Winter Running Tips from Endurance Athlete Ariana Schiff

By Outdoor Prolink Editorial Intern Sara Aranda. Sara likes to climb, trail run, travel and adventure and is spending her winter in Yosemite. Look for more blog posts and photos from Sara coming soon!

When it comes to dedicated and hardcore training, I often think of Ariana Schiff, a badass gal I met in Boulder, CO. She’s done it all, from 10k races, to trail marathons, to ultra-marathons and more. Last year, she completed the Boulder 70.3 Ironman and is currently training for the Boulder 140.6 Ironman this August. As part of the ZERO Endurance Team, a fundraising group to help end prostate cancer, she will also compete in another 70.3 Ironman this summer.Running2When I met Ari, she was working as a Marketing Project Manager for Thule, but is now “rocking the job title Funemployed” in order to completely immerse herself in her triathlon goals and another important aspect to her life: painting. One awesome thing about her is that she’s not afraid to train in inclement weather. Ari says, “While many triathletes turn to the treadmill when the weather gets iffy, you’ll find me post-holing through snow, glissading down icy trails, and trying not to freeze my ass off all winter long. The right gear and proper running technique are key to avoiding injury, frostbite, and making it home with only a couple victory bruises.” Below are her best winter running tips from her wealth of knowledge.

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Ari crossing the finish line at the Boulder 70.3 Ironman, 2015. Photo by Melanie Schiff

Strategy

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AS: When setting out in cold, icy, snowy weather I force myself to start with a full, slow, 20 minute warmup. Once I settle into a pace, I focus on high cadence, high knees, and short strides – quick feet on ice are less likely to slide. Shoes should have substantial tread, but once the trails turn icy, spikes are the only way for me! If you overdress, you not only end up a soggy, sweaty mess, you risk a higher chance of hypothermia if you get stranded; but if you underdress and you also risk the chance of hypothermia. So I always try to prepare for the worst when running in the winter, such as carrying supplies in a small pack.

Gear

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AS: Shoes: I mostly run in a pair of Salomon trail runners, but was fortunate enough to acquire a pair of Merrell waterproof trail runners with tungsten carbide spikes embedded in the soles that have saved my ass numerous times. I’ve heard this can also be a DIY project using an old pair of running shoes and some tiny screws. Detachable spikes like Yaktrax are also a great option and allow you to use them throughout a run as needed.

Clothing: Warmth is important but your clothing should still be simple. I love using compressive clothing because I feel that it helps hold heat closer to the joints. Even at zero degrees, I’ll throw on lightweight wool socks, thermal compression leggings, a long sleeved wicking shirt, light jacket, gloves, neck buff, and a hat. Consider that whatever temperature it is outside, once you start moving you will feel a good 10-15 degrees warmer than the air outside.

Pack: I love my Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest 2.0, which has plenty of front pockets for easy access, and bungeed back storage for a reservoir and other extras. But any ultralight tech pack will do.

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Extra Safety

AS:  1. I always tell someone where I’m going and when I should be back. Wandering around for hours lost in sunshine can be pretty fun, but not so much in 15 degrees. One wrong turn or rolled ankle could leave me outdoors for hours longer than intended.

2. Even on shorter runs I’ll throw on a running pack to stash some extra warm items ‘just in case.’ These items include extra socks, gloves, hat, emergency blanket and ultralight jacket, plus some extra high calorie snacks.

3. My cell phone will hopefully have cell service, so I can call for help if things go awry. And because I’m carrying my phone, on longer runs I also pack a Goal Zero mini charger and my charging cable since the cold weather will kill a phone battery faster than I can Snapchat a powder shot.

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AS: It’s important to get out of wet clothes and into a warm environment. Even better, start ingesting warm liquids as soon as you reach home or the car. I love to round out a magical snowy run with a waiting thermos of hot Skratch Labs Apples and Cinnamon.

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Blasting down trails when the world is blanketed in fresh white snow is one of the most wonderfully surreal experiences! – Ari

In a Nutshell

What I’ve learned from Ari is to be smart about your gear, have fun, and dare to get out there. I’d never experienced any sort of real ‘winter’ until I moved to Colorado (I’m from sunny SoCal), and now that I’m in Yosemite National Park this winter I’ve really learned a lot about trail running in snowy conditions. I remember asking Ari about running shoes for snow when I first met her, as I was a little nervous to run outside. To my surprise, all I really needed was a trail shoe with great tread. So I went out for my first snowy run on New Year’s Day 2015 and was absolutely amazed with how simple it really was. I’ve continued to challenge myself by running outside this winter, and it’s absolutely doable, not to mention gorgeous and inspiring!

Follow Ari on Instagram: @arianasisu

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