Tis the season! Tis the season for family, great food and drinks, and maybe a little overspending. Tis the season for hard work and indulgence alike and tis the season of short, short days and long, cold nights.  That means one thing for this blog. It is time for the annual “It’s friggin cold, stay safe friends” post!

With frigid temperatures and little daylight it is tempting to hibernate until spring. For us hardy folk running the Pittsburgh Marathon there isn’t time to waste! Most training plans will start the first week of January. So if you can’t change your situation then it’s time to change your outlook and steel yourself to train through the dark months.

We all know the hardest part of any day to day run is getting out the door.  Once we are out and moving Newton’s First Law of Motion applies. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Of course when it is 15 degrees out just simply getting moving is sometimes a herculean feat.  Taking your workout indoors to a gym or on your treadmill is one of the easiest ways to keep up a routine.  While running on the treadmill is something I try to do as little of as possible it can be the best option when there is ice on the ground.  And if you have to hit the gym for a treadmill then all the better! If there is one thing most runners can use it is more cross training. For me, if I have to take it to Satan’s Conveyer Belt, then I will shorten my run to 2-6 miles and spend sometime working other muscle groups out.

Upright Citizens

Now if you are one of those people who simply can not stand the treadmill and will do anything to avoid it there are a few things you can do to stay safer running in the winter weather.  First, lets talk about ice. Running and slip sliding do not mix well. There are a few products on the market that can help you stay on your feet and off your backside.  There are shoes with metal spikes built in like Icebugs or Salomon’s Spikecross. Or microspikes/nanospikes like Yaktrax are available which slip right over your shoes and give you that extra grip. But, for those on a budget who aren’t looking to spend an arm and a leg then you can simply put sheet metal screws into the soles of your shoes.

Bright Lights, Big City

Most of us will spend our runs in the dark for the next couple of months. If you can’t be seen you can’t be safe! At a bare minimum make sure to incorporate reflective elements in anything you wear.  Many running jackets have reflective material built in, but it tends to be minimal.  Beef it up with some lights. I always wear a headlamp. Even if I can see perfectly fine from streetlights it grabs drivers attention.  There are all manner of blinky flashy lights for runners. Get some!  Runner’s World has some tips along with some gear recommendations here.

Not Going for Broke

If you are like me you won’t or can’t necessarily spend $180 on a jacket and $70 on a light. While you can’t put a price on safety you can reduce the costs and stay visible. Big Lots and similar discount stores have LED headlamps on the cheap. Make sure to get one that is light weight. Heavier ones will bounce and slide down your head. You can’t be attentive to your surroundings when you are fidgeting with your light.

Safety vests and reflective tape can be found at most hardware stores. A safety vest is the easiest and most economical way to stay visible.  You can get one starting out around $10-15.

Post-season shopping. This is my favorite.  Check out your local running/athletics store late

Stay Toasty, My Friends

in the winter to early spring.  I’ve picked up $150  insulated Saucony Siberius pants 75% off this way!  Dick’s Sporting occasionally does tent sales out in their parking lot. You can pickup new gear over 50% off!  Stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls often have athletic wear on their clearance racks almost all year long. I’ve picked up Aasics 3/4 zips for $10 this way.  Buy out of season!


Run safe with these simple tips. For more detail on dressing for the cold and other great tips make sure to check out my posts  “Winter  Run Fun: Training in the Cold.”  and  “Playing It Safe.”