Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Log in
You are here: Home News 5 Tips to Master Winter Running

5 Tips to Master Winter Running

By Pete Rea | For


The leaves have fallen and morning temperatures are dipping below freezing for the first time since mid-spring. Winter is upon us and with the change in seasons comes great opportunity to put in some healthy mileage in preparation for the spring and summer road-racing season. How to best put in those miles during the season of ice and snow, however, requires forethought on the part of each athlete.


Winter tends to be the season where more "on-the-fence" folks choose either an abbreviated run or no run at all. During this season of early sunsets and colder temperatures, simply getting out the door is indeed half the battle. Once you put feet to pavement and your body warms up, brisk winter runs are as invigorating as any summer session.


At ZAP Fitness, we get a lot of questions about how winter running affects the lungs. In general terms, weather at either end of the extreme can make an existing respiratory problem (namely exercise-induced asthma and COPD) worse; however, the overwhelming body of research shows that air, once brought into the lungs, is warmed quite quickly, and that lung tissue is very well insulated for even the coldest of temperatures. In short, as long as you are dressed warmly enough, there is no reason to fear those single-digit days. The inspired air, once inhaled, continues to warm as it moves farther into the trachea and into the center of the chest, presenting no danger to the lungs.


Translation: Get out the door no matter what the temperature. I recommend running with a training partner, as you are far less likely to bail if you are meeting someone.


Years ago my training partner, Robin Rogers, and I were running on the beautiful trails of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Kennesaw, Georgia. The previous evening, a light layer of ice had formed on the trails. This did not deter the intentions of our weekly two-hour run, as we were diehards who saw a missed run as a sign of weakness. A dozen falls and numerous "near falls" later, Robin's Achilles tendon was the size of a hot dog. His inflammation did not get better for almost six months.


As a full-time coach, I now use that story in my "discretion is the better part of valor" advice. While I wholeheartedly recommend running in all temperatures, running on frozen surfaces presents far too much risk and should be avoided whenever possible. The real issue is these conditions change your gait and foot strike. Ice and snow can and will change your gait, particularly stride length and foot strike (namely the in-stance position of impact). These minor changes can cause irritations across the lower leg, which can lead to larger injuries.


The ZAP Fitness facilities are in the high country of North Carolina, and we commonly will drive 40 to 45 minutes during the winter months to lower elevations where the temperatures are almost always warmer and there is less ice and snow. For those of you who live in areas where streets without snow is not an option, I recommend finding a steady treadmill with a wide belt in lieu of braving icy roads.
There are those in the coaching profession who believe that treadmill running does not replicate, in terms of effectiveness, outdoor running. Indeed the biomechanics of foot strike and toe off can be compromised slightly mainly due to altered heel-to-toe transition and overall ground contact time, but if given the option between a treadmill and a slippery road outside, I recommend keeping injury risks to a minimum.


My high school coach was fond of saying, "You can always take a layer off, but it is hard to add a layer mid-run." The venerable coach Dennis Person was as wise as they come. With temperatures hovering near or below freezing, it is important to reduce the risk of muscular tweaks by keeping your muscles warm, particularly early in a run as tissue becomes more elastic. Runners, however, can indeed overheat and should avoid the "more-is-better" approach to winter clothing. Keep your legs covered and a couple of light layers on top, including an outer shell, but wear clothing that can be easily discarded as you warm up in the first 25 to 30 minutes.


As you spend time on the roads this winter, keep in mind the words of the late great Czech runner Emil Zatopek, who said that winter: "made champions not through tempo but effort." Zatopek, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and the only man ever to win the 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon at the same Games would be one to know. He spent many tough winters training in rural Czechoslovakia in preparation for the summer racing seasons. His message is a simple one runners of all ages should heed: Use the winter to reset, recharge and focus more on time on your feet than pace. This is a time for "type A" folks to pack up your Garmins and pace meters and go old school—run by feel.


