Winter Running Tips

I ran seven miles! And I did it in the cold.

Yes, somehow, in a week filled with social events and family fun, I found the time to squeeze in a long run. And, of course, since I don’t have a treadmill at home and had to run outside, the time that I had blocked out for my run turned out to be the coldest, rainiest two hours of all.

Mother Nature, apparently, does not buy into that whole ‘holiday spirit’ thing.

Running in the cold is not easy. I felt raw, like little icicles were biting into me everywhere my skin was exposed. Breathing definitely hurt more than usual. And my glasses, (which I wear when I run outside as I prefer not to fall in ditches or be hit by cars), really could have used their own little set of windshield wipers.

The discomfort of this experience was, in a lot of ways, my own fault. I didn’t really properly prepare for what this run would be like. We don’t have any snow, after all, and some of the days this week felt like mid-September or early spring. So, I convinced myself that I’d be fine doing what I normally do in terms of clothing and preparation. How bad could it be?

Bad! It was bad! It was not fun and I do not recommend it!

I have definitely learned some lessons about running outside in cold weather that I’ll be following from now on. May you, as always, learn from my ridiculous mistakes. That’s why I make them.

1. Cover as much skin as possible. I went running in capri-length pants, figuring I’d be generating plenty of heat. By the time I’d gone a mile, I was about ready to amputate my legs from the middle of the calf down. I also wished I’d worn a better hat that covered my ears, and gloves to protect my digits!

2. Wear layers and an outer shell. For my run, I opted for a sweatshirt. However, some subsequent research tells me that I would have been better off with a number of light layers to stay warm (especially if those layers were made of moisture-wicking fabrics to keep me dry). Warm air builds between the layers and keeps you nice and cozy. An outer layer like a windbreaker would also have protected me from the cold and the rain. You also might want to consider reflective gear given how early it gets dark at this time of year.

3. Run short loops. The loop I chose to run took me rather far away from my house. I would have been better off running a shorter route several times so that I would be nearer to home had I found myself too cold or wet to keep going, or if some other kind of emergency had occurred. It also doesn’t hurt to tell someone that you’re leaving on your run and when to expect you back! When the snow comes, that’ll be especially important as the cold temperatures won’t be the only danger: you’ll also need to consider ice, visibility around turns, and other factors that affect both runners and vehicles on the road.

4. Don’t forget to hydrate! Just because it isn’t blazing hot with the sun shining down on you, doesn’t mean your body doesn’t need you to keep drinking water. It does. (Some of the tips I read suggested just stopping and eating snow occasionally while on winter runs. With all the salt and sand that gets dumped on our roads?! Yuck!)

5. Keep going. Believe it or not, that burning in your lungs will die down. You’ve just got to convince yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. As long as you’re wearing warm enough gear, and you’re watching your surroundings carefully, you’re going to be okay.

6. Have a cup of tea ready. This might be my English mother’s influence, but a cup of tea always makes everything seem better to me. Get home, take off your running clothes as soon as possible, and settle in with a cuppa. Pretty soon you’ll be thinking about how you could totally run outside like that again. It wasn’t that bad.

In fact, you’re kind of invincible.

Countdown to Half-Marathon: 54 days.
Mood: Warm!
Longest Distance Run: 7 miles.
Number of Workouts Last Week: 4 (two running, one strength, one tennis).
Goal for This Week: Eight mile run!

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