4 Tips for Marathon Training in the Winter

Fitness Tips

4 Tips for Marathon Training in the Winter

With fewer daylight hours, colder temperatures, and variable weather conditions outside, it can be difficult to find motivation to train for an upcoming spring or summer marathon. The thought of a chilly, wet run may not seem appealing, but it is important to stay on track with your marathon goals, rather than give into that tempting siesta by the cozy fireplace. Here are four tips to keep in mind so that you can maximize your marathon training during the winter.

Balance Indoor and Outdoor Runs

First, it's necessary to take turns between running indoors and outdoors. When temperatures drop really low or the snow is piling up outside or there's a polar vortex over much of the country, play it safe and rack up those treadmill miles. When weather conditions are working in your favor, aim for two or more outside runs per week – these should be your longer runs. If possible, run during optimal times of day, such as early afternoon when it’s the warmest and the most light is out. Avoid icy or snow-packed paths; running in a few inches of fresh snow will offer you more traction and cushion. And if you need a little more motivation to step outside for your next run, keep in mind that you can potentially burn more calories in the cold since your body works harder to stay warm.

Invest to Stay Toasty

For those outdoors runs, be sure to bundle up with layers to maintain your core body temperature. If you're new to training or colder-climate winters, consider investing in high-quality workout apparel that will provide ultimate comfort and warmth. Opt for three layers on your upper body: an inner base layer, an insulating layer, and a weatherproof outer layer.

  • The inner base layer, closest to your body, should be made of a synthetic wicking material such as Dri-Fit or Thinsulate, which keeps heat in and moisture away from the body. Avoid clothing made of cotton – once it gets wet, it takes a long time to dry.
  • Fleece makes a good choice for the middle layer, adding additional warmth and moisture-wicking.
  • The outermost layer is essential in protecting you from the elements as well as letting moisture out, so choose a breathable jacket that is both wind- and water-proof.

Wearing running tights should keep your legs warmer, and if it’s icy out, you may want to buy some Yaktrax or similar traction device to attach to your shoes and keep you from slipping. Additionally, wearing gloves and a hat or headband help to keep the extremities warm (and can spice up your winter running wardrobe with a touch of fun color).

Avoid Those Puddles

Staying dry should be a high priority during your outdoor runs. Although running through (or jumping into) a pile of snow or a big puddle of water may seem like a fun idea at the time, it can have negative effects on your body temperature. Once your body gets wet, you will get cold; that’s when you risk getting sick. If you're unable to avoid a path that is flooded over, make sure that you get warm and dry up right when you get home.

Set Goals

Whether you're going to be running your first marathon ever or are an experienced runner, always make goals to continue pushing yourself to do your best. Set goals that will challenge you – for example, strive to run a specific number of miles each week or pick a personal record you want to beat. Once you reach your goal, celebrate with a reward (like that warm fireside nap mentioned earlier) and move on to a new goal! This will help to keep you motivated to do your best throughout your marathon training. With some safety precautions and persistence through these chilly winter days, you'll be well-prepared for that spring marathon. Happy training! Do you have more tips on how to effectively train for a marathon in the winter? Please share with us in the comments!