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Safety Tips for Outdoor Winter Running

For running outdoors during winter, the best and safest schedule is to start your route just before sunrise. Dress warmly, wear a cap with ear covers and put on gloves. After a few limbering up exercises, start on your route at sun-up. If you’ll be running on city streets or roads, the early sun and your long shadows will help make you more visible to drivers.

At all times, especially when visibility is limited, wear bright exercise clothing, and as extra precaution, wear reflective spots or stripes on your cap and/or on the back your jacket. Some runners feel extra safe when they wear shoes with blinking lights on the rear to alert drivers.

If you’ll be running following a heavy winter snowfall, be aware of drifting snowbanks or those created by shovelers, snowblowers and trucks. Be alert to traffic, especially if the roads are still covered with snow or ice. Drivers have considerably less control under those conditions, and you should stay far away from potential traffic problems caused by bad roads and poor winter visibility.

In addition to warm clothing, hat and gloves, wear running shoes specifically designed for winter snow and ice. They should have thick rubber soles, preferably also with rubber cleats. If you’ll be running on icy surfaces, such as frozen roads, sidewalks, lakes or ponds, athletic shoes with sharp metal spikes may give you the safest grip and balance.

Proper rest is essential for winter runners. Choose a safe, warm place along your route to take time out from your running routine. Consider the hallway of a store, church or apartment house, an outside phone booth or any other place that offers temporary shelter from the winter weather.

If you’re in top physical condition, and the temperature is above freezing, you can usually run consecutively for 30 minutes before resting. If the temperature is very low and breathing difficult, rest more frequently. For older and overweight runners, you should rest at least every 15 minutes, and not overdo your running time outside in very cold winter weather.

In case of emergency or necessity to make calls, runners should take along well-charged cell phones at all times. If the devices also provide earphones, internet music and radio reception, or separate radio/cassette/CD units, that could help pass the time during the run.

Those winter runners who’ll be away from home for more than 30 minutes should also take small, insulated thermos containers with a pint of hot cocoa, tea or coffee. Small snack packs, such as raisins, trail mix and raw fruit may also make the winter run and moments of rest more comfortable.

Outdoor running in winter is a very healthy and invigorating exercise. Watching the winter sun come up, and with proper clothing, preparation and sensible precautions, it can actually be great fun.