Winter running. You either love it or you hate it! I’ve met many runners who simply can’t stand treadmill running, and it’s outdoors or nothing no matter the weather.
And then there are those who might look out the window and dread the thought of running out there.
But don’t let the cold weather discourage you from running outside!
Since so many runners are trying out winter running for the first time, it can seem a little intimidating. What to wear? How warm to dress? Should I get those grippy things for my shoes? How cold is too cold?
Unfortunately I can’t tell you what temperature is just too frosty to head out for a few miles (just be safe!). But, I can give you some cold weather running tips! And hey, they might just help you fall in love with winter running!
Cold Weather Running Tips
Tip #1: Wear the right gear
Having the right gear for whatever weather we are training in is key. If you want to enjoy yourself while running this winter, having the right gear is a necessary first step.
Not only will some of this gear help keep you safe, it’ll also make running much more comfortable and enjoyable!
- Shoe grips for icy sidewalks
- Wet-wicking socks (perfect for slushy, wet weather. They’ll keep your feet dry which helps them stay warm)
- Warmer shoes that have less ventilation (look for ones with less mesh, or use tape to cover up the vents)
- Top and bottom base layers (sometimes these and a windbreaker on top is all I need!)
- A windbreaker layer
- Gloves and a hat or headband.
- A headlamp (if you’re running in the dark)
You may also want to check out other gear like goggles or face masks for when it’s REALLY cold out and those frostbite warnings are in effect!
Tip#2: Warm up before you head out
It’s very tempting to get dressed and head out the door without so much as a thought to warming up (guilty!)
While that might not have serious consequences in the warm summer air, in the winter that can increase your risk of annoying injuries.
Before heading out for those chilly miles, take the time to do a thorough warm up.
Not only will it prepare your muscles and joints for the run, it’ll help bring your body temperature up a little bit so the cold air doesn’t feel quite so cold when you do step outside. This can help you feel more comfortable and prevent over-dressing for the weather.
Tip #3: Don’t go overboard on bundling up
“But it’s COLD outside!”
When it’s frosty out there the tendency is to dress nice and warm so you’re comfortable as soon as you step out the door. Maybe an extra hoodie under your windbreaker or a double layer of socks.
What can happen though is once you get moving (and start sweating), you’ll overheat. Then, as that excess sweat evaporates you’re going to feel twice as cold. If you stay dry, you’ll stay warm!
A good guideline is to dress as if it’s about 10 degrees warmer than it actually is outside. So, for example if it’s -10C, dress how you would if it was only 0 out. You might feel a little cool at first, but you’ll be glad you didn’t overdress as you start putting on the miles!
Warming up a little bit before you head out the door will also help you feel more comfortable from the get-go!
Tip #4: Set SMART goals
Many runners take a fitness vacation in the winter, and pick up their mileage again when the spring thaw starts. But, winter is a GREAT time to start base building and strength training so you can start the new year way ahead of the game.
That being said, setting SMART goals will help keep you motivated and on track!
SMART goal stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-oriented. For example “I want to run faster” is a great goal, but it isn’t a SMART one.
A great SMART goal might be: I want to finish my next race faster than my current best time. To do this I’m going to train 5 days per week and join a group running program to help me stay accountable”
See? Now that’s SMART!
Having a specific and action-based goal is a great way to prevent us from falling into winter hibernation mode.
I get it, sometimes Netflix and the couch is calling our name much louder than our running shoes. But, having a goal and accountability plan will keep you focused on what you want to achieve!
Do you want to make 2022 your best year of running yet? Join the Fuel Train Recover Course today!
Tip #5: Slow down
The roads and sidewalks are icy and full of snow, which has the potential to cause an injury. It’s best to be on the safe side and slow down the pace.
Your body also warms up a lot slower in the cold weather, and requires much more oxygen to move and keep warm. Start off at a slow pace and give your body the time it needs to adapt.
If you’re used to doing all of your runs at top speed, winter is a great time for slowing down and building up your aerobic base. This will help you finish races faster next year!
Tip #6: Stay safe and visible
The colder weather comes with shorter days and lack of daylight. This means you’ll need to take some extra precautions when running in the dark.
Wear reflective and bright coloured clothing to be seen by drivers, and a headlamp so you can see the ground in front of you.
Choose running paths with lighting and better visibility if you’re going out in the mornings or evenings. Save your favorite quiet treed paths for daylight hours.
Tip #7: Fuel up and stay hydrated
Running in the cold actually burns more calories. Make sure to eat some easily absorbed snack like toast or fruit with nut butter 30 minutes before a run. And don’t forget a protein and carb packed post run to refuel and optimize recovery.
It’s easy to forget about hydrating, especially when you feel that you’re not sweating as much. But in colder weather you can be losing as much fluid as you do in the summer heat. Drink enough water to replenish what you’ve lost!
Tip #8: Mix it up
Winter running shouldn’t just be about putting in the miles. We tend to spend far more time indoors in general throughout these cold, dark months and breaking that up with some regular fresh air is good for the body and mind.
So, get out there and enjoy all of the activities winter has to offer! Cross training can come in many forms when we have cold weather and snow. Go for a skate, cross-country ski, or tackle your favorite hiking trail on showshoes! These are all great for keeping us fit with less impact, and preventing boredom.
The bottom line
Running in the cold weather can be difficult and it can be easy to lose focus and motivation.
Instead of crawling under the covers and not coming out until groundhog day, you can use these cold weather running tips to actually enjoying winter running!
Getting the right gear, dressing for the weather the right way, and setting goals for ourselves can make the experience safer, more enjoyable and keep us motivated.
Starting off at the right pace, and staying fuelled up can also help combat feeling tired and sluggish on your run. We can also take advantage of new cross training opportunities that we don’t get to enjoy in the summer months.
If you’re well prepared, running outside all season won’t be so bad. So, get out there this year and enjoy the cooler temps, change of scenery, and maybe even find a new love for winter running!