How To Stay On The Outdoor Exercise Track When The Temperature Drops

December 29, 2020

Until COVID-19 hit, we were avid gym-goers, to be found daily at the YMCA pounding the treadmill and busting out an occasional wobbly plank. Since March, however, we’ve taken to pounding the streets instead, and we kind of love it—headphones in, running shoes on, and we’re away. But as winter arrived, our enthusiasm started to wane. The days grew shorter and colder, our gym-going gear was just not adequate to keep the cold at bay, and dark, rainy mornings somewhat dampened the appeal.

Olympian Malindi Elmore knows about staying motivated in all circumstances. She represented Canada at the 1,500-metre event in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games before shifting to triathlons. She’s now a mother of two young children, the Canadian women’s marathon record-holder, UBC Okanagan’s head coach of cross-country and endurance, and a partner for athletic brand Saucony. Yet even she doesn’t always want to head out the door. “I don’t feel like running today,” she laughs down the phone from her Kelowna home. “I have to wait till the evening when my husband is home so he can take care of the children and that’s definitely not my favourite time to run—I prefer to go straight after dropping off the kids at school and daycare.”

We can hard relate to that. Yet Malindi mostly manages to stay on the training track and support her clients, too. Here’s how, plus six essentials for outdoor cold-weather exercise. —Aileen Lalor

look after your whole body. “Running is a high-load sport that’s hard on your body, and if you’re not looking after your core and glutes and moving properly, you can get injured,” Malindi says. What about those of us who find it difficult even to get that 30-minute run in, let alone a complex core routine? “You only need five minutes a day to do a few little things like planks, side plans with leg lifts, back bridges and clamshells,” she explains. “Do a few standing squats or lunges before you go for your run. It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment to get some bang for your buck.”

invest in the right clothing. That means layering up. “You need technical running attire, not cotton,” she says. “You typically need a long-sleeved T-shirt tucked into tights and a jacket, good mittens, a headband or a hat.” But it’s OK to be cold for the first 15 minutes or so. “If you’re warm when you start, you’re going to be overdressed,” she explains.

get great shoes. Malindi used to run in normal running shoes, but no more. “I now wear actual trail-running shoes—Saucony Peregrine ones, which have more grip and they keep my feet warmer,” she says. “There’s also GORE-TEX, which is more protective.” When should you change your shoes? A lot of them have guidelines that they’re good for 400km or 500km, or you can tell if the treads or fabric wear out. Make the time to go to a specialist running store and get fitted—your size might even have changed with age or pregnancy. “Investing in a good pair of shoes will pay dividends, and if you think about what you pay to do most other sports, it’s really not expensive,” Malindi says.

eat before you go out. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to go running if you’re in a state of caloric deficit after a night’s sleep. I always have coffee and eat, even if it’s just half a bagel or half a banana. You get more out of running that way,” Malindi says.

just do it. The more you run, the better you’ll do. “Running rewards people who do it frequently and commit long term,” says Malindi. She advises mixing things up with some faster-paced run and longer ones, and go out four, five or six times a week. “If you’re abnormally exhausted or sick, or something is hurting, then of course stay home, but most of the time, give it a go. You’ll almost always feel better from going for a run.”


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