Hot Tips for Cold Weather Running

I live in Texas so my window of opportunity to write about cold weather running is limited. Last week we had a 30 degree day and a 70 degree day. I pulled out my gloves and hat, only to quickly put them away again. While the weather here is fickle, it does get cold.

I moved to Texas from Pennsylvania largely to get away from the snow and ice. I was 23 at the time and I had just about enough to shoveling the snow out from under my tires, my car locks freezing over and icy road conditions. They don't close the schools and businesses for a drop of snow (or 5 feet) like they do here. You just have to deal with it.

Before I moved here I didn't realize it snowed in Texas. I thought that because it was a southern state, like Florida, that it didn't snow. I was wrong. Obviously we don't get the snow like up north, but it still snows nonetheless. If I would have known it snowed in Texas I may have decided to move somewhere else. Good thing I was fooled because if I didn't move here, I would never have met my husband.

Despite the fact that there is snow in Texas and the temperature can drop quite low, I still want to keep running. I take it indoors on the treadmill all the time, but I prefer to run outdoors, so I try to make it work outside when it is safe to do so.  

1. Dress in Layers

The rule of thumb is to dress for 10-20 degrees warmer than the current temperature, because once you start running, you will warm up considerably. Ideally you would dress in layers. A long sleeve synthetic (aka not cotton) base layer, a warmer zip up on top and if really cold a third layer. You can always remove layers as you go if you get too hot once you start running.

2. Head, Fingers, Knees and Toes

It sounds like a children's song: Head, Fingers, Knees and Toes, but it is a good reminder to cover all exposed skin. We lose heat from our extremities so a hat and gloves go a long way in keeping us warm. For cold and windy days, I like a wear a neck gaiter (either attached to a top or a separate piece) to cover my mouth and nose. