Running through winter’s chill

WinterRunning - Kelsey BodeWhen I go home for break and run, I often think that the streetlights of my tiny, Massachusetts hometown feel like Christmas lights under the hush of fresh, clean snow. There’s something about feeling the cold press in on your body and watching your breath dissipate into the air that charges your adrenaline. It reminds me of the feeling after a long day of sledding with my little brother.

I rarely run outside anymore. It’s hard to find the motivation amidst a busy schedule. There are excuses year-round, but running in the winter can be particularly daunting because of the weather.    Even without much snow this year, the ice and cold still make winter running a challenge. People, including myself, are reluctant to tackle winter on-foot.

So I created some guidelines to help us all get out, get motivated, and run safely.


Put Some (Bright) Clothes On

“You can dress to run in almost anything, you just have to get out and do it. The thought is worse than the actual run,” said Molly Peters, head coach of both the St. Michael’s College women’s cross country and nordic skiing teams.


What You’ll Need:

  • Running tights/leggings
  • A base layer long sleeve
  • A top layer
  • A jacket/vest
  • Mittens/gloves
  • A runner’s scarf

Keeping your limbs warm helps keep muscles loose and prevent injury. “If you keep your muscles warmer they’re going to respond better.”said Tyler Colbert, ’17,  a member of the men’s cross country team.

Make sure your layers will also help you stand out to traffic-this can be done by wearing bright/neon colors, wearing reflective gear, or even adorning neon LED lights.

Keeping your head and feet protected is important too.

  • A hat/headband and footwear

Joe Connelly, the technical director for Run Vermont and coach of the St. Michael’s college men’s cross country team, likes Earbags, bandless ear muffs that go over your ears. He keeps a pair with his winter running gear for windy days.

Connelly recommends socks that cover your ankles. “Higher socks avoid a bare skin line between your tights/pants and socks,” said Connelly, “I like Darn Tough as well as Wright Sock.”

Chris Jones, Saint Michael’s athletic trainer, recommends avoiding cotton in winter. “Cotton will absorb moisture and hold it close to your skin. That’s pulling heat out of your body instead of holding it in. Any wool or synthetic wool blend socks help to pull moisture away and keep it warm.

“Most running shoe companies make water resistant shoes, for example, the Brooks Adrenaline ASR. Some people use special shoes,” said Connelly, “Icebug,  for example, have spikes on them. .”


Warm Up and Cool Down

Try warming up and cooling down inside to stretch your muscles in a warmer environment. A proper warm up can help prevent injury.

“Focus on the total package. You can’t skip stretching your quads and hamstrings,” Jones said. “Pay attention to your calves. Hip-flexor stretches, glutes or groin stretches are important too. As for a warm up or a cool down, the best thing is to go for a light jog, then stretch, or even better do a dynamic warm up. Stretching through movement– karaokes, side-shuffles, things like that. You don’t want to over stretch anything, just enough to put a little tension on the muscle.”


Plan Out Where and When

Back roads, dirt roads that are not too icy, and well-plowed (and salted) sidewalks are your best options.

“You have to choose smart routes if the sidewalks are really bad,” said Connelly, “North campus roads and the city Winooski roads are usually a good option.”

Time your run carefully. Running around midday can make a difference of several degrees.


Avoid and Take Care of Injury

  • Cold-Induced Injuries (Frostbite, Trench Foot, Hypothermia)

“Aside from slips and falls because of ice or snow, you start running the risk of cold-induced injuries.,”said Jones. “You can get frostbite or trench foot.” According to Jones, the NCAA and the National Athletic Trainer’s Association recommend that if the temperature is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit college sportss are moved inside or cancelled.

Assessing the weather is essential in determining when it is and isn’t safe to go out. Pay attention to conditions like wind chill.  Cover up and wear layers to protect yourself, recommends Jones. Frostbite occurs much faster on exposed skin.

Watch out for numbness and tingling in extremities, shivering uncontrollably, forgetfulness, and stumbling with words- signs of hypothermia, Jones said.

“Check for white patches on the face if you’re concerned about frostbite,” Jones said.

For preventing trench foot, an injury that occurs when feet are exposed to cold and wet, Jones says using “baby powder, inside socks or shoes will help keep your feet dry.”

  • Joint pain

“My knees and back act up when it gets colder,” said Katrina Weisner, ’17, member of the Saint Michael’s College Women’s Cross-Country team.

Weisner wears orthodox and cushiony shoes to help combat joint pain.

  • Shin Splints

Snow throws a wrench in trail running, but pavement can cause shin splints– which are technically a muscle micro-tearing from the bone said Jones, “Generally shin splints are a tension or sharp pain that you feel on your lower leg when running, or decelerating, or any activity with pounding on pavement,” said Jones, “The best thing you can do is work out the surrounding musculature to help support that area so that it can heal.”

“The biggest thing relative to shin splints is tracking your footwear and knowing your body and how it adapts to the changes in conditions,” said Jones,     “Make sure that the life of your shoe is still within proper range.”

What if you do get shin splints?

“Ice the injured location for 20 minutes or so,” said Jones, “There are exercises to reduce or stop the activity until it starts to go away and then slowly build your mileage and time back up.”


Between these tips and the lack of snow this season, I find myself getting out there more, and hopefully you will too.
Ready? Set? Go.