Running In The Cold: How To Stay On Track This Winter

Winter running presents challenges that might require some extra planning before you get out the door. Lack of access to a treadmill during cold winter months usually means one thing - bundle up and hit the pavement for some chilly miles! While running in anything below 45 degrees might sound miserable, taking some time to plan winter running can make all the difference.

First, make sure that you clearly map out your training goals for the winter. This requires a delicate balance of preparedness with flexibility; if you have a faster workout scheduled on a day that will be below 20 and windy, don’t be afraid to push it off to a more favorable day. Moreover, try to stay flexible on specific pace or mileage goals. Basing more workouts on effort (while sometimes a struggle for type-A people) can help you get the most out of training during less than optimal conditions.

Winter training goals can also be geared towards improving yourself as a whole athlete. Maybe this is finally the time when you consistently get in glute-activation exercises before heading out the door, or you commit to core work (indoors!) a few times a week. Once you’ve mapped out these goals, take it one step further and tell someone else to keep you accountable. That person could be your training partner, a friend, a sibling, or even your dog ;).

Once you know the purpose of the next few months of training, make sure you have the right gear. There’s no worse feeling than being over/underdressed for a run or workout, so making it a priority can pay massive dividends down the road. It can take some trial and error, but taking the guesswork out of the weather always helps. Many runners will set a benchmark for when they transition from shorts to tights or add on a jacket over their shirt. Try switching to tights when the thermometer dips below 40 degrees (or 50 if you’re Tyler Andrews). Remember that it’s very individual so find out what works best for you. Make sure to invest in some good running gloves, a hat or headband, and clothes made from wicking material.

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Warming up can be even more important in the cold weather to make sure your muscles are ready to work hard and are not at risk for pulls or strains. Starting your warm-up indoors can be beneficial so that it does not feel like such a shock when you head outside. Don’t be afraid to start your runs a little bit slower or add a few more strides to the warm-up before a workout to make sure everything is loose and ready to go.

Quick Tips:

  • Keep your feet dry! The most heat is let out from your extremities so make sure to have high-quality running socks, gloves, and a hat/headband

  • Stay on top of hydration. A good rule of thumb is half your body weight in ounces at a minimum and additional water intake with more exercise. If you’re running for more than an hour, consider incorporating electrolytes like Nuun.

  • Reward yourself! Running in the winter is hard and rewarding yourself after hitting little goals can help keep motivation up. Here’s a fun one - make each mile ran worth 50 cents towards a new book that you have your eye on.