Fluid intake regulates organ function and heals tissue effectively. Proper hydration is essential on every level for endurance athletes. Colder temperatures, however, can often mislead runners when it comes to thirst and the need for fluid intake. Athletes often report a reduced thirst level with winter weather even though we lose a great deal of water from our bodies this time of year through respiratory fluid loss.


In addition, during the colder seasons, our bodies work harder under the weight of extra clothing, and sweat evaporates quickly in the colder, dry air. Keep a bottle of fluid with you throughout the day, as you would during the summer, and make sure to replenish electrolytes as well with beverages that contain sodium, particularly for those athletes running a higher volume of mileage.
Winter is a great time to establish a solid block of aerobic training in preparation for your spring and summer road racing and track seasons. As you begin your cold-weather build-up, do so with with these intelligent tips in mind.


ZAP Fitness is a Reebok sponsored nonprofit facility that supports post-collegiate distance runners in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. ZAP puts on adult running camps during the summer, and is available for retreats all year. The facility has a state-of-the-art weight room, a bio-lab for physiological testing and a 24-bed lodge. Coaches at the facility include two-time Olympic trials qualifier Zika Rea, Ryan Warrenburg and head coach Pete Rea. Visit, check out ZAP's Facebook page for more info, or call 828-295-6198.
2017 Members

