How to safely go running during winter in Quebec

·4 min read

Olivier Roy-Baillargeon loves the sound of snow crunching under his feet when he's running.

"This is an activity you can do whatever the conditions," said Roy-Bailargeon.

"Whereas cycling, it's too cold, too icy, too windy. You can't play volleyball. You can't play basketball. Running, you can actually do it over the winter."

Now that the gyms are closed in Quebec's red zones for a second time, outdoor exercise equipment sales are booming, and many are turning to running — one of the cheapest ways to work out.

But when it comes to hitting the streets during Quebec's harsh, unpredictable winter weather, running coaches and trainers like Roy-Baillargeon say you need to follow some key rules to stay safe and have fun.

Dress appropriately

Roy-Baillargeon said there is a way to dress for 10 C, a way to dress for between 10 C and -10 C, and for anything under -10 C.

On a -3 C day, for example, he always wears mittens and a hat because hands get cold and heat is lost through the head. He wears two layers, the first being tight to his body so it wicks away sweat.

As for footwear, he's always wearing the lightest, most breathable shoes he can find for fast drying. Regular running shoes or trail running shoes are both good, he said.

Submitted by Olivier Roy-Baillargeon
Submitted by Olivier Roy-Baillargeon

Be visible

The short, dreary days of winter create poor visibility for motorists, meaning runners are at risk while out for a jog.

Julie Graham, a kinesiologist who has a clinic in Boucherville on Montreal's South Shore, said reflective, bright colours are important.

Affordable lights can also be attached to the body, facing back and forward, she said.

"I run in the winter for many reasons, the first being to keep my routine going all year round," said Graham.

"It's good to go outside. We are always inside. It's more fun to run outside in the winter on a nice day, than in the summer when it's hot and humid."

Check your health before heading out

People who suffer from respiratory or heart disease should get the green light from their doctor before exercising outdoors in the winter, said Graham.

From there, new runners with health conditions should start slowly and gradually ease into outdoor winter running as it speeds up the heart, burns a lot of energy and can irritate the respiratory tract.

To reduce that irritation, she suggests inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. She says the nose and mouth should be covered with a scarf, and people should avoid suddenly going from an overheated place out into the cold.

And everybody, no matter their health, should pay attention to their body and not ignore any warning signs, she said.

Plan your route accordingly

Footing can be bad in the winter, and roads can be narrower. Graham said people should use caution to avoid getting hurt.

She suggests slowing down and taking shorter strides when running on slippery surfaces. Some people use spikes or crampons on icy days.

She said people should also consider changing their usual running route as needed to avoid dangerous situations, such as icy conditions or large snow banks that make it hard to keep a safe distance from traffic.

Photo submitted by Kris Acker
Photo submitted by Kris Acker

Warming up is crucial

Graham said people need to make sure they are properly hydrated and warmed up when heading out into the cold.

She suggests warming up inside to gradually get the body moving, and says it can take longer for the body to get ready when it's cold out.

Roy-Baillargeon said static stretching before a run can lead to injury, and instead, people should start from a fast, walking pace and work their way up to full speed over 10 to 15 minutes.

Stay motivated

Staying motivated to run when the temperature drops isn't easy, but Roy-Baillargeon said running from A to B rather than A to A — a loop — can make those cold, winter runs more enticing.

He suggests, for example, running to a store to pick something up or running back from the store after shopping.

Any occasion where running can be incorporated will make it easier to face the elements, he said.