With cooler temps, mountain snowfall and wintry weather back in force, many new trail runners are wondering if and how they can continue enjoying the trails throughout the season. Well, I am here to tell you that now is not the time to resign to the boring old “dreadmill”.
Trail running during the winter is possible and in fact, can be quite the adventure.
Here are some basic tips to make winter running a little more bearable:
1. Stay warm:
To prepare myself for the cold, I will layer up and then do my full functional warm-up (about 10 minutes) inside before I head out to run.
This does two things:
1. Increases blood flow and helps to prime my muscles to run more efficiently.
2. By the end of the warm-up I am able to shred a layer or two. Many people wear overdress when running in cooler temperatures, not considering how much they will warm up from the extra exertion of running in the snow. Sweating profusely early in the run defeats the purpose of layers when it drenches the clothing which can then freeze later on.
* Side-note: In the situation of a winter trail run, I do actually recommend using a pack and bringing more layers then you think you need. Conditions at the trailhead can be completely different from your local weather at home and the last thing you want is to twist an ankle or worse on the trail and freeze in the woods.
——> View our winter clothing and packing checklist HERE.
2. Be like a car:
I like to use a car as an analogy for the body when talking about running mechanics. This is especially fitting when talking about winter running.
– Make sure you have snow tires and maybe even 4 wheel drive (shoes with aggressive tread or wear/carry traction*).
– Don’t make any sudden changes in speed or direction while on ice. Slow down before you reach slick sections of the road or trail.
– Keep your momentum moving forward and your body perpendicular to the slope. Focus on short, quick steps and being light on your feet so you are hitting the ground with less force and less surface area to slide.
*Depending on what type of terrain you will be running on here are some ideas for types of footwear traction you should consider:
– Tread: Look for shoes that have large, widely spaced lugs and sticky rubber. Here’s a great article with info on how to choose a proper winter shoe and a variety of brand options to choose from.
– Nanospikes: Are best for road runs or trails with packed snow/ice. We love the Katoohla Nanospikes and especially the Korkers Ice runner as they use the Boa system device to completely envelop the foot to where you can tighten it for a perfect fit without pressure points.
– Microspikes: Katoohla Microspikes have larger spikes which will dig into and better grip on the trails with thick/chunky snow/ice
3. Make it fun:
If it is really cold (I’m talking in single digits) or we’ve experienced a recent snowstorm, I like to consider my outing an “adventure” vs a run. I will put on my snow pants, high boots, buff, ski gloves and head out to accomplish whatever I can. If I am feeling especially playful I will bring along one of those flimsy, roll up sleds and whenever I see a hill will run up and then sled down it. Several friends and I coined the term for this new “sport” several years ago slunning. It’s actually a great workout (think hill repeats in the snow) and a ton of fun!
4. Know before you go!
Wintertime in Colorado can be finicky. We can have weeks of mild, warm weather followed by sudden cold spells and deep snowfall. This is the perfect recipe to create muddy, sloshy trails and as good stewards and advocates for trail sustainability we like to avoid treading on the trails during these times. Make sure to vet conditions before heading out by checking your local open space and park websites for trail closure notices and there are a variety of facebook groups here locally (and probably where you live too) where you can find out or ask about trail conditions.