I was asthmatic but, fortunately, that's not the case.

The other thing they ask is whether it's difficult to run on ice and snow. Nope again. Typically, running shoes have deep treads that make running in fresh snow a breeze and grip quite well on ice too.  In fact (knock on wood), I've never fallen while winter running though I've face-planted a couple of times while running on dry pavement in summer. Go figure.

Whatever the risks or discomfort, winter running offers some tremendous benefits. Here are my top 10 favourite things about winter running:
  1. It gets me outside and moving at a time of year when I might otherwise be tempted to hibernate until spring. 
  2. I feel safer running after dark since I figure the bad guys are a bunch of wusses who stay indoors when it gets too cold.
  3. I don't have to run on a treadmill - which always makes me feel a little like a hamster in a cage.
  4. I love the sound of snow crunching underfoot and how clean and clear the air smells. 
  5. I enjoy the peace and quiet of running outside when other people opt to stay indoors, and experience my favourite running routes in whole new ways.
  6. Navigating around and over snowbanks and icy patches is a great core workout.
  7. It helps me feel mentally and physically tougher going into the spring racing season.
  8. It impresses the heck out of people when I tell them I ran 30+ kilometres in frigid temperatures. 
  9. I have freckles on my nose all year long!
  10. Nothing feels better than sinking into a hot bath, mug of caffe latte in hand, after a long, cold run.
All of which is to say, if you haven't tried winter running yet, do. I promise it will be worth it! It will give you a whole new appreciation of the season and the incredible things your body is capable of doing. 


  1. I love winter running, unless it's really really icy, especially the melt slightly and refreeze stuff. That's bad. I don't do the bath after though. All the rest of your points are good good good.

  2. You already know how I feel about running (any activity) ouside when it's cold and icy. That said - I am on my way out the door to run on the beach with Julie (figure there's going to be no slippery sections - and it's a short recovery run so I won't be exposed for too long). Brrrrrr!!!!!

  3. This is surely my favourite post of yours yet! Fergus' too! He wants to go winter running with you now!