Winter Running Tips and Tricks

Running during the winter months presents the same question day after day — to run inside or take it outdoors? This is a topic that has been and will continue to be debated. For people new to winter running, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get outside because of weather, the amount of light, managing what to wear or simply managing their own expectations. A lot of seasoned runners will tell you that managing one’s own expectations is half the battle.

For perspective, we are currently living in the modern age of fitness technology, and the resources available to runners are unprecedented. One of the biggest decisions for runners is choosing to put on their shoes and go. Once you commit to the run, the technology will do the thinking for you. Using a Garmin Forerunner® and the Garmin Connect™ ecosystem can help any runner overcome those “reasons not to run.” That’s the beauty of if it — you run, and your Forerunner thinks.  

To make training more bearable and honestly more fun, here are a couple features to help keep you running during the winter months.

If you’re running inside:

Running indoors means committing to the dreaded treadmill. For most people, that inherently means running at the same pace while endlessly watching a television show or staring at the same wall. One of the easier ways to break up the monotony and make the time pass is to use a compatible third-party training app like Zwift with a compatible Garmin smartwatch like the Forerunner® 745. The virtual run activity profile allows you to pair your watch to the third-party app to complete your run, and it ensures that your running data will appear in your Garmin Connect account. If you can’t check out your stats after the run — you may wonder: Did it really happen? But the biggest piece that people miss is changing up the routine. Using the intervals workout that is already on the device is a treadmill game-changer. During an interval workout, you will be prompted to either adjust your pace or heart rate zone for blocks of time. Having that type of distraction and focus will help keep the negative thoughts at bay and make time fly by.     

If you’re running outside:

Having balance is important and running outdoors during the winter months can be really fun. Enjoy the beautiful sunny days but also embrace the days that are less than perfect. There is a certain sense of accomplishment after finishing a run in freezing temperatures or battling through a snowstorm. Just be on the lookout for ice.

When running outdoors, key metrics like VO2 max, a heart rate monitor like the HRM-Pro™ or the use of wrist-based heart rate are enhanced because of a GPS signal. VO2 max measures cardiorespiratory fitness and aerobic performance capacity. Being able to see current fitness level and track changes over time will help runners set appropriate goals, evaluate progress and determine the effectiveness of their training. It can also provide the motivation needed to keep going and reach goals. If you only run indoors, don’t be surprised if you notice that your VO2 max stays the same or decreases. This isn’t an indication that your fitness level is decreasing; it simply means your device needs a GPS signal more often, so it’s a good reminder to mix it up.

When thinking about data, listening to your body has never been easier thanks to your Garmin smartwatch’s Body Battery™ and sleep tracking features. They allow you to make informed decisions on those days when you are considering taking a rest day. Ignoring what your body is telling you could lead unproductive training or injury. Either one of those could lead to self-doubt and a negative attitude, which can do just as much damage as an actual injury. It is gratifying to wake up in the morning and find that your sleep score is in the high 90s because of a well-balanced night’s sleep. This in turn will help with recovery, mood and, from a performance standpoint, give you the best chance to put in your best effort. The trick is to replicate what you did to achieve that night of well-balanced sleep.

It can be cold and dark first thing in the morning, and if you don’t have a running buddy, you need to find a way to make yourself accountable. Sticking to a training plan with a clearly defined goal is a seamless way to do this, and there are several free options within Garmin Connect. The Garmin Coach adaptive training plans or one of the Garmin Connect training plans offer many choices to help give you direction. In addition, using a training plan and a coach from a third-party app like TrainingPeaks® can also help establish accountability. The great thing is that the workouts sync right to your compatible smartwatch.   

When you are going outdoors, it’s a good idea to let your friends and family know where you are and where you will be going. In Garmin Connect, within the settings menu, ensure that your emergency contacts have been set up. You’ll need to run with your phone, but this is particularly helpful if you feel unsafe or if your watch senses that an incident has occurred. It can send a message to your emergency contacts with your location information. Using the LiveTrack feature can give your friends and family peace of mind, because it creates a real-time view of your location during an activity. If you are following a specific course, your contacts will be able to see exactly where you are going. This is a nice feature if someone is meeting you for a post-run coffee. They don’t need to pester you — they can simply click on the link to see when you are getting close.

A common misstep for runners during the winter months is ignoring the need to hydrate and stay fueled mile after mile. Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean you can drink less water. Your body continues to work just as hard as it does during the warmer months. A simple way to avoid forgetting about this is to set up nutrition alerts on your Garmin smartwatch. Nutrition and hydration alerts can be set up within the activity profile settings. Each alert can be set up as time- or distance-based. Some people wonder which type of alert trigger is better. It comes down to your preference. There isn’t a wrong answer. Choose one and experiment to see if it works for you.

There’s no reason for holding back this winter. If you wait for the perfect day, it may never come. Start a training plan today, try some intervals, set your clothes out the night before— and find what works for you to enjoy the season. With a little guidance from Garmin, it’s never been easier.

Follow @GarminFitness on Instagram for more tips, trick and insights on winter training.