From 5Ks to marathons and everything in between, there are many avid runners across the Highmark Health enterprise — and many more among our customers — so in this series we’ll tap the running community to share tips, profile runners, tell stories about their running events and experiences, and more. Have an idea for a post? Let us know in the comments section!


Woman Running in Winter

It’s been a cold winter here in Pittsburgh, and probably where you are as well, but that doesn’t mean you have to take your workout indoors!

I sat down with Dave Spell, head coach of the Steel City Road Runners (SCRR), to put together a list of the top 10 best winter running tips to keep you safe and comfortable — and to prevent cabin fever!

Dave fell in love with running in 2009, and since then he’s completed more than 45 marathons and half marathons — so he knows the importance of sticking to your running routine even when winter weather moves in.

  1. Don’t overdress. Dave recommends dressing for about 20 degrees warmer than the outdoor temperature. “You should be cool, or even a little cold, when you go outside. You’ll warm up after a few minutes of running and be glad you didn’t wear too much.”
  2. Dress in layers. Adding on to his previous tip, Dave suggests a layering strategy. “You can always remove layers if you get too warm, or put them back if you cool off. Cotton is a no-no, because it gets wet and will make you cold. Sweat-wicking synthetic materials are key.” (See sidebar for additional tips on what to wear.)
  3. Stay hydrated. This is an easy one to forget when it’s cold. Runners don’t typically feel as thirsty when it’s not warm outside, but it’s still important to drink enough water. Drinking throughout the day is helpful to ensure you are adequately hydrated for your winter runs.
  4. Run with a group. “The best way to keep yourself accountable for getting out there in the cold is to join a group or have a running buddy,” Dave says. “Nothing will make you get out of your warm bed like knowing someone is waiting for you!”
  5. Stretch indoors. Cold muscles are prone to strains and tears, so it’s best to stretch indoors where it’s warm.
  6. Wear bright or reflective clothing. As the days get shorter, you may find that you are running in the dark more than the daylight. Always wear bright and reflective clothing, and assume that drivers do not see you.
  7. Try wearing trail shoes. In snowy conditions, trail shoes can provide better grip than regular running shoes.
  8. Don’t forget sunscreen. An item often forgotten in the winter, sunscreen is still important, even when it’s cold. There’s an increased chance of sunburn from the sun reflecting off the snow.
  9. Keep your head covered. Wear a hat to keep the heat in when you are out running in the elements.
  10. Watch for ice. Consider wearing YakTrax or Ice Spikes on your running shoes if you expect slick spots along your route.

Man runningSometimes it’s difficult to motivate yourself to get outside in the winter, with the cold temperatures and shorter days. But keep these tips in mind to stay out on the roads through whatever the rest of the winter throws our way. Meanwhile, if conditions are truly bad, stay safe and don’t stress out about taking your workout indoors if you need to!