It seems like overnight the weather went from breezy to brutally cold. Now you're singing the winter blues: It's too cold, too dark, too slippery to run. But falling temperatures don't have to deter you, says exercise physiologist Jonathan Cane, co-founder of City Coach Multisport, in New York City. Tap these strategies to escape the dreaded treadmill.
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This is the golden safety rule during a season in which it starts getting dark at (sigh) 4 p.m.: Be sure you're wearing at least one piece of reflective or neon-colored gear so cars can see you a quarter-mile out. For added visibility, slap on a reflective wristband, such as Nathan's Reflex snap band ($10 for a pack of two; rei.com).
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"Start with a wicking base layer," Cane says, "and finish with a wind-resistant shell." (See Gear Up for Any Weather.)
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Tweak Your Feet
It's smart to take it slow in slick conditions to prevent a spill. But equally important is increasing your cadence, or the number of times your foot hits the ground. "Shortening your stride this way encourages your foot to land under your center of gravity rather than ahead of it," says Terry Chiplin, owner of Active at Altitude, a facilitator of endurance-athlete training camps in Estes Park, Colo. "This puts you more in control" for better balance, he explains.
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Hydrate As If It's Summer
Surprise: Chugging water is just as essential during cold-weather runs. While you might not get as sweaty, you're still losing liquids, says Vonda Wright, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, in Pittsburgh. If you don't replenish, you could become dehydrated. Research shows that being dehydrated by as little as 2 percent (meaning you've dropped 1 to 3 pounds after a workout) can lead to cramps, headaches and fatigue. Don't wait until you're thirstythat's a sign that your body is already parched. Instead, sip 20 ounces one hour before your run, then down another 20 within 30 minutes of finishing.
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"Anything made with Gore-Tex will keep your feet dry all winter," says Desiree Davila, an Oakley athlete and Olympic long-distance runner. (Check out our picks at right.) Need extra traction? Try Yaktrax ($40; yaktrax.com), which fit around your outsole to dig into icy paths.
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The cold causes muscles and tendons to become less flexible, "leaving them more susceptible to injuries," Wright explains. Prime yours with a dynamic warm-up. (Go to health.com/run-warmup for a pre-run routine from Wright.) Once you're revved, it may feel as if it's 15 degrees warmer than it actually is, notes Michael Pieroni, head coach of the Boston Athletic Association Running Clubthat is, until you stop running. Then your body temperature will quickly drop as your sweat freezes and takes heat away from your body. Escape that fate: Get indoors and change out of those damp threads ASAP.