Runners Gonna RUN! 7 Tips for Winter Running.

A little bit of wintry weather won’t stop most avid runners. But before you head out into the rain, sleet or snow take steps to ensure your safety. These seven to be exact.

Whether you’re training for a spring race or simply want to continue to run outside through the winter season, what do you do when the roads are snowy or icy? When the trails are slick and muddy?

We spoke with Ed Andree, P.T., (pictured) an avid runner and physical therapist with Hood River Therapy (HRT), about how to run safely during the cold, wet months in the Gorge.

1. Choose the right gear.

Avid Runner and Physical Therapist, Ed Andree

Avid Runner and Physical Therapist, Ed Andree

Avid Runner and Physical Therapist, Ed Andree

“Choose a wool or poly-blend, technical sock in the winter,” Andree says. “For those with colder digits, a Gortex shoe is a good idea; however for people who run hotter, Gortex may be too hot.”

If you tend to have cold hands, Andree suggests wearing a serious glove, such as a thicker bike commuting glove or Nordic skiing glove. He also advises wearing a jacket with pockets so you can stash your gloves, if necessary, once you warm up.

If you usually warm up quickly, it’s best to start a little bit cold, Andree says. He wears running pants, a wool or polypropylene base layer, a light, breathable, rain-deterrent shell and a warm cap. It’s also a good idea to keep some warm layers in your car for after the run.

2. Remember to hydrate.

“Hydration is still important even though we’re not as thirsty in the winter,” says Andree. “We’re still expelling a lot of moisture through our breath, and if we’re improperly layered, we’re also sweating a lot.”

To prevent your water bottle from freezing, keep it near your body. For instance, if you wear a belt strap, secure it between layers instead of on the top of your clothes. If you run with a camelback, you can purchase insulated sleeves. And if you sit in a hot tub or hot bath after your cold runs to soothe those tired muscles, drink plenty of water.

3. Warm up to prevent injuries.

Andree recommends a longer warm-up phase when running in the colder months to increase blood flow and improve tissue elasticity.

“A great way to warm up is to run at a slower pace for the first five minutes or so, then slowly increase your pace,” he says. “You can also do an active or dynamic warm-up, such as bringing your knees up to a high position, doing a butt-kicker exercise, a straight-leg kickout, and some side shuffling—for about 100 yards each.”

It’s also important to cool down instead of coming in at full-speed and sitting immediately.

4. Try one of these trails:

Some trails in our area, says Andree, drain better, melt faster, shelter more, or get less precipitation than others.

These are some of his winter favorites:

  • The Gorge 400 starting at the Wyeth Campground (exit 51 off I-84) — “Head west from the campground. The trail drains well and its canopy protects you from the wind and rain,” says Andree. “It’s a year-round running spot.” It’s about
    eight miles round-trip and relatively flat.
  • Indian Creek Trail in Hood River — Segment 3 of the trail, the section that runs from the Indian Creek Golf Course to Barrett Road, also drains well, Andree says. It’s a good option for shorter runs in town.
  • Syncline Trails (Wash.) — Because the area is south-facing, it tends to warm up faster; however, it can be really windy, Andree says. But the views are stunning. Park at State Route 14 and Courtney Road and zigzag your way through a network of 8 to 15 miles of single-track trails. Watch for poison oak.
  • Rails to Trails — Two converted railbed trails east of Hood River tend to be somewhat drier than other trails during our wet months, and offer many miles of mostly flat terrain along two beautiful, scenic rivers. The Klickitat Trail out of Lyle, Wash., is 20 miles round-trip if you do the 10-mile section along the river, although some of the sections are rocky. The Deschutes River Railbed Trail just east of The Dalles provides 22.4 miles (if you turn around at Harris Ranch) of compact sand and gravel. Both trails have mile markers.

“If you run on the road, remember that vehicles have less traction, too,” says Andree. “They are less likely to be able to stop. And be sure to wear reflective gear, especially if you’re running at dawn or dusk.”

If you prefer to run on pavement without worrying about traffic, the Mosier Twin Tunnels Trail (8.5 miles round-trip) or The Dalles Riverfront Trail (12 miles round-trip) are both good options. Watch for black ice when the temperatures drop.

5. Decrease your stride length. Increase your cadence.

While this may be good advice year-round, Andree says it’s especially important in the winter months because it helps to keep your center of mass over your feet. “Our balance is significantly improved when our stride length is shorter,” he says. “You can maintain your speed by increasing your cadence while decreasing your stride length.”

Plus, recent studies show that a 5 percent increase in cadence significantly decreases compressive forces through the joints, thus reducing your risk of injury.

6. Improve your traction.

Avid Runner and Physical Therapist, Ed Andree

Avid Runner and Physical Therapist, Ed Andree

Avid Runner and Physical Therapist, Ed Andree

According to Andree, a good pair of trail shoes usually provides enough traction to run on soft snow or muddy trails. However, when conditions are slicker and you need to improve your grip, there are options — that don’t include the “dreadmill.”

Simply Google “ice cleats for running” and you’ll find a multitude of devices designed to increase traction, ranging from coils that you strap onto your shoes to spikes that you screw into your shoes’ outsoles. In fact, like studded snow tires, you can buy shoes with carbide metal spikes already embedded (check out INOV-8 trail shoes), which are popular among local ultrarunners.

The key, Andree says, is to choose something that doesn’t change your running form; otherwise, you’ll increase your risk of injury. You can also pick a trail that’s more sheltered from the elements.

7. Evaluate your training strategy.

While Andree and his colleagues do see people who fall in the winter from slipping, most of the injuries during the year are from overuse, inefficient gait mechanics, and poor training, he says.

“A lot of injury prevention comes from a better training model,” he explains. “A general rule is to think about increasing your speed, distance, or duration by no more than 10 percent a week.”

Andree and other staff members specialize in creating personalized training programs for people both recovering from
injuries and for those who want to improve performance.

“As far as physical therapy goes, what we do for a runner evaluation is: measure strength and flexibility; measure your gait on the treadmill; and come up with a specific program for you to address those deficits in either flexibility or strength, or try to make your gait more efficient,” Andree explains.

On March 2, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, Andree and other Hood River therapists will offer a free community education class in which they will discuss injury prevention and analyze your gait. For more information, search for Hood River Therapy on Facebook or call 541.386.2441.