minnesota winter

So You Want to Be Jon Snow

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Well, it’s official. With the first snowfall (and the collective city-wide freak out—WE’RE GOING TO GET 16 INCHES, QUICK EVERYONE TO TARGET RIGHT NOW), winter has come to the Twin Cities. And it will likely never leave. I’m taking bets on the reappearance of the grass—April, or it didn’t count as winter.

If you live in the Twin Cities you know the unnecessary pride and extensive disgust that comes with surviving a Minnesota winter. You likely own several pairs of long johns, four different types of boots (going-out boots, why-am-I-shoveling-out-my-car-at-four-in-the-morning boots, last-year’s-no-longer-waterproof-step-around-puddles boots, and a pair of ankle boots to round out the look), and more winter coats than you care to count (yes, I do need four different peacoats, stop asking stupid questions). You know that your oven can double as a space heater, and that a heated blanket is pretty much a necessity. You take pride in the ridiculous temperatures (“I stood at the bus stop in -10 degree weather for twenty minutes this morning!”), but refuse to let it break you. Props Minnesota, for building a colony in America’s Siberia and refusing to back down. We’re all just a few steps into crazy here.

I’ve decided to take braving the Minnesota winters a step further; I’ve decided to keep running. And no, I don’t mean I’m going to get a gym membership. I am poor and unemployed, and the outside air puts hair on your chest! Let’s go running!

I recently completed the Couch to 5K program, and have since moved on to the 5K to 10K program. But I will not be deterred by the snow. I will not let 20 degree weather prevent me from working out! (When did I become this person?)

If you insist on being this crazy, you should take some precautions. As my Monday run proved, I am nowhere near prepared for this disaster. Just googling “running in Minnesota winter” results in a slew of articles, many questioning the sanity of the searcher, and all of them full to the brim with tales of caution.¬†Suffice to say, running in Minnesota winter is an entirely different beast. For starters… ice.

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Guess what? The ice is slippery. And despite citywide laws, not everyone has shoveled their strip of sidewalk for you. Or they’ve iced too early, leaving an unassuming staking rink in its place. Just, copious amounts of fun.

Jon Snow doesn’t go tromping around Beyond the Wall with just a pair of sneakers. He decks out his boots with mini snow treads, and you should too. Enter YakTrax.

Yes, you look like a dork.

These babies will save you from falling on your butt in the ice. They’ll turn your terrible 11:34 (Monday’s pace without them—ie, running through ice and attempting not to fall), into something less awful. I’ve ordered a pair of these bad boys (sorry, couldn’t wait until Christmas, I would have broken my ankle), and I can’t wait for them to arrive. Sliding all over the trail, while a great exercise for your core, isn’t exactly going to improve your speed.

Another thing to note and accept about running in winter? Goals should probably be tossed out the window. While I’m still training in winter, I’m likely not going to fret over my pace. Winter is an entirely different beast, and it shouldn’t be approached with the same enthusiasm as summer running. Stay close to home when you’re out for a run, wear bright colors, and don’t push yourself. Because, in the words of The Maple Grove Barefoot Guy, “you’ll get hypothermia and die.”

Clothing is another beast to tackle in winter running. Monday’s run proved that I am also unprepared in that aspect. Layering is key, so break out the long johns, running tights, and swishy wind-resistant pants your mother insisted that you buy for your semester abroad. You never thought you’d wear them? HA. This isn’t a fashion show, you are trying to protect your body from failing you. Wear the stupid pants.

That also goes for hats, scarves, mittens, wool socks, and full face masks. Sure, stepping outside in 20 degree weather is fine for a few seconds, but running outside for 40 minutes is going to be dangerous. I’d rather we all look like weirdos and stay toasty than suffer from frost bite. Jon Snow wears four animals on his back, you can wear a balaclava.

Do you run in winter? What are you tips to staying safe and happy? Am I crazy?

Wait, don’t answer that last one.