How do you survive a winter prairie run?

We all know that winters in the prairies can be challenging, never mind trying to stay active under less than favourable conditions. There is a myriad of advice out there, so we have narrowed it down to what we feel are the five most important things to remember to get you through the snow and into a strong spring training season.

  1. Remember that winter running is about maintenance, not PRs. This is what you need to remember above everything else. Keep the mileage up, but don’t pay attention to your splits. Slippery trails, quicksand-like snow, reduced visibility will all equal a slower pace, and that is totally okay. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and save the speed work for the treadmill.
  2. Invest in proper winter gear and layer up. Since your body heats up as you start to run, dress for a temperature that is 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it is outside. You should feel cool when you start (cool, not freezing cold) knowing that once you start moving you will heat up fast. If there were two items I would recommend to new winter runners in Manitoba they would be a traction device of some kind for your shoes (check out this article from Runners World, but keep in mind it is a bit older and prices are in US$, but it gives you a sense of what your options are) and a breathable balaclava or buff. And remember to wear your hydration belt under your jacket to keep your water bottles from freezing.
  3. Drag a friend along with you. As I often recommend, make a running date or join a running group with a buddy to keep you accountable. It’s always easier to get motivated if you know someone is out in the cold waiting for you. Grab a coffee with your buddy and get changed out of your sweaty gear as soon as possible once you are done to avoid being cold post run. Take your time to stretch it out before and after your run: it will start your body warm before leaving the house and end your workout by relieving tight muscles due to shortened winter strides.
  4. Choose your path wisely. Watch your preferred paths in advance of your runs to see whether they are clear, icy or snowy so that you can be prepared. Winnipeg has a number of trails (click here to see a full list of what is available all over the city) that are well maintained and make for great runs. If you live in a neighbourhood that has good a good pedestrian conscience, running on the roads can be an option as well. Just don’t forget to be seen: with less light in winter days, make sure you wear your best reflective gear and consider adding a running light to your ensemble.
  5. Don’t be a hero. If it is -40⁰C with a killer wind, or if it has warmed and froze leaving sidewalks looking like skating rinks, take it inside. The treadmill may feel like an exercise in soul murdering monotony to those who prefer the freedom of the great outdoors, but sometimes they are a necessary evil. Or find another way to get your cardio in that day, like an indoor cycle class.