Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Workout Wednesday: Winter Safety and Survival for Runners

I am a bit obsessed with safety this winter.   Sure, we have been lucky to have a super mild winter as Alberta winters go, but there are still challenges around fitting in a run in the dark AND making sure you survive to tell the tale.

  • Wear bright or light colours
  • Reflective strips are your best friends - buy tights and jackets that feature reflective panels so cars will see you
  • If there are no sidewalks - or the sidewalks are not safe to run on - make sure you run facing traffic
  • Invest in a great headlamp
  • If your clothing isn't reflective enough - add additional reflective strips.  You can find velcro reflective bands at most sporting good/outdoor adventure stores (check the biking section)
  • You can buy all sorts of little clip on lights in the bike sections of many stores.  As dorky as wearing a flashing red tail light might initially seem - making sure a motorist clearly sees you is more important than looking cool


Last month, there was a runner in Montana who went missing while on her morning run.  It really reminded me to let hubby know where I am going before I head out and an approximate time to expect me back.  By now, he's pretty familiar with my routes and how long it will take me so, if I fail to return home - He'll be able to look for me or to tell the authorities where I should have been.

It might seem neurotic, but if a car were to ever hit me, I know it wouldn't be too long before help could find me.  I also ALWAYS run with my phone in case of emergency.  I may never need to take it out of my pocket, but it is there if I do need it.

Beating the Ice

Ice sucks.  Packed snow that the sun has been shining on all day can be just as bad.  Here are the tricks I've found to help with that

  • Wear ice cleats - YakTracks, Microspikes, those spikes you screw into your shoes...anything that helps you get a bit of grip.  These suckers "bite" into the surface of the snow and ice and give a bit more traction.  I, personally, cannot wear them.  Last time I did, I ended up bruising the bottoms of my feet, but I do know of friends who swear by them.  Find what works for you.
  • Try trail shoes - After this winter, I swear by trail shoes.   With heftier lugs on the soles, they help you fly over snow covered streets, sidewalks and pathways.  Keep in mind that they are heavier than regular running shoes and that if you are running mainly on drier sidewalks, you will really feel the effort.
  • Learn how to shift yourself in case of a fall - over the years I have become a pro at falling on my ass.   Just a quick twist as you start to fall and you can land on a much better padded area and reduce the risk of breaking a wrist by landing on one...
Beating the Cold

Dressing for the cold is super duper important.   This is the second winter I have trained throughout and I've picked up a few tricks along the way for keeping the cold out. None of this is rocket science...
  • Dress in light layers - then you can remove a single layer if you get too warm
  • Bring gloves, even if you think you won't need them.  Chances are you'll need them for at least part of your run.
  • Recognize that you are going to heat up as you go.
  • Don't overdress unless you feel like hauling a parka around after you discover it's too much
  • Recognize your cold threshold - if it is below your decided temperature on long run day, you can always get a run in on a treadmill or indoor track that day instead of risking frostbite running in antarctic-like temperatures
So, hopefully, with these tips, you'll be ready to conquer the rest of this winter.  Feel free to share any tips you've discovered in the comments!

Run safe. Run Smart...and, as Brooks is fond of saying...Run Happy!


  1. Another very good safety feature is the RoadId or another brand similar. Your name, birth year, emergency contact numbers and allergy info (if applicable) all in one spot, either a bracelet, anklet, necklace etc. If you get hit by a car and are unresponsive, it is very handy to have. I've never had to use mine, but I never leave the house with out it! It is a small bit of security.

    Good article. Good tips!

  2. Oh geez! Thank you for catching that, Courtney! I totally failed to put ID on the list and I ALWAYS run with ID!!!

    I've been coveting a RoadID. I think 2012 will be the year I actually order one! Last year, though, I ordered dog tags from a seller on ebay with my info engraved to attach to my shoe laces. The tags ended up being much larger than I expected and wouldn't lace properly...but my intention is to get new, smaller ones made so I can have them on all of my shoes.


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