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Published on November 26, 2019

running in the snow

Why Winter Can Be a Great Time to Run

If you think of running as a sport that’s reserved for track stars, think again. Given that you’re healthy enough, anyone can begin running – even in the winter.

Just ask Lisa Kolda, who didn’t start running until nearly age 30. Eleven years later, she’s a eight-time Boston Marathon qualifier who was also named one of the 2015 Sioux Falls Marathon’s elite runners.

Lisa runs year-round, and winter is actually her favorite time of the year to run outside. The cold temperatures can feel invigorating and you rarely have to worry about getting too hot. Plus, it can cure the cabin fever that sets in this time of year.

Winter Running Tips

Lisa offers several tips for safe and enjoyable winter running:

  • Set a goal. “The routine of knowing what I’m going to do, following a training plan and accomplishing a goal motivates me year-round.”
  • Wear reflective gear. “To stay safe, I always wear reflective gear, including wrist bands that light up on my legs and arms, so drivers can see me.”
  • Dress warmly, but not too warmly. Even in the winter, you should dress as if it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer. This allows your body temperature to increase and reduces the risk of overheating and excessive sweating. You should feel chilled when you walk out the door. If you are toasty warm, remove a layer.
  • Layer up. Wear two to three layers of clothing and always a hat and gloves or mittens.
    • Outside layer that blocks the wind
    • Inside layer that wicks the moisture away from your skin
    • On the coldest days, add a mid-layer that fits more loosely—like fleece—to insulate and move the moisture from your base layer away from your skin
  • Warm up. “When it’s really cold out, I’ll run inside on a treadmill for a half mile before heading outside to run. That warms up my body more quickly.”
  • Start into the wind. Start your run into the wind so that the wind will be at your back on the way home. You’ll avoid getting chilled by the wind after you’ve been sweating.
  • Avoid the ice. Run on salted roads and sidewalks or fresh snow. If it’s too icy outside, change up your routine by running on a treadmill, or cross training inside.
  • Forget speed. Running in the winter is more about maintenance miles and movement rather than speed.
  • Simply go. Lisa says her biggest advice is to never give up. “Everyone can run. You just have to put your mind to it and keep taking the next step.”

Change of Lifestyle

“I wasn’t always a runner,” says Lisa, a 41-year-old radiology surgery technologist at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. While growing up in Miller, S.D., Lisa stayed active with basketball and 4-H rodeo, but never gave the sport of running a second thought.

Yet in 2007, she decided it was time for a change of pace when her sister-in-law Marci talked her into running the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer 5K. She became hooked on running and soon progressed to marathons and half marathons. To date, she has finished 20 full marathons, including the Boston Marathon five times, along with five half marathons.

How did Lisa make such a big lifestyle change?

Her husband Kyle, who completed his first Iron Man competition in June 2015, provided accountability and encouragement. He also inspires her to incorporate more weight training into her training regimen, and eat more fruit and vegetables. “I’m a good ol’ hamburger and French fries girl, so thankfully, Kyle is good about keeping our nutrition on track,” she laughed.

Creating a new routine to balance running with her full-time work schedule was also key to her success. “I’m definitely a morning runner now, but I wasn’t always a morning person. It required a change of habit. Running in the mornings helps me wake up and be ready to go when I get to work.”

The most important thing is to simply take the first step and then keep moving. “If you want to start living an active and fit lifestyle, just start slow and work your way up.”

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