The recommended training time line when you’re looking at getting ready to run a marathon, half or full is between 10-12 weeks for a ½ marathon and approx. 16 weeks for a full marathon. So depending on what event you have your sights set on to compete in, you really don’t have much time, especially if you factor in the season’s weather issues that may crop up from time to time, depending on just where you live.

Because during this time of year the weather is really unpredictable, you may find yourself running in the snow and ice (which we do NOT recommend!), with gusty winds and just overall cold temperatures!

Winter training is doable, as long as you approach it the right way. So whether you’re just trying to keep up your running routine or looking to get in the shape you need to tackle that upcoming spring racing event, here are a few tips you need to keep going no matter the weather.

Training Flexibility

If you plan out your whole training schedule week-by-week during the winter, chances are the weather has other ideas. It’s important to be opportunistic and realistic when training in the winter. In other words, if you were planning on taking a rest day, but the forecast is predicting warm temps, hit the trails or pavement. On the flip side, if you were hoping to go for a big run and the forecast is calling for heavy snow, it’s not worth risking injury with potentially dangerous conditions. Be rational and take your training to the treadmill.

You’re going to find that checking the forecast during the winter becomes almost second nature when you want to try and plan your week of training. It a good idea to check up to three different websites, just to be consistent with your findings and try and shoot for the sunniest forecast. Even then, adjusting plans day-by-day is important. Remember, when it comes to training, nothing is ever written in stone, no matter the season!  The winter is ALL about being flexible and creative with your training. That means occasionally swapping rest days and run days based on what Mother Nature is dishing out, and getting creative with your training indoors.

How Cold Is Too Cold

The answer to this question is really up to you, and how comfortable you are with running in the cold. For me, my low temp threshold is 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but anything below 22 degrees Fahrenheit can cause some discomfort depending on how well you can handle that cold air that you breathe in, you may need to run a bit slower at a colder temp.  And while you might physically be able to run in zero or colder, at a certain point you need to decide whether it’s really worth it. Will you be able to breathe properly in single digits? Will you really get a good training run in at 2 degrees when you’re bundled up from head-to-toe? You may find that you need to shorten the run and save the big miles for warmer temps.

When you do run in the cold, make sure you’re dressed for it. Layering is key. Start with a base layer, followed by another layer, like a fleece. If it’s snowing, raining, or very windy, throw on a third waterproof/windproof layer over top. For your lower body, go with running tights. An insulated pair lined with wool can help you stay extra warm. Wear a light hat or headband to keep your ears warm, and always go overboard on your extremities. Choose thick wool socks and throw on a double layer if need be. For your hands, choose burly gloves or mittens.

Dealing With Snow, Ice, And Mud

Snow, ice, hail, freezing rain, mud or one of the other joys of winter seem like they can foil your big run. Here’s how to deal with the elements:

Snow: Invest in a pair of strap-on traction devices for your shoes. These work wonders for keeping your grip in powder and even packed snow. They can be finicky, however, by slipping off, breaking, or interfering with your stride, so take them on a trial run before going on a longer one.

If it’s snowing heavily, you may have to plan on a shorter run. On big snow days, visibility and staying dry can prove challenging, as can maintaining a decent pace through heavy powder. On days like these, you just do what you can, because a 25-minute run in the snow is better than doing nothing!  Another tip, but keep your eyes open to what’s happening around you, is to run behind a snow plow on the road to get a clearer surface. Naturally give it a wide birth so that you can see any on-coming vehicles that may be looking to pass that truck!

This time of year it gets dark earlier and is still dark early in the morning before 6am.   So its probably going to happen that you will be training when the sun has said good by for the day so make sure you are equipped to run when the visibility is cut down because of darkness.

Dominate the Darkness by using these 5 simple rules to make sure you stay safe with night running.

Run against traffic. This rule applies day or night. Running against traffic gives drivers a better chance to spot you.

Assume others cannot see you—especially drivers and cyclists. Since you can see them better than they can see you, yield to cars.

Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. These new apps can let a friend or family member know your route while you’re on the run. Just an added protection to keep you safe at night.

Leave the headphones at home, wear only one earbud or keep the volume low; acute hearing compensates for reduced visibility. Definitely considering bring your phone with you in case of emergency.

Add bright colors, reflectivity and glow-in-the-dark apparel to your running kit—the more the better! Not sure what type of reflective clothes or gear to buy? We picked out a bunch of our favorites. Being safe has never been so stylish!

Now these may seem common sense to you, but you would be surprised at how many people need to be reminded of being safe once the sun goes down.

Taking Your Training Indoors when you run into a long stretch of foul, bitter cold weather.

In ice, whiteout conditions, and serious cold, it’s time to take your run indoors. Try adding an incline of .5 to 2.00 to the treadmill to replicate outdoor running surfaces, warming up for 10-15 minutes, and then using interval training to alleviate boredom. Then crank up your pace for a minute, then back it down to an easy stride for 90 seconds, and repeats this ten times, before finally cooling down for 5-15 minutes.

The above are ways you can train outside this time of year and get yourself ready for that spring marathon.  Remember its important to make sure your tracking your pace and stride on a regular basis. That said, a good activity monitor like  the Garmin Vivosport GPS Sport & Activity Tracker. This Sports monitor is the perfect wearable partner that can keep track of just how well you are doing with the latest features from Garmin, a name associated with fitness wearable’s for quite a few years now.  It can monitor key aspects of your fitness training with the help from Elevate 24/7, a wrist-based heart rate monitoring function. With the heart rate data it collects, the Garmin Vívosport is able to estimate your VO2 max and fitness age, 2 indicators of physical fitness that can improve over time with regular training and exercise. It also tracks your HRV (heart rate variability).  Your goal is to be in the best of shape for that upcoming spring marathon and this type of fitness tool, because that’s what this activity tracker is, a tool. To make sure your body is working at the optimum.

So there you have it. Between the cold weather and seasonable  changes in daylight that go hand in hand with training outdoors this time of year. And with the right nutrition, and weekly runs and strength training (which we will go into more details in a future blog post) you should be in great shape this spring to make it to that finish line.