My Obligatory Winter Running Post…

Well it seems that winter has hit us, like a ton of bricks, really really cold bricks. I’m often asked if I run outside through the winter.  I think to non-runners, or people who live in warmer climates it seems truly insane to run outside through our winters.  I admit, that even to me, some days it seems a bit crazy to run outside in our winter weather.

The thing is that our winters are long, and cold, and there isn’t much that we can do about that. Locking ourselves up indoors doesn’t make them any easier, in fact I think I enjoy them more, and I think it helps them to feel like they pass quicker when I get out and do my best to enjoy the great outdoors despite the weather (or sometimes even enjoy the weather itself).

There are a few things that I do to enjoy survive the winter running season:

  • My number one tip is to focus on enjoying it as much as you possibly can. Like so many things in life, having a good attitude is more than half the battle. Focus on the negative and guaranteed it will suck, focus on the positive and sure lots of times it will still suck, but every now and again it won’t and those times will make the good attitude worthwhile. Before I go on I’ll give you some benefits to sticking it out in the winter:
    • It’s good for you, get outside, get fresh air, it will help your mental state as the winter drags on. Those of us who live further north won’t actually absorb much if any Vitamin D in the winter, but there is evidence that just getting out in the sun and fresh air helps with winter depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
    • Once you’re back on dry pavement in the spring, you’re going to feel so good, running without the layers, on dry pavement, you will feel like a million bucks!
    • It’s kind of fun to be one of the crazy-hardcore runners outside when it’s minus a bazillion.
  • Dress for it! The next most important tip is to make sure you dress for the weather. If you are cold, then you are not going to enjoy it, and could be at risk for frost bite, or hyperthermia. Here are some tips for dressing for cold weather running.
    • Layer, layer, layer! Wear lots of layers, that way you can adjust what you’re wearing as you go. On a really cold day I will usually wear a base layer, mid layer and outer shell. This way if the wind dies down or I warm up as I go I can strip a layer off mid run, and tie it around my waist. Layering also helps to wick the moisture away from your skin so that you don’t get a chill or have it freeze.
    • Always wear technical fabrics, and NOT cotton. Make sure your running clothes are tech fabrics, or wool, and are not cotton. Cotton will hold moisture and freeze against your skin.
    • In mild cold weather, a pair of gloves work great, but as the temperature drops mitts work better to keep your hands warm, or you could also try layering a pair of mitts over your gloves.
  • Adjust your expectations. You will probably feel like your effort to move your normal paces is much more difficult. That’s because you are carrying more weight in clothes, your traction is not as good, etc. It is harder to run, so just adjust your expectations, be ok with a slower pace, or wear a HRM so that you have an unbiased judge of your effort. Remember that you’ll reap the rewards come spring when things suddenly feel so much easier.
  • Be prepared for icy or slippery conditions. You can take an old pair of shoes and make screw shoes, or you can buy a traction device to slip onto your shoes to help provide traction. I have some traction aids that I bought from Costco, I carry them in my jacket pocket and if I come across a slippery section I put them on.
  • Make sure you’re visible. Because the days are shorter in the winter, we often end up running in the cold AND dark. Make sure you’re visible, wear reflective clothing, and a light if possible. I run with either a head lamp, or my knuckle lights (or both) when I’m running in the early morning or evenings. It helps to keep me safe, and also helps me to watch out for icy patches on the path. Also make sure you’re visible from behind, especially if you’re running on roads, or on pathways with winter cyclist commuters (if you think I’m crazy, they are truly the crazy ones!!!)

Here are some links to some of my favorite winter running gear:

First 'cold-ish' day this year.  INKnBURN tights, Swix jacket and buff...
First ‘cold-ish’ day this year. INKnBURN tights, Swix jacket and buff…

Tights:  I LOVE my new INKnBURN tights, they are great for cool days, but for those really cold days, I need something a bit warmer.  I have some tights that I bought at least 15 years ago from MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop), they are Cross Country Ski tights, and are awesome.  Cross Country Ski gear makes for great cold weather running gear.  I think these are the updated version of my tights….

Long sleeve: I have a Running Room Fitwear long sleeve that is meant for cold weather, it’s super warm and cozy.  I don’t know if they sell it anymore though 😦  I also have a smartwool base layer that I bought at Costco that’s great!  I have seen them this season also, and the best part is the price!

Jacket:  I have a few jackets, one is a Swix that was a gift for Christmas last year.  They are a x-country ski brand, so again make great cold weather gear.  I also have a classic Running Room jacket, and honestly, you can’t do better for your money.

Socks:  On a cold day, there’s nothing like SmartWool Socks!  I have a basic pair like this.

Gloves:  My favorite gloves for anything from cool to fairly cold are Nike convertible glove/mitts like these.  When it gets colder, I will wear a pair of base layer gloves with wind breaking mittens over top.

Facemask:  I have this facemask, and it’s awesome!  On a really cold day, you really need to minimize skin exposure BUT it’s also hard to breathe with your face covered, so this mask with the air holes works amazingly well.  It also has a flap that covers your neck and helps to keep it warm.

Neck/face/head:  The most versatile item might just be my Buff… it can be a neck warmer, a face warmer, hear warmer, balaclava, etc.  There are so many options!  I have two of them, one is a tech fabric and the other is wool.  The wool one is awesome in really cold weather!


I’ll admit something, I wrote most of this post on Tuesday while anticipating a cold evening run… I was totally NOT feeling the run, and was trying to convince myself as much as I was trying to convince ya’ll that it is not as bad as I think! Guess what?  Once I was out there running, it wasn’t bad at all, it was a nice evening, the skies were really pretty, and Lori and I just took it easy, ran a nice slow pace (both our HR’s were high because of the snow), and enjoyed an hour + outside.  Neither of us were cold despite the frigid temps because we both were dressed right!


2 thoughts on “My Obligatory Winter Running Post…

  1. I hear ya! We really have no choice in Alberta – we have to run outside in the winter. Sigh. But it can be fun if you let go of all the whining and dress for the weather. I agree it’s a great idea to lower your expectations. Happy trails!

  2. Pingback: Winter running hacks – Terry's Blog

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