Cold Weather Running Tips

After a snowy but not too cold start to winter, we are back to frozen temperatures!

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The picture on the left is from my car yesterday morning (-11 degrees), and the picture on the right is from this morning (-10 degrees). Yesterday I drove somewhere warm to get my run in (+10 degrees), but this morning I waited till 9:30 AM and then headed out. It was -8 degrees at the start, but warmed up to a balmy +8 degrees by the end. I have to say I was not cold largely due to the fact that there was no wind and the sun was nice and warm.

Many people say they do not run when the temperature reach “X” amount of degrees. I hate to put a number on it, but I really don’t like running below zero although I still do. A red flag I do pay attention to is when there is a wind chill advisory - then I know it’s seriously cold and I take caution to make it short or go on the treadmill.

Here are some tips for cold weather running (and cold weather exercise in general):

  • Warm-up inside before you head out. Doing an active warm-up is a great way to get your muscles going before you hit the cold. Make sure you don’t have all your layers on when you do the warm-up - save some to put on right before you go out the door.

  • Exercise when it is light out if you can. The sun makes it feel 10-15 degrees warmer than it actually is. Look for an open spot if the sun is out, but look for an enclosed area such as a tree lined road if it is windy to block the wind.

  • If you have problems with your hands, wear mittens lined with gloves and wear hand warmers. Nothing is worse than cold hands or feet.

  • Buy top quality socks (Balega and Darn Tough are my favorite), and wear shoes that provide enough warmth and water resistance that your feet stay dry. I find I cannot wear my speed shoes below 5 or so degrees because they are too lightweight.

  • Invest in good quality cold weather gear. My favorite cold weather running tights are these and these. My husband and I love R1’s from Patagonia (men’s and women’s). We also love Craft clothing. As for headwear and neck warmers, anything from Skida is great. Finally, Tracksmith has some incredible clothes that I love.

  • Take off your clothes, especially if they are wet, as soon as you can. I prefer to come home, stretch for 5 minutes (bonus if it’s by the wood stove!), and then get right in a warm shower followed by a hot meal. If I have to drive home, I prefer to bring a change of clothes.

  • If you are bringing nutrition or fluids with you, make sure they won’t freeze. I prefer to leave my gels and water right inside the door at my house, and I plan my run to loop by the house to grab it part way. Otherwise, the water gets too cold. If I must bring a gel with me, I try to keep it as close to my body as I can to keep it at a good temp and prevent it from hardening.

  • Finally, dress in layers! Here I am putting on my layers for my long run this morning (note this was for -8 degrees at the start). I wore a long sleeve plus a hoodie plus a lined jacket on the top, fleece lined tights plus wind breaker pants on the bottom, and a neck warmer with a headband and the hoodie over my head. I also had hand warmers and thick balega socks on. Halfway through as it warmed up, I took off the wind breaker pants and removed the hood. No frostbite, no problem!

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How do you stay warm in the cold? I would love to hear your tips!