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10 Essential Winter Running Tips

The cold wet weather has arrived here in Vancouver, but that doesn't mean you need to hide out on a treadmill until spring. With the right preparation, you can actually enjoy a workout in the elements! 1. It's dark out there, dress to be seen. We all know that the frequency of accidents jumps horrifically during rainy, dark weather. During the daytime hours, aim for neon so bright that Richard Simons would blush. In the dark however, neon won't do you any favours. The more lights and reflective gear that your running partners can stand the better. Unfortunately, that single Scotchlite™ strip on your jacket you rely on doesn't cut it. Studies have shown that to be seen, you need multiple visibility points. A good call is having lights or reflective bands on your ankles and wrists, as well as a jacket with reflective strips and some small lights that can be seen on every side of your body. 2. Bring a phone with a good charge and some old fashioned money. My phone has helped me more times than I can count when I've gotten into trouble on a run. If you are worried about water damage, you shouldn't be, they make great water resistant belts now to keep them safe and dry. I always take money over a credit card as everybody accepts cash and it's easy to stick a $20 in the back of your running belt and forget about it. That's not so cool when it's your credit card. 3. Always tell someone where you are going and when you'll be back. I know, it sounds paranoid but trust me when I say it might be worth it some day. 4. Hydrate and fuel up on long runs. You are far more at risk for hypothermia if you are also dehydrated. You may not feel like drinking or eating, but your needs don't change all that much when winter rolls in. 5. Take smaller strides. If you don't, a surprise ice patch might get the better of you. If you do hit ice, continue with those short strides and get yourself to the grass, a pile of snow or another safe zone, without drastically changing your stride. And stay in an upright position centered over your feet... whatever you do, do not lean! 6. Wear the proper layers. Most often, that will be a long sleeve technical shirt that will wick moisture away and thus keep you warmer, and a water resistant jacket here in Vancouver. When the weather gets really cold, you'll want to add an insulating layer and when it gets really wet, swap out that water resistant layer for a waterproof yet breathable jacket. The golden rule is that you should be a little chilly but not cold when you start out (and stay warm up until you begin your run). 7. Consider switching out your shoes and socks. Sure, you can run all year in the same highly breathable shoes, but some of us get cold feet. You might consider a pair of gortex shoes or simply try switching to a sock that stands up to west coast winters. If you run a few times each week consider a second pair of shoes to alternate so you're always running in a dry pair. 8. Accessorize. Wear mitts and a hat. You've heard it, about 50% of heat is list through your head. Even if you don't wear the hat the entire workout, it makes for a very portable way to control your body temperature. Just make sure you opt for one made with a wicking fabric, since your head also sweats a lot! If you're male, they make special underwear that you're going to want. Basically, they are made with a wind panel to protect your manly bits. Nuff said, let's move on. 9. Assume that cars do not see you and run against traffic where possible. That way, you can see cars coming at you. And don't just go ripping across the road. Slow down, make eye contact and imagine that person is Keith Richards coming home from a bender. You should also make sure that no cars are turning right from the far lane behind you as this is often the scenario when runners get hit. Keep looking around as you cross so you can make use of that sprint speed if need be! 10. Run with friends. Not only will they keep you safer but far more motivated about getting out there and having fun in the dark, wet weather that is Vancouver in January. If you don't have running friends who are happy to drag you out into an icy monsoon with a smile, you can make some instantly at the Rackets and Runners Run Club.
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