An accomplished Windsor, Ont., track and field coach is encouraging people to take up winter running as a way to get fitter in the new year.

Kurt Downes, a PhD candidate in kinesiology at the University of Windsor, co-authored an article on the topic with associate professor Kevin Milne that appears in The Conversation

“I think it’s something that, in sport, is easy,” Downes said. 

“It’s cost effective. It’s something that most people can be involved in.”

Downes is head coach and president of the Border City Athletics Club, which has worked with a number of elite athletes, including Olympians.

Downes said the Windsor Essex area has a number of great places to run in the winter, including the riverside, the Greenway Trail, Ganatchio Trail and Ojibway Park.

Running is easy, and it doesn’t cost much money to get into it, says Kurt Downes, a PhD candidate in kinesiology at the University of Windsor. (Mark Scherle)

“It’s a wooded area, so the trails are often protected from snow, even in the winter,” he said.

“The footing is soft. Occasionally, if there’s a temperature increase and drop, it can be a little bit slippery, but for the most part, it’s a great outdoor area.”

Where they run in Windsor

Avid winter runner Kyle McCamon, who manages the Wyandotte Street location of the Running Factory, echoed Downes’s recommendation of the Ganatchio Trail. But he said one of his favourite places to run is the Herb Gray Parkway Trail.

“That trail there is salted and plowed the majority of the time after snowfall,” he said.

“The majority of the path is lit up, so it does offer a little bit more safety that way as well.”

McCamon gets fairly hot when running, so typically just wears regular mesh running shoes, even on cold days, and chooses a road-to-trail shoe with a better grip for slippery conditions. Spiky grips can be added to the shoes in icy conditions, he said. 

McCamon also wears a thermal layer, warmer tights and a vest. 

Here’s what to wear

Those looking to outfit themselves for maximum comfort in cold weather might want to look at purchasing Gore-Tex running shoes to protect their feet from slush and snow, Downes said.

Also, there are shoes with a more rigid sole to help protect against slips and falls.

Downes recommends a base layer of clothing that wicks moisture away from the body, coupled with a warm insulating lawyer and an outer shell that protects against wind and precipitation.

Downes said typical winter temperatures in Windsor shouldn’t pose a risk to most runners, provided they’re dressed appropriately for the weather.

Running in subzero temperatures

In fact, he has coached athletes training and competing in cities like Winnipeg, where temperatures can drop to double-digit subzero temperatures, and even there, athletes will do shorter runs outdoors, he said.

“I wouldn’t be out doing, you know, an extensive run,” he said. “But you could still go out for a period of time.”

McCamon noted that runners in Windsor haven’t had to worry about extreme conditions so far this winter.

“It’s been a crazy good season to be running outside,” he said.

“We’re talking anywhere between 7 and 10 degrees C, which is still shorts weather, in my opinion.”

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