Running in the cold. It’s exhilarating and so worth braving the elements! I grew up outside of Chicago, where the winter temperatures can go well below 0F and the snow can really pile up, so I’m used to running in winter conditions and have even come to enjoy it. The hardest part is always the first step out the front door!
Here are some of my winter running tips:
1. Try to run during daylight hours.
The sun (if there is any) will make you feel warmer. It’s really hard to muster the motivation for a run when it’s dark AND cold outside.
2. Get the right clothes!
Dressing appropriately will make the cold much more tolerable. There are many high-tech and expensive brands of cold-weather gear on the market now, but I’ve always been one to keep it simple when it comes to my running. I prefer to wear sweat-wicking fabrics as my first layer, and then layer on whatever else I need. Sometimes all I need is an additional cotton long-sleeve shirt or a cotton sweatshirt. On windy days, I layer on a wind-proof jacket, and if it’s raining, I’ll put on a waterproof jacket. Running with a waterproof jacket isn’t very comfortable since you’ll heat up faster and sweat more, so I’ll only wear this if it’s too cold to just run and get wet. For your legs, a thick pair of tights is usually enough for me, but when the temperatures really drop, adding a pair of wind-proof pants does the job. It’s best to limit the amount of bottom layers you wear since you want to keep your legs flexible. Plus, your legs are going to be working hard and generating a lot of heat while you run.
I have a love/hate relationship with gloves. I wear fleece gloves that are breathable but thick enough to keep my hands warm. When it’s really cold, I’ll switch to ski mittens because I find my fingers stay warmer when they’re in contact with each other. I hate wearing a hat, but will wear one if it’s really necessary. When it’s really cold, the air can be painful to breathe in, so I wear a homemade knitted “neck warmer.” It protects my neck (so no need for a bulky scarf) and I can pull it over my mouth and nose so that I’m not breathing the cold air directly. Just remember not to wear so much on your head that you’re blocking your peripheral vision.
My last tip for running wear is to dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer outside – that way you won’t overheat right away.
3. Watch out for ice!
I’ve fallen so many times on ice, and it’s a bad way to fall. The fall is always so sudden that you can’t control how you fall – not good. It’s easiest to run on plowed streets, rather than shoveled sidewalks, when there’s a chance for ice on the ground. Usually the streets are salted when the weather creates dangerous driving (and running) conditions. So find a running route on streets with low traffic, and be safe!
4. Start warm and stretch!
Don’t give your legs a chance to get cold before you start your run. I start running as soon as I get outside to prevent the cold from making my muscles tight. When you finish your run get back inside as soon as you can. Stretch inside!
Happy winter running! I hope you come to love it as much as I do!
On a warmer note, I leave you with a picture from one of my favorite places to run. An olive grove in Davis, CA. Peaceful, beautiful — makes every run a dream!