Dr. Darrell Menard: Winter Running

Ask the Expert –Winter Running

Article by Dr. Darrell Menard

Dr. Darrell Menard

Q: This summer I watched a video of the 2012 Olympic Games and was so impressed by the success of the Canadian Athletics Team that I started running. One day I hope to complete a marathon.  My summer training went well but I’m worried that in the winter months I will lose the fitness I worked so hard to achieve.  Is it possible to train effectively through the Canadian winter or do I need a posting to somewhere warm?  Cpl Stride

Dear Cpl Stride:  Congratulations on catching the running bug.  Running is an awesome sport and with some preparation it can be enjoyed outside year round.  Some of the nicest runs I have ever done were in the winter.   To help ensure that you enjoy winter running here are 4 things to consider: clothing, footwear, visibility and training alternatives.

Wintertime runners need clothing that is light weight, warm, sweat wicking and highly visible.  Be sure to dress your upper and lower body in layers.  The colder it gets the more layers you need.  The beauty of dressing in layers is that if you find you are overdressed you can peel off a layer.

With respect to footwear, most runners use the same running shoes year round without their feet suffering too much.  If it’s especially cold try wearing 2 pairs of thin thermal socks. They even sell studs you can attach to the bottom of your shoes for greater traction on slippery surfaces.

Throughout the winter runners are often forced to train on the side of the road. This can be dangerous in no or low light conditions, particularly if the snow is blowing hard and the runner is wearing dark clothing.  Wearing high visibility clothing or using some form of portable light when you train outside in no or low light conditions is essential as it makes it easier for drivers to see and avoid you

Every winter has days when it’s neither smart nor safe to run outside.  Extremely cold temperatures, freezing rain and unplowed roads/sidewalks are all potentially hazardous.  Fortunately, there are many training alternatives available at your base/wing fitness center.  Swimming, stationary cycling, treadmills, step climbers, rowing machines, spin classes and elliptical machines all offer you the opportunity for a great workout.  Some bases even have indoor running tracks – bonus!

The bottom line is that by following the above advice you will be able to maintain your running program throughout the winter.   Please keep in mind that while you can’t control the weather you can control whether or not you train SMART. Exercise is Medicine

Dr. Darrell Menard OMM MD, Dip Sport Med


Dr. Menard is the Surgeon General’s specialist advisor in sports medicine and has worked extensively with athletes from multiple sports.  As part of the Strengthening the Forces team he works on injury prevention and promoting active living.

Strengthening the Forces is CAF/DND’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being