Winter running is a whole other beast compared to running outside in other seasons. In my opinion, winter running is for the strong and truly dedicated. While I choose to take my running indoors during the winter, I can appreciate all that goes into running in cold weather. The air and the surface are different, and it may lead to more injuries if you are not following a set of guidelines. If you choose to brave the cold, here is a set of guidelines I give to my patients who are winter runners to prevent injury:
1) Layering and proper fabric with running clothes is first and foremost. Active.com recommends polypropelene fabrics when layering as opposed to cotton fabrics which do not wick away moisture. Make sure to be properly layered and keep from having too much skin exposed. Wearing a hat always helps me when I am playing tennis in the cold because it helps to trap the heat in.
2) Warming up is more important than ever. Pre and post running stretches are still imperative! The research is still out on which is better, but in my opinion, you should be stretching before and after a run. Of course, you do not want to stretch cold muscles, so make sure to do a short warm up like jumping jacks or jumping rope indoors before doing your pre running stretching. It is important to maintain flexibility to prevent injury
3) Diet and hydration are important. Make sure to eat a carb heavy diet the night before the race and avoid fried foods while training. Potassium rich foods such as bananas and leafy greens throughout training will help in preventing muscle cramps. Water intake is highly important during training and of course on race day. It is usually recommended that you intake 4 to 6 ounces of water for every 20-30 minutes of running. For longer runs, an electrolyte based drink is necessary to replace lost electrolytes.
4) If the road is slick or icy, I would work on the treadmill that day. While some websites say jogging in light snow is OK, it is hard to tell where there may be icy spots. Be safe and run indoors. If you slip and fall, you may be out of commission for a lot longer than you would like.
5) Safety first! Wear protective and reflective clothing. Know when the sun is going to set (since it is a lot earlier than we always think) and make sure to be prepared. Bring a cell phone in case of an emergency and limit usage of music when near major highways.
Enjoy the weather safely!