Cool runnings: Winter running Q&A


Conquer the cold front with these winter running tips. (Stock Photo)

For most people, winter running involves their noses and colds. But for a select group of die-hard dashers, winter running is necessary to stay on track for a PR and to get their endorphin fix. We enlisted two local running experts — Janae Jacobs from Hungry Runner Girl and Amy Vellinga, from She Runs — to share their tips on frosty footwork.

When winter hits, do you run outside or take to the treadmill?

Janae: A little bit of both!  If I have a group of friends to go with then I am motivated to run outside when it is cold. But when I am on my own, I choose the treadmill most of the time.

Amy: Living in Utah County, I do both. As much as I dread a long run on the treadmill, I don’t like getting sick either. I set a limit of 30-degree weather. If it’s below that, I take it indoors. I used to run outside no matter what. Then one winter I came down with pneumonia and almost lost my life! This made me realize that living is probably more important that keeping every run outside.

Are there any benefits to running outside when it’s cold? What do you like about it?

Janae: There is something great about the cold air that wakes you up and makes you feel alive when you are running during the winter months. I feel hard core and strong when I finish up a good run in the snow and freezing temps. The winter also provides amazing scenery, which keeps me entertained while I run. I am too afraid of falling on the ice to attempt speed work outside during the winter though. The treadmill is a great way to keep you running fast without risking injuries from falling.

How do you make the treadmill bearable?

Amy: Friends! If I am putting in more than six miles on a treadmill, I ask around and see if anyone can join me. If you can get caught up in conversation, those miles don’t seem nearly as long. And as dumb as this sounds, it’s hard for me to see how slowly miles can add up on the treadmill. My solution is to cover the mileage with a jacket and focus in on a good TV show or some tunes.

Where do you run outdoors in the winter around Utah County? 

Janae: This winter I will be using the Murdock Canal Trail.  I’ve heard they are even going to snow plow it during the winter. It is a great paved trail that goes for miles and miles throughout Utah County and you rarely have to stop to cross the street.

How many layers do you wear when running outside in the winter?  

Janae: It definitely depends on the temperature, but I usually wear a base layer and a nice jacket. Winter running gear can be expensive, but it is so worth it  to get a great pair of running tights, an awesome base layer and a running coat that keeps you warm.

Amy: This totally depends how cold it is. But usually running tights, a long sleeve shirt, jacket, gloves and hat will do.

Do you need to warm up longer than usual in the winter?

Janae: Yes! My warm-ups usually consist of slow running, and in the winter it can take two to three miles to feel like I am ready to hit my normal pace. You can try to do things like jumping jacks, jogging around your kitchen table and mountain climbers in your house to get your blood flowing so you are ready to go out into the winter wonderland.

Is it true that you can lose up to 40 percent of your body’s heat through your head?

Janae: I feel like I lose 70 percent of my body’s heat through my ears! I’m kidding — kind of. I need a great headband to cover my ears while I run because when my ears get cold it is hard for me to enjoy my run.

What are a few of your top winter running tips?

Janae: Switch up the time of day that you run. In the summer we get used to running early in the morning and later in the day to avoid the heat,  but in the winter you may need to run later in the morning or in the middle of the day to get some of the sun’s warmth. Use indoor tracks for speed work. BYU has a great one! And finally, let the treadmill be your best friend when the conditions are really bad.

Amy: My tip would be that in the slump of winter, just remember that the “runners high” you get will still come — even through treadmill running. And don’t give up! Keep the mileage and push through winter. Then when it warms up, you’ll be even stronger for the running season.


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