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Often avoided by joggers and runners, getting outdoors for a run during the cold winter months is plagued with images of a freezing and uncomfortable workout.
Feeling the biting cold whip against your face and cheeks isn't as bad as it may sound. Running throughout the winter months is something many runners from the north swear by. Just getting out the door is often the most daunting task; but the benefits can be plentiful if the right precautions are taken.

Living in North America, over half of the population experiences a fairly significant weather change during the winter months, and the further North, the more extreme winters become. Nonetheless, there are thousands of dedicated runners who get out there and pound the pavement (or snow and ice in some cases) in the most frigid temperatures. Not only cold to contend with, winter runners have to consider the ice and snow factor. Running on soft or hard packed snow, or even ice is going to make a huge difference to the intensity of a workout.

It’s a love/ hate relationship

Imagine joining your 6am running group when its pitch black, -20 centigrade with blowing snow swirling around you and your feet sinking deep into fresh snow. Even if this image sounds terrifying to non-runners, it’s a dream for regular winter runners. Winter runners embrace and love the challenge. Its something that must be done, and getting out the door is the toughest part. What a lot of summer runners don't know is that while winter running may be more difficult at times, it is just as healthy, and not as cold as one may think.

Finding the right clothes

Just as with any warm up, after the first 5 minutes, the body heats up and the biting cold is hardly felt. The key to enjoying winter running is to wear the right clothes, the right shoes, and to have the right attitude. Running coaches preach that having the right attitude is the first step towards enjoying winter running and succeeding at it. Believing that you'll have a good time and enjoy the fresh air isn't far from the truth.

After stepping out that door, you've committed to your run. The exhilarating sensation of pushing through extreme weather conditions is even considered a better run for many compared to a hot sweaty run under the hot summer sun. Wearing weighty layers compared to running shorts and a singlet can change the whole feeling of a 10mile run. This may be the first difference a new winter runner will notice.

Next is to ensure you've got safe shoes. There are several different types of winter running shoes. There are cleat styles and soft styles, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Finding a shoe store specializing in running shoes and apparel will be a good step towards getting you out that door.

What to Wear for Winter Running

Layer up!

The key to staying warm is the right clothing. Layering up is a valuable skill that winter runners master quickly. Using light layers which are appropriate for the temperatures you'll face is critical to staying warm while running with ease.
The first layer of clothing should comprise of some synthetic material. At best, this will be a moisture wicking fabric which can keep sweat off your skin. This helps to keep the body dry, unlike cotton which will absorb and hold onto moisture. Once you've tried running with one of these synthetic fabrics  you'll never go back to wearing cotton!

Find out what you need to stay warm in any weather

Gauging the number of layers you'll need will depend on your tolerance for the cold and the actual temperatures you'll be hitting out there. Don't forget to factor in windchill as well. At temperatures just below the freezing point, one layer of a long sleeved shirt will do. Keeping the head covered will be essential even at lower temperatures since this is where most of our body heat is lost. Also, most hats will keep your ears covered, protecting them from blowing winds. With a hat on, you'll find less layers are necessary around the trunk.

When you get closer to -10 centigrade, consider wearing a wind breaker of sorts to stop the air from reaching through your clothes. The ground will be frozen and you may be dealing with uncertain weather including freezing rain, high and frigid winds, or snow. Your fingers and toes are also more vulnerable to the cold if you're out running for more than 45 minutes, so a pair of gloves will be essential. Many runners even carry an extra spare pair. Even still, many winter runners consider this weather to be an easy run.

Once you get into truly frigid temperatures of -20 centigrade and beyond, its a real skill to master layers and all of the other parts of running. Using several layers around the torso, without letting it get bulky or in the way, plus considering good facial and neck coverage adds up. Many runners focus on keeping the freezing air off the head, neck and chest, using a good quality had, a tube-style neck warmer (you can spin it around when it gets wet and always have a dry spot), and a jacket that leaves no holes for air to get in.

Drink plenty of water

Besides a couple of good quality gloves, give consideration to the water you'll need. Winter runners have to consider where to put the water so it doesn't start to freeze towards the end of the run. Many will fill up a few small ones and keep them close to the body so they stay warm. You'll be able to stay hydrated and warm all at the same time.

While you may find winter running to be intimidating, many runners absolutely love pounding the pavement on a cold, snowy, peaceful, winter evening. An exhilarating and unique experience, you may find a spot in your heart to love it too!

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