Top Tips, Tricks, & 5 Best Winter Trails to Run Near Des Moines

New Year’s Resolution

Did you make the Classic New Year’s Resolution to hit the gym every day or lose 15 pounds this year? Are you already bored, overwhelmed, or just sick of being stuck inside at the gym? Get outside, hit the trails, Winter doesn’t have to stop you from making your goals.

Three Christmas’ ago my family got me a little and energetic black lab for Christmas. Like the energizer bunny, she had unlimited energy always begging for a walk or to go play fetch outside. As she learned quickly, I’m a big pushover and became desperate to find a way to tire her out in the frozen tundra that is Minnesota in January. To get back into the warmth ASAP, the walks became runs real quickly. In a strange turn of unpredictable events, running other (warmer) seasons of the year became a lot more enjoyable and quickly became a hobby of mine.

Moving to Des Moines to finish college, the following year has gave me the quest of finding the top tips and tricks for winter running. That starts with finding a place other than the slushy sidewalks of the Drake Neighborhood to pound the pavement. Below are a few of my favorite spots along with tidbits of advice from an interview with the local, Jacob Nelson.

Jacob Nelson– Boston Marathon Qualifier, Sub 3-hour marathoner & college track athlete

  1. Great western trail 16.5 miles of old railroad bed trails. “Nice and long, and you can get out of the city…includes wooded patches that are really beautiful.” Jacob added “Less trafficked than most trails, but well kept and even good enough for consistent bikers.”
  1. Clive-greenbelt 8.5 miles of connections to other trails in the metro area that brings together WIndsor Heights and Clive to Des Moines. This is my personal go-to as I can hop down to Waterworks or run the side trails in clive near some prairie and along creeks. My only complaint is that it is routed across one or two busy intersections that don’t seem necessary, but don’t let that scare you away! I recommend hopping on near the Rose Gardens for parking and a great starting point.
  1. Waterworks Park– Sure bet the that every local keeps stored as a hidden gem!
  1. Gray’s lake-Quick downtown Access, 2 mile loop, 4 parking lots. Lots of fluffy dogs being walked to provide distractions,
  1. Brown’s woods-The reality here is that Polk County has an outstanding Conservation board and park system, any of their parks will have ample paved or groomed trails to have more classic runs. This particular park still has many beautiful old, Iowan Oaks left to fly by in your neon synthetic gear.

Extra: South of Grand Ave. (the whole area) For the hills amongst the neighborhoods. This street actually about marks the line where the last glaciation period stretched South, so there is naturally more topography occuring here to help the diversify the training sessions.

How to stop slipping:

  • Yak traks– Almost like winter cleats that fit over your shoes, without slowing you down.

I personally don’t use them but as Jacob jabbed:

“If you are the other 98% of us that didn’t grow up on pond hockey in MN it’ll save your butt, literally!”

  • Newtons– Jacob’s go to shoe brand for winter terrain.

Conditions to look for:

  • Snow removal
  • Traffic level
  • Distance
  • Many entry points
  • Scenery

5 Final Tips:

  • No such thing as too cold, just not the right apparel check out this local running store
  • Try a running buddy to push each other and stay safe
  • Carry identification, in case you freeze your brain and forget who you are
  • Run aerobically, listen to your body.
  • The rule of thumb is if illness strikes below the neck, in the respiratory system, avoid running and limit outdoor activity

Finally, be sure if any of these tips or tricks run you to your goals, if so give it a share to save a friend from falling out there!