Cold Weather Running Tips

As the weather turns colder, going out for a run can require a little extra motivation. For some of us, maybe a lot of extra motivation. It gets dark earlier, you have to figure out what to wear, and most of us just don’t like to get cold. However, if you are properly prepared to run in the cold and recognize the challenges, running outside in cold weather can be rewarding and provide you with an even greater sense of accomplishment.

Being physically prepared to run in the cold with the right apparel and other gear goes a long way toward removing any excuses we may have for not running when it’s cold out. Good cold weather running apparel makes a huge difference. It’s not bulky, so it is comfortable to run in. And, it protects you from the cold, wind, rain/sleet, and snow; all while wicking away moisture so that you stay dry and warm, without getting chilled. Wearing the right cold weather apparel is really half the battle – you can run in cold weather without being cold. It’s just a matter of getting the right apparel for the conditions you’re running in.

When dressing for a cold weather run, a good rule of thumb is to dress the way you would if it was 20 degrees warmer and you were outside but not running (casually walking in the park or working in the yard). In other words, if you are running and it is 30 degrees, dress as you would if you were outside casually, and it is 50 degrees. Remember that it will take some time after you start running to feel warm – usually anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes. If you are still cold after 10 minutes of running, you may need to add a different apparel base layer the next time. Over time, you’ll figure out the combination of cold weather apparel that works best for you. Just know that it is possible to dress for cold weather running in a way that will keep you dry and warm.

Even though you have the right cold weather apparel and gear, it’s still hard to get motivated to go out and run in wintry weather. It takes longer to get dressed for it, you’re doubling the amount of laundry you’ll have to do, and it’s gloomy outside. For a lot of people, setting goals can be helpful. Whether it’s days per week, miles per week, or hours per week running outside, it can help to set challenging goals for yourself that give you that little boost you need to get out there when you’re feeling a little unsure about whether it’s worth the effort. Write out your goals and stick to them; and then reward yourself for hitting them.

And remember, when you’re out there running in the gloomy cold, more than 99% of people are not out there doing what you’re doing. You’re part of an elite group of motivated and committed people, and that means something.

Here are a few extra tips on cold weather running:

  • Make sure that you wear reflective gear when running in the dark. For the sake of safety, it’s important to be as visible as possible in low light conditions.
  • Identify safe running routes that are kept clear when it snows. The greenway trails and college campuses are usually your best option.
  • There are options for increasing the traction of your running shoes when it snows – products such as Yaktrax that fit over your shoes can make a big difference. Also, certain trail running shoes are great for running on snow.
  • Recognize that there will be days when it is just not safe to run outdoors. Icy conditions and deep snow are a reality in our area. If that happens on one of your running days, have a backup plan. A treadmill run, riding your bike on a trainer indoors, or some other form of exercise are fine on those days and will complement your outdoor running when the weather improves and you are able to get out again. It’s always best to be safe.

Written by Brad Altevogt, F4F Board Member and owner of Three Rivers Running Company

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