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Regardless of the temperature outside, many runners prefer hitting the pavement to working out on a treadmill any day. While running inside is often perceived as monotonous, running outside keeps you engaged, and even results in more efficient exercise. Benefits of running outdoors include more calories burned and improvement of long-term heart health, among others.

Active senior man stretching

What does one do when he or she laces up shoes and opens the door to find frigid temperatures and unforgiving terrain (think icy sidewalks)? Running in the winter presents its own set of challenges, such as an increased risk of injury and simply trying not to freeze. Fortunately, with the right gear and proper preparation, running in the winter isn’t just doable, it’s fun, too.

We’ve rounded up the following advice to keep your outdoor run safe and comfortable year-round:

Find a Clear Path – Run where it’s safest.

Decide where you’ll go running before you leave the house. Chances are there’s a clear path somewhere near you, whether it’s a city park, salted sidewalks in your neighborhood or a nature trail that is cleared in the winter.

Even Boston, a city that sees some of the harshest winters in the country, maintains certain paths for runners in the chilliest months through a partnership with New Balance. Find out what initiatives are happening in your hometown. If running solo in the winter intimidates you, consider joining a running club, as the path will be predetermined.

Suit Up – Wear the right clothing.

Fight the initial desire to bulk up on heavy clothing. Whereas sweat pleasantly cools you down throughout warmer months, it’s not your friend in the winter as it actually makes you colder.

To stay warm and dry, start with a base layer of sweat-wicking leggings and a long-sleeved top. When it’s super cold outside, use a middle layer, such as a zip-up jacket that features a mesh insert to disperse excess heat to the rest of your upper body. Top it off with a wind-resistant vest. Don’t forget important accessories such as gloves and hats to avoid painful stinging from the cold. If it’s super cold, consider a breathable mask.

Lace Up – Wear the right shoes.

One of the main reasons running outside in the winter puts you at higher risk for injury is the increased probability of slipping. Even with a clear path, small patches of ice and snow or puddles are sometimes unavoidable. It’s absolutely imperative that you wear appropriate shoes with increased traction and warmth.

Visit your local sporting goods store or shop online to find the best winter running shoes.

Fuel Up – Eat foods that will serve you best before and after running.

Winter is hard on the body. Immune systems are suppressed, blood pressure rises (increasing risk of heart attack and stroke) and the flu is rampant.  The silver lining is that running will actually put you at a lower risk for these ailments. Even so, it’s still important to provide your body with the fuel it needs to feel and function its best.

Consider adding a protein powder into the mix, which will strengthen your immune system and give you more energy, along with other benefits. Treat yourself to a post-workout protein shake for recovery. Bone broth powder is also a good choice, as it’s a savory superfood that also satisfies winter soup cravings.

Warm Up – Stretch before and after your run.

Cold weather tenses up our muscles, making it easier to strain them. Before your run, be very careful when stretching, as your body hasn’t yet had the chance to warm up. Keep things light, with simple movements to loosen up. After your run, you’re in prime shape for stretching, as your body has retained heat from exercising.

Stretching will improve your daily life, lowering your chance for injury and strain, quieting antsy legs and maintaining flexibility.

Run Year Round

For many of us, there will always be a reason to avoid exercise. Winter shouldn’t be one of them. Working out with consistency achieves better results, an overall healthier lifestyle and a slew of life-prolonging perks. With the right preparation, running outside in the winter can be a fun and rewarding activity, especially when psyching yourself up for holiday meals.

What are some tips or tricks you’ve found that help you keep a running routine in the colder months? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!