Running in the cold: with the right layering system and a few precautions, it’s totally doable. And wow, it’s been cold lately! In the past, we’ve had polar vortexes, we’ve had Snowmageddons, and now we’ve had a bomb cyclone. A bomb cyclone?! This latest new weather term is meant to scare us inside, but life must go on — we have running to do and races to train for!
While our temperatures in the DC area haven’t been as extreme as some more northern states, it’s been pretty frigid. I’m pretty bold when it comes to running in the cold, but I’ll admit that I didn’t run outside in 2 degree weather recently and opted for a treadmill. Two degrees was a tad below my threshold. I’ve run in sub-10 degrees but do prefer it to be over 10-15 – it all depends on the wind and conditions of the sidewalks, sometimes they are just too icy.
I put together 11 Tips for Running in the Cold, based on my years of experience at getting out there in freezing weather. You may have other tips you recommend – add them in the comments!
For the physical piece of running in the cold:
1. Layers are your friend. Layer up, friends! I have a cold weather running layering system and it works like a charm. One short-sleeved shirt, one long-sleeved shirt, and a windbreaker jacket. If I try to add more than this when it’s above 25 degrees, I overheat quickly. For under 25 degrees or so, I will sometimes add a tank top as a base layer.
2. Leave minimal skin exposed. When it’s so cold that the air hurts, try to avoid exposing too much skin, especially your extremities. I always wear longer socks in cold weather and put them on before i put on my pants, so that no skin is peeking out at the ankles. A scarf/neckwarmer that you can pull over your chin is key, especially in the wind.
3. Be noticeable. Wear brighter colors or reflective material so that drivers will more easily notice you when you’re out there running in the cold weather. They may be focused on their hot coffee, adjusting the radio, or navigating snow piles than looking out for some crazy (and awesome!) runner. Flashing lights and headlamps can be seen from a distance, and can alert drivers that you’re out there.
4. Top it off. Make sure you wear a hat, and keep your ears covered.
I actually got a little too warm in this big winter hat when I was running yesterday!
5. Warm up that body. Avoid a shocker to your system and get your body warmed up and loosened up before you start running in the cold weather. A good warmup and dynamic stretches can be the key to avoiding injury.
6. Gear up. There’s some great winter running gear out there that make running in various conditions possible. If it’s icy and snowy, check out Yaktrax. I bought myself some for running in the snow and ice, and they’re pretty neat! They fit right over your shoes and grip the snow and ice for more traction. A headlamp and reflective gear is also great to have for winter running.
For the mental piece of running in the cold:
7. Find a group or running buddy. I’ve run through the winter the past two years consistently with a group. I was coaching a winter half marathon training program, and knowing that people were out there waiting for me and relying on me got me out there no matter how cold! Find a buddy to join you for running in the cold and it will make the miles go by faster!
8. Find a route you look forward to. Pick a new route, a holiday light display, or something scenic to add some variety and look forward to your run. Exploring new areas can keep you motivated to get out there and run in the cold when you might just want to stay under the covers.
9. Explore your competitive side. There are run streaks, challenges on Strava, running and triathlon group competitions – finding an external motivator can make you eager to go running in the cold, rather than dread it!
10. Treat yo’self. Pick out a reward for braving the colder temperatures that you’ll only get if you get out there and get it done.
11. BE SAFE. Leave the headphones at home, wear the brighter colors or reflective material (see #3!), and obey traffic and crosswalk signals. There is less daylight at this time of year, and I find that drivers aren’t expecting runners in the cold weather like they do in nicer temps.
Be conscious of the road conditions and sidewalk conditions. I thought all the snow and ice had melted yesterday but still encountered unexpected ice patches.
Make sure someone knows that you’re running, and where you’ll be. I’ve had my phone shut down in really cold temperatures, so having someone on alert that you’re out there running in the cold is the safest course of action.
With these tips for running in the cold, you should be good to get out there and RUN! Let me know if you have any other suggestions in the comments!
But tell me… who can’t wait for springtime to get here?
What’s your temperature threshold for running in the cold? Is it ever TOO cold for you?