Winter running tips with coach Colin Federow

Winter weather is here and, given that some people may be reluctant to head to the gym during the pandemic, more runners than ever before may have high aspirations of running outdoors through the snow, cold and ice.

If you’re new to winter running, or if you have managed to block out experiences from winters past, Brainsport floor manager and long-time coach Colin Federow shared some tips with the Brainsport Times.

1. Safety first

If things go wrong when it’s -30C outside, you can be at risk of frostbite or hypothermia. Make sure to inform someone about where you’ll be running and for how long. Consider carrying other safety devices, such as a whistle. Remember that cell phones may freeze in cold temperatures.

2. Stay visible

Winter not only brings cold, but it also brings short days and people running before or after work are likely to be running in the dark. Most running gear comes equipped with reflective strips, but it never hurts to add more so motorists make no mistake about seeing you. Brainsport carries a line of high visibility apparel called Arrowhere which makes vests, backpack covers, and jackets. There are also many cool lights a person can purchase that blink, flash, or just shine brightly.

3. Adapt your routes

If you are a fan of running along the river, avoid the low trails and woodchip trail unless you are with a group. Both can become packed with snow as they are ungroomed during the winter. Also stay on the west side of the river where there is more lighting along the trail.

If running on the roads, which are often cleared before sidewalks, stay on the left side so that you are facing traffic. This will help ensure that you see the motorists and that they see you.

The Meewasin Trail is groomed by the City of Saskatoon and usually the trail will be cleared the day after a snowfall. While the trail usually isn’t too bad for ice, fall, spring and any other period of freeze-thaw can create slippy conditions.

4) Adjust your expectations and be cautious

It is important to use caution and common sense whenever running outdoors in the winter. If it looks icy, take it easy and shuffle across. If going down hill, slow it down to avoid going airborne.

Running on snow, be it loose or hard-packed, creates an uneven surface. This means that your foot will not land as true to the ground as it once did. Caution should be taken to avoid rolling an ankle. As well, the Achilles Tendon can become quite tender and sore during the winter months from running on uneven surfaces. Listen to your body.

5) Stay hydrated

Water and other sports drinks can freeze when the temperature starts to drop, which means you need to plan for how to keep drinks warm for long runs (use a thermos? Boil water before leaving?) People often overlook the fact that we still sweat in cold weather. It is important to keep well hydrated.

Winter running also requires athletes to dress appropriately. Federow will share detailed tips on how to dress for winter in a later edition of the Times.