On Monday, the greater Bangor region saw its first snowfall of the season, while our friends in Aroostook and Piscataquis counties have already seen significant amounts of powder.
Any runner will tell you that lacing up the sneakers for a jaunt in the snow can be unique and fun. In my four years of indoor track at Brewer High School, it took blinding blizzards to resort me and my teammates to doing our training runs in the halls of the high school.
Heck, there were even times where we would do slushy hill repeats on my childhood street, Century Street in South Brewer, a long, gradual 400-meter climb that feels like a half-mile when the mercury dips “below the donut,” as my coach would say.
While extending your training into the winter months can be beneficial, especially if you’re looking at a spring marathon, there are also precautions that should be exhibited.
Here are my five tips for a great yet safe winter of training:
1. Wear gear that is somewhat reflective.
As we all know, it gets dark earlier this time of year. The end of a typical 9-to-5 shift is greeted with the sun being completely gone and darkness reigning over the skies.
Should you need to get your run in after the sun goes down, make sure that you wear gear that is going to be somewhat visible to drivers. Avoid wearing dark clothing, and perhaps keep that reflective vest handy.
2. Dress warm, but not too warm.
Layers are very important while battling winter’s harsh wrath in the Northeast. Lord knows I spent quite a bit on gloves, hats, windbreakers and other cold-weather gear over the years.
Try to find that “happy medium” when you’re out for your run in terms of layering up. You don’t want to wear too much, which will likely slow your pace a little bit. Wear just enough so you’ll be comfortable and toasty yet able to maintain a solid pace. The weather in the Northeast is always changing this time of year, so always have something extra handy, just in case!
3. Adjust your training if Mother Nature gets in the way.
It’s always frustrating when the weather wreaks havoc on your training, isn’t it? Although I will say that in six years of fitness instructing, I’ve never had to cancel a class due to snowstorms. Kind of odd for a trainer living in Maine, huh?
But, if a snowstorm does curtail your plans for a long run or some hill intervals, that doesn’t mean you have to completely take the day off! If you have a treadmill at home, make use of it. If you can get in some other type of workout, such as core training or circuit training, do it! Mixing up your routine a bit can be beneficial in the long run, and will add some spice to your training!
4. Try to find a training partner or partners
Sometimes, there’s nothing like the solitude of you, the road, a great playlist buzzing through your earbuds and churning out a great training run.
But there are other occasions where it’s more fun to hook up with a friend to train with.
In the dead of winter, where the weather can be miserable more often than not, having a friend to chat with over a five or six mile run can make it seem like its over after two or three miles.
It also helps to have another pair of eyes out there on the road if you’re running at a time where commuter traffic is heavy or the sun has gone down. There are occasions where four eyes can be better than two, and that is one of them.
5. Watch out for those pesky patches of ice!
Often times, I resorted to the sidewalks of Bangor and Brewer on most of my training runs, especially in the winter where the shoulders of roadways grow narrower due to snow.
Even though a flat, fresh, somewhat packed in coat of snow on a sidewalk may seem like a fast track, all it takes is one patch of ice to curtail a training plan.
If you’re going downhill, shorten your stride just a bit as a precautionary measure. Believe me, slipping and sliding down a hill isn’t as much fun as cruising down it. The same can be said for attacking hills in the opposite direction. While avoiding those pesky slippery patches of pavement, use your upper body to drive your way up the hill, and lengthen your stride again once you hit the top.
Here’s to a great winter of running. We’ll be talking about the Boston Marathon before we know it.