Outdoor running during the cold winter months presents many challenges, but it does not have to mean that one must take running indoors. The benefits of outdoor running are numerous even in the cold, dark, icy winter months. Just make sure you heed the following safety tips to ensure a safe and healthy run.
The first and most important tip is to always carry a cell phone and have a piece of paper with your name, telephone number of emergency contacts and a list of any medications, allergies or medical issues you may have. This rule should be followed any time of the year when running or doing any outdoor exercise.
Dress appropriately, making sure you run in bright colors especially in the snow and always dress in layers. This can not be stressed enough. Wear warm synthetic running pants and extra thick running socks. Make sure your running shoes have excellent traction for those slippery sidewalks and hills. For your body, a long sleeve synthetic undershirt, which will take away the sweat and keep you dry. An insulated goretex running jacket, which will protect against the cold wind and sweat. If it is really cold, wear a polar fleece under the goretex jacket. Do not overdress as your body will warm up after about a mile or so. Gloves or mittens are a must, preferably running gloves that are insulated. And please wear a warm beanie hat, since 40% of heat loss comes primarily through the head. On those really frigid days, wear a scarf to cover your mouth and nose to warm up the air you breathe in.
Take extra care to warm up before a winter run particularly on cold days as muscle and tendon injuries can occur more frequently in the cold.
Stay hydrated since the cold dry air can increase the chances of dehydration. Make sure you drink a sports drink one hour before you run and water after yoru run.
Always change out of your wet clothes when you have completed your run and are indoors as you do not want to get a chill or hyperthermia.
Good running shoes with great traction is a must and if there is ice or slushy snow, take it indoors. Do not forget your sunglases on those bright sunny days, the glare from the sun and snow can be blinding.
And please take it indoors if the wind chill is minus 15 or the frigid and remember do not run in the cold if you have asthma or a heart condition as the cold dry air will just exacerbate these conditions.