Top Tips for Running in the Cold

Running in the cold
If Santa can run why can’t I?

If you’ve read my bio on the home page of this site, you’ll know I’m something of a fair-weather runner and usually hang up the trainers altogether between December and March! But this year, I’d really like to keep running in the cold winter – just 5k’s probably – to make sure that when spring comes I don’t have to start all over again!

So, if you’re like me and hate running in the cold – here are some tips I’ve put together to survive the winter in running shoes!

  1. Warm-up (even more) thoroughly
    Warming up is always important when going for a run. It will improve your neuromuscular control (movement patterns) and make sure you get into your stride sooner. The added benefit of warming up in the winter is that it makes it feel less cold! If you’re already warm and the house feels like a sauna before you leave, it will be nice to get outside! Also, it means you wear an appropriate level of clothing on leaving the house, rather than dressing up like Michelin man and then regretting it 10 minutes later!
  2. Wear appropriate clothes
    Following on from the above, you don’t want to over-dress, but it’s also important to wear enough to stay warm and to wear the right type of clothes which will protect you from the cold, wind and rain (or snow…eeek!) outside, but keep you dry inside by wicking away sweat! This often takes a bit of trial and error to find out what works for you. But the general guidelines are to stay away from clothes made of cotton as they hold the moisture and instead go for a synthetic under layer with wicking properties. An outer layer which is water and wind proof, usually made of nylon or similar is then a great bet. If it is zero ᵒC (32ᵒF) or lower, you may well want a third layer in-between too. Other things to think about include wearing a hat and gloves to keep the warmth in and trainers with as little mesh as possible to avoid your feet getting wet and maybe some grip for when it gets slippy! Trail shoes may be better at this point. Finally – make sure you can be seen! If you’re running in the dark, even in areas with good street lighting, make sure you wear bright colours and reflective patches or even a head torch so you can’t be missed!
  3. Train with people
    Setting a time and place to meet a fellow runner is a great way to make sure you don’t decide that sitting on the sofa eating that whole packet of cookies is a better way to spend the evening! If someone is waiting for you, you’re more likely to go as you don’t want to a) let them down and b) let them think you’re a sissy who can’t bear a little rain!
  4. Enter events
    In most places there are running events that go on throughout the winter. In the UK, we have national Park Runs which are free 5k fun runs held every Saturday morning at local parks. These are great events for getting into running and for just maintaining your running over the winter and having something to aim for to keep the motivation going! If you really want a push, book yourself onto a spring event which will require you to increase your training to complete it. There are loads of races from 5k to marathons in the spring which mean you’ll have to start training in the midst of winter!
  5. Run into the wind
    This is a great tip I picked up from Runners World recently which I hadn’t thought of. Check the wind direction before you head out and start off running into the wind. This means you’ll be running with a tail wind on the way home – making it that bit easier and meaning that you don’t get blasted with wind when you’re already wet and sweaty which can be a real chiller!

Other things to consider when running in the winter are that you should not be aiming for speed! Just go at a pace which feels comfortable. Pushing yourself in already difficult conditions is not advisable. Also, when you get home, change straight away into something dry and warm. Your body temperature will drop quickly once you stop and if you let it drop too quick hypothermia could come a knocking! Also, whilst you want to feel warm, don’t follow the urge to have a really hot bath or shower immediately – this is asking for trouble in the form of chilblains at best – and you don’t really want those sore itchy little buggers! Instead, slowly warm-up around the house, have a warm drink and take a bath or shower later.

1 thought on “Top Tips for Running in the Cold

  1. I live in a climate that’s remarkably different than the UK; it’s a brush steppe, which is similar to a high desert: hot in the summer, cold in the winter, very dry (we average about 20 cm of precipitation each year), and frequently windy. One bit of advice I’d for running in the both the extreme cold and the extreme heat is to acclimate. It didn’t get to freezing cold without warning. If you’ve been out exercising in the cold as the season progressed, the depths of winter are less of a shock.

    This past winter, my coldest run was -7°C and snowing. Last summer, my hottest run was 40°C. In both instances, I’d eased in to the extreme temperature. It could also be that I’m simply too stubborn and undisciplined to run on a treadmill indoors. (The longest run I’ve done on a “dreadmill” is 5 km, and you’d think I’d just run a marathon by the way I was congratulating myself.)

    Another caveat, though: when I’m outside exercising in extreme temperatures, I have to be very tuned in to what’s happening with my body, and I’m not too proud to admit the conditions are too much for me and call for a ride. I’m stubborn and undisciplined, but not stupid.


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