Dave, Alexa, Nadia Alden
Michelle Andrew
Miguel Arellano
Adam & Becky Arensdofr
Tom & Joleen Arnhold
Mike BakerNatasha Bangel
Stacie Baquero
Virginia Barnes
John & Lila Bartel
Katie Baylie
Ivan, Zach, Brianna Beach
Matt Benaka
Megan Bergquist
John & Lettitia Bernard
George Bernheimer
Bre Berroth
Lana & Bob Best
Lynette Biehler
Holly Blick
Ben Bradshaw
Kevin Brown
Anthony Bryan
Steven Buckley
Brian, Amanda, Tyler Budden
Nick Buek
Jacob Bull
David Burgoon
Suzanne Burris
Michelle Carson
Rudy Chavez
Debra Christian
Nick Clair
Brad & Pam Clark
Scott & Rebecca Cole
Andrew Connery
Scott Cook
Chris Cozadd
Cassie Criger
Christine Cunningham
Reagan Cussimanio
Mandy Davis
De La Pena-Goldsmith, Lizette
Kathleen Deeter
Rick Deibert
Heiko Detlefsen
Joshua Devlin
Sarah & Daniel Dodson
Robert Downing
Mary Anne & Jared Durall
Tom Eck
Jonathan Edralin
Jim & Ethel Edwards
Patrick Eldringhoff
Joseph Eldringhoff
Mark Elliott
Michael Erwin
Taylor Evans
Larry Everly
Neal & Karen Farron
Heather Fay
Dana Ferrell
Vince & Leanne Finney
Mark Fisher
Jim & Susan Fitzgerald/Botkin
Lloyd, Lisa & Rebecca Fleming/Johnston
Casey Ford
Alisha Francis
Todd & Brandi Gaddis
Jack Galan
J.C. Garcia
Mimi Gardner
Shaun Gardner
Marty & Julie Garren
Jane and Russell Greene
Garry Gribbles - Tom Truhsdale
Garry Gribbles - Steve Sell
Garry Gribbles - Mckensie Bevins
Garry Gribbles - Cassie
Garry Gribbles - Monica Schragg
Garry Gribbles - Joe Schragg
Greg Gaul
Larry & Elaine Gill
Angie Gleason
Artie Gonzales
Dreher Goodrich
Justin & Leslie Gordon
Kelley Gorman
Lindsay Gress
James & Linda Griffin
Cathy Grisham
Rocco (Edmund) Gutierrez
Cheryl Haefele
Ryan Haefke
Ryan Hahn
Roger Hambold
Richard Harmon
Micah and Meagan Hawkinson
Irene Haws
Kristen Hearrell
Marcia Henderson
Kiley Hickock
Misty Hight
Denis Hill
Scott Hirschi
Laura Hoerman
Ralph & Kay Howard
Dale Hubbell
Chelsey Huddleston
Karla Huffman
Al Hunt
Sarah Hunter
Jeff Huss
Patty Hylton
Doug & Dorthy IIiff
Steve Ingersoll
Matthew Ishkanian
Dan & Tracie Inman
Michael Jamison
Mark, Jody, Sterling, Chase Johnson
Bo Jones
Lezlee, David Kylie, Allie Jones
Tracy, Peter, Morgan, Tyler Jones
Alicia Julian
Andrew & Rachel Kapp
Kim Keen
Larry Kietzman
Jamie Kim
Karin Kingsley
Ashley Koch
Kevin Kulm
Daniel Kurtz
Dan Lara
Clay Lang
Dennis Lawlor
Myron & Tandy Leinwetter
Tom, Karen & Ava Lemon
Jan W Leuenberger
Jason, Glenn & Glenn Lewis
Rebaecca Litvak
Laura Liggatt
Phillip Livingston and Eun Jin Kim
Jaclyn Long
Cassie Madden
Jamie Mauer
Robert, Glenda Michaela McCanliss
Jill McCartney
Dan McCollum
Steve McGaughey
Nancy McKenzie
Candi Meerpohl
Elijah Mendez
Abby Moore
Richard Morgan
Lisa Mortiz
Heather Morrison
Justin & Vanessa Moss (Steinroetter)
Hunter Munns
Tracie Neill
Dave Newbery
LeTiffany Obozele
Tim & Meredith Owen
Thomas Ortiz
Dwight Parman
Rachel, Dave, James, Matthew Peck
Nancy Perth
Greg, Kelly, Shelby, Quinn, Carley Pert
Tamara Peterson (Miller)
Abi Phelps
Claire Phillips
Shane Plemons
Gary Pratt
Jim & Jan Price
Tony Rake
Jory Reedy
The Regnier Family
Brad & Marla Rhoden
Bethany Richardson
Brent, Luke, Isaiah, Rebekah, Gabe Roper
Angela Roberson
Lesa Roberts and Rick Beattie
Michael Robins
Ashley Robinson-Evans
Maria Rodriguez
Margie Rogers
Vickie Rogers and Dan Rethman
Donna Romans
Yana Ross
Brent, Luke, Isaiah, Rebekah, Gabe Roper
Kjrsten Ruch
Elena Rusche
Sean Rutter
Andy Sample
David Sanchez
Suzanne Sawyer-Burris
Tanya Scott
Jacob & Sheena Schmidtlein
Tim Schmitz
Peg Schultz
Spencer Share
Bobbi Shinn
Debbie Simecka
Monica Smith
Eric & Vicki Smith
Rashawn Smith
Robert, Nici, Angelica Soria
Doug & Kathy Stacken
Lon Stanton
Charles & Christine Steinkuehler
Scott Steward
Ken Stone
Ronald & Linda Strader
Iradj Stroble
Liatris Studer
Vossler and Lynette Stueve
Steve Stumbaugh
Thad Sullivan
Michelle Terry
Kristen Thiessen
Barb, Leigha, Ron Thomas
Josh & Jacquelyn Thompson
Ken/Jan Tillery/Escola
Tammy Tipton
Bill & Reagan Tofflemire
Kelly Tosh
Kermit Trout
Scott Umsheide
Roger Underwood
Sarah Vincent
Vicki Vossler & Lynette Steuve
James Wabaunsee
Bill, Brenda, Emily, Billy, Abby, and Sophie Wagemaker
Joe Wagenblast
Paul, Tracy & Marissa Wagner
Vicky Walters
Jarod Waltner
TaNiqua Ward
Deanna Warner
Israel Wasserstein
Joshua and Skyler Watson
Les Watson
Monte Weathers
Jane Weiler
Frank Weinhold
Norma Weiser
Bob & Sharon Wenger
Becky Wessel
Kathi West and Sue Hamlin
Rosemary, Les, Rosalie Wilkerson
Don, Kim Erin Wilson
Jackie Williams
Tim Willingham
Sara Wood
Nick Xidis
Bryan Yowell
Jason & Katie Yuhasz

« March 2021 »