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How to run in the Washington, DC winter weather

To keep running in the winter you need the right gear, a warmup plan, consistency, and to implement cross training for injury prevention and variety.

Running has become exceedingly popular during the summer as an easy way to stay fit while remaining socially distant. One of the hardest things to do for a new runner is to maintain their running fitness as the weather turns from ideal late summer and fall temperatures, to the cold days of winter. I have provided a few tips and recommendations to make this transition easier and to reduce the risk for injury.

  • Get the right gear
  • Warm up prior to starting your run
  • Work on consistency
  • Cross train for injury prevention and activity variety

When I began my running journey the transition to winter running was one of the more difficult challenges. I found the cold weather to be unpleasant for running and my total running time decreased throughout the winter and I lost a lot of the cardio endurance I had built up over the summer. I still have my struggles at times in the winter, and it always takes some time to adjust to the colder temperatures initially, but by implementing the tips above, I have been able to continue to enjoy my running and stay relatively injury free while doing so.

  1. Get the Right Gear

When it comes to running in warmer weather it is usually straight forward when it comes to clothing. Pick some shorts and throw on a shirt and you are good to go. When it comes to cold weather it is a bit more complicated. The general rule of thumb that has worked for me is to dress like it is twenty degrees warmer than the actual temperature to compensate for the warmth you will generate as you are running. I have found keeping my hands warm with gloves to be the most important thing when it comes to gear, but regardless I suggest gear that will keep you warm and stay comfortable while running.

  1. Warm Up Prior to Starting Your Run

A warmup can be useful anytime of the year, but even more so as it gets colder. I found it hard to roll out of a warm bed early in the morning and step outside in the cold air and just start running. The first five to ten minutes were always unpleasant as I would get adjusted to the temperature. Doing a light warmup inside and getting your heart rate up can make the transition easier. Another advantage of doing a light warmup is to loosen up some of the larger muscle groups used during running to reduce the risk of injury. It is harder to loosen up the muscles in colder weather so doing so before a run for a few minutes is an easy thing to do to that can make the start of the run more pleasant.

  1. Work on Consistency

An important aspect of long term running that is true regardless of the weather, but good to emphasize in the colder weather is remaining consistent with runs. What I mean with consistency is week to week it is important to try to avoid large fluctuations in mileage and to keep the number of days with running similar. This is to serve two purposes; both to decrease injury risk and to avoid cessation of running completely. By running around the same distance week to week you will maintain your capacity for running and cardio fitness and avoid increased risk with large increases is mileage. By running a similar number of days per week it is easier to have it remain a habit as opposed to an activity you do at random and thus less likely to continue to do through the winter into the spring as it warms up.

  1. Implement Cross Training

In order to reduce injury risk further and maintain overall body wellness it is important that running is not the only form of exercise you do. This is an area that I have struggled with in the past and has taken time for me to get better at. Whether it is doing some lifting at a gym or body weight exercises at home, it is important to have some other form of exercise that you do on a regular basis. Strength training is a nice complement to running as it can make you faster and loads muscles and bones differently to running, which is important when it comes to remaining injury free. Strength training is a great choice, but it is not the only choice; any other form is exercise is helpful to challenge the body in different ways. However just like with running it is best if you are consistent with whatever exercise you choose, so I suggest picking something enjoyable to you. 

 Hopefully by implementing some of the tips I have provided you will be able to enjoy winter running for all it has to offer and stay injury free. If you are concerned about an injury or some pain you have been experiencing during your runs, contact Rose Physical Therapy Group and get set up an appointment with one of the great therapists to help you with your issue. If you need a running asessment, we usually host those at our downtown clinic location that is located between Farragut Square and Dupont Circle (and is close to most metro lines). But physical therapists at our Navy Yard location, just a few blocks from Capitol Hill, can also help you out. Give ue a call or schedule through our website.