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Winterize your running routine

By Tori Taylor, November 23 2018 —

As beautiful as the snow may be, it signifies the start of something truly awful for some of us.  Runners will understand this dreary shift as we move from fresh air and mountain scenery to the smell of sweaty gym gear and a row of TVs somehow always displaying golf, poker or baseball. After a beautiful season with the wind on our faces and beautiful paths, it’s hard to adjust to the idea of a stationary indoor hamster wheel.

In the spirit of holiday merriment, here are a few tips to winterize your outdoor running routine. Hold back the “ba-humbugs” and with scarf-muffled voices, join me in a rousing cry of “cardio-ho-ho!”


When it comes to finding the motivation to run in the cold, Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle said it best — “Treat Yo’ Self.”  Tap into your inner Parks and Rec diva with an end-result reward. Layer up, hit the cold concrete and finish your run at your favourite café. Park your car outside Higher Ground in Kensington, secure your headband and ear buds, focus on the sun smiling through the frosty air and go create your own heat from inside out. If you’re on campus, map out a residential route around the university and end your run at ICT for a well-deserved frothy latté from Good Earth. Trust me — the reward mentality works.

Dress appropriately:

When it comes to outdoor exercising, most athletes live by the mantra, “Be bold, start cold.” You should be dressing for about 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. The idea is to reduce the amount of sweat accumulating underneath your layers in order to stay as dry as possible in cold temperatures.  The more you practise running outside, the better you’ll be at deciding what to wear for your body.  I recommend always having a touque or headband, warm socks, thick leggings and a pair of gloves.


The sun sets much earlier during Calgary’s colder months.  This makes it super important to remain visible to cars and bicycles. If you are running after 4 p.m., light yourself up like your neighbour’s holiday bushes. Wear reflective gear — inexpensive stickers for coats and hats are available at activewear stores but most jackets and vests made for outdoor activities already have reflectors. Headlamps are available online and are a great, inexpensive way to maintain visibility for yourself and for those around you. There’s nothing wrong with looking like a coal miner if it means living to ace another midterm.

Warm up:

The most daunting part of a cold outside run is the first five minutes. It takes a few minutes to get the blood pumping and find your rhythm. Most importantly, it takes a few minutes and a kilometre or two to override the secret urge to call it quits, head back indoors and cash in on that after-run reward without putting in the effort. There are a few excellent ways to shorten this inner rebellion. Get the blood rushing before you start running. Just like you would start your car 10 minutes before driving in the frosty weather, start your body up before forcing it to immediately rev up and go. You can do jumping jacks, push-ups or jog up and down the stairs. My personal favourite warm-up consists of a quick sun salutation and 30 burpees. With your body heated, it’s much easier to step outside and start running.


One of the most important parts of winter running is body awareness. Remember, it is cold. We live in Calgary and it is important to listen to your bodily cues — and I don’t mean the nagging voice that wants to eat donuts on the couch. Listen to the cues that tell you to slow down and catch your breath. Running outside in the winter is more about maintenance than speed. Save the fast, long runs for indoor tracks, warmer days or the treadmill. When it hits below zero, be kind to yourself and be flexible with your routine. If you feel wet and cold, it is important to re-evaluate your goal distance. Modify your runs so that you can stay healthy and strong without compromising your immune system and lungs.

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