Cold Weather Running Tips

As the temperature drops, so can motivation for running outside. The shock of opening the door from your cozy house … the attention that dressing properly requires … it can all stack up to make getting out there feel more difficult than in the warmer months. With a few simple tips, though, winter can be a season to tackle and even enjoy. Whether running is just your mid-week skiing training, or the running is the goal itself, it’s a great way to maintain or gain aerobic fitness for nearly every outdoor endeavor. Here are five ways to make the most of lacing up your running shoes on cold days.

1. Don’t overdress

Your body will warm up quickly, so even though you might be cold when you head out the door, stick it out so you don’t have to unload all your layers a few minutes in. After a dozen years of over- and under-dressing, I came up with my own guidelines for what to wear at different temperatures.

2. Protect your head and hands

We lose a lot of heat through our head and hands. So even while you might need to dress more lightly than you expect for your arms and legs, leaving your hands and head exposed will make you cold. If the temperature is lower than 40 degrees, I always wear a light beanie. The Shift Up is perfect for that temperature. Below that, a heavier one can keep you nice and toasty without wearing a bunch of layers. Likewise, having warm hands means your body won’t need to work harder to get blood all the way down to your digits. Have you ever seen marathoners in tank tops and gloves? That’s why.

3. Breathe through your nose

Cold air is…cold. Especially with temperatures under 20 degrees, it can hurt to breathe heavily. Luckily for us, our nose is designed to warm and filter air, which can make running in cold temperatures—especially if you’re sensitive to lung conditions—much more enjoyable.

4. Eat, Drink, and be merry (and lucid)

It’s easy to not drink water when it’s cold, but it’s just as important as when it’s warm out. In many areas, air is drier in winter than in other seasons, and becoming dehydrated can make you even colder. If cold water sounds unappealing, put tea in an insulated bottle in a pack, or use the weather as an excuse for either a mid-run stop or a point-to-point route to your favorite coffee shop. Grabbing a pastry to go with your coffee can also help keep you warm and firing on all cylinders. Winter is not the time to get glycogen depleted and loopy. It’s all in the name of training: many of my long runs have been saved by a pastry and coffee.

5. Pick a goal and peer pressure a friend

It’s always easier to get out of bed on a cold, dark, morning when you know a friend is waiting for you. Pick a race or route that you’re both excited about but that will take some training to realize, and then schedule to meet up for the runs you’re least looking forward too. For some people that’s the long run. But for others, it’s the middle- or end-of-the-week run when you’d rather do anything else than get out of bed early, or head out after work instead of going straight home.  And always remember: pastries and coffee always help.