10 Cold Weather Running Tips

I’ve worn my winter running tights on almost every run outside for the past two weeks. Twenty five degrees is just too dang cold for crops, shorts or skirts. This year I plan on running outside more than ever. Here are my tips on beating the cold and actually enjoying cold weather running.

  • Don’t overdress. Yes, you’ll be cold at the beginning but you’ll warm up within 10 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to dress for 20 degrees warmer. One of my favorite ways to fool my body is to put my running clothes in the dryer for a few minutes right before I’m about to leave. My clothes are super toasty for that first initial step out the door, which is always the hardest. Runner’s World has a list of “What to Wear” based on your location in the U.S. It’s good but a couple of years ago they had a “What to Wear” tool that was more specific based on actual conditions. They need to bring that back!
  • Run with a buddy. When you know someone is waiting for you at 5 a.m., in the dark,Β  and it’s 20 degrees, you feel obligated to get your butt moving rather than hitting the snooze alarm. Once you start running you’ll be so engrossed in conversation that you won’t even notice your nostril hairs have frozen. πŸ˜‰
  • Have a goal. Pick a Spring race that will motivate you to get out. Last week I registered for the Mid-Winter Classic, a 10 miler in early February. Oh and it’s in Maine. It’ll be freakin’ cold but it’s a little extra motivation to keep my mileage up. I also am 99.9% sure I’m going for the Vermont City Marathon in May. That means a big chunk of my training is going to be during the winter. Huge motivation!
  • Wear bright clothing. Obviously, you want to be seen in the dark whether it’s early in the morning or at night while running. But also, take extra precautions to be seen during the day when its’ cloudy, raining, snowing or high snowbanks. Neon is big right now so go all out!
  • Wear hats, gloves or mittens. Keep your extremities covered up. Frost bite is not pretty. My fingers get painfully cold during this time of the year so I’ve learned to wear two pairs of mittens. I can ball my fingers in a light fist to keep them just a little bit more warm. 009
  • Wear trail running shoes. When there’s fresh snow on the road or path, I break out my trail running shoes or a pair that has bigger grips. I get better traction. I learned the hard way last year that a light dusting of snow over cobblestone bricks makes for a very slick surface!
  • Wear thicker socks. I don’t follow this rule all the time. I tend to wear my usual socks for almost any conditions. However, if it’s really cold or slushy, I’ll wear a pair of SmartWool hiking or snowboard socks. They keep my feet dry and cozy.
  • Cover your mouth. When it’s really cold (below 20 degrees), I like to wear my snowboard neck gaiter that covers my mouth. It warms the air going into my nose and mouth preventing my lungs from working harder than necessary.
  • Change immediately post-run. Chills set in quickly once you stop running. Even if you are inside, your clothes are wet. Pull on dry clothing before you stretch. Grab something hot like tea, coffee or hot cocoa to sip on and warm your hands.
  • Just do it! The more you think about how cold it’s going to be, the less likely you are going to make it out the door. Tell yourself to run for 1 mile or 10 minutes. If you still don’t feel good, give yourself permission to call it and go back home. Nine times out of ten, you’ll keep going! Plus, think of how much better you feel after your run. Isn’t that worth it?

Do you run in the cold?

What are your tips?

What is your definition of cold?

  1. I’m registered for the Mid Winter Classic too!! Super excited to run in Maine…in the cold…and maybe, snow??

    As for running in the cold tips, I do everything you do, but I wear my Sprigs Earbags. Love how easy they are to use!
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  2. I try to warm up inside too to get the blood flowing. I need a neck thing b/c I have asthma and that cold are can really mess with me. And I always have to remind myself that I will warm up. I usually end up peeling off a looser top layer.

    • I tell all my pulmonary patients to wear a scarf over their mouths at all times during the winter. Even if it’s just walking from the car to the house. The cold air takes your breath away! At least with the scarf it warms the air a bit. It doesn’t even have to be tight.

  3. Yes to not overdressing! It’s so easy to get sucked into it, but so miserable when you are too hot out there. And I also really think the key is just getting out the door. Once you do, if you are dressed properly, you never regret it. A cold run is better than a treadmill run in my opinion!
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    • Dad is home with the kiddos while I run. On most days, he scoots off to work shortly after I get home. Thankfully, the kiddos will sleep for maybe another 20-30 minutes after that so I can at least get in a shower!

  4. I don’t run in the cold – I try not to get out at all in the cold – it makes me CRANKY!!! Good thing I really love my treadmill!

  5. Such an excellent post! My friends and I joke that it takes us a little while to develop our “winter skin” but running in the cold doesn’t have to be bad. It’s all about having good gear and to just get out the door. I’m training for the Goofy Challenge in January to keep my motivation up!

  6. I really LOVE your tip about throwing your clothes in the dryer just before you get ready to leave. I’m definitely going to be doing that! Running in cold weather is tough, but as each winter passes, I’m getting a little better. But I still find myself hitting the dreadmill more often than not if the weather gets in the 20s (which right now, is practically every day!). I need to just tell myself to get out there anyway!
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  8. I used to live in cold weather, so I know how useful and accurate these tips are! Now I live in lazy, warm Los Angeles… we need to give the people out here these tips; as soon as it 69 degrees all of the women break out their ugg boots, puffy jackets and stop running all together. ha!
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  9. Love these tips! I run in the winter, and agree with it all – especially the bright colored clothing. Thanks for mentioning the trail running shoes, I’d never thought of that. I usually use the metal cleats that attach to my regular shoes, but trail shoes sound even better.

    Great post, thanks for sharing these tips! Happy trails πŸ™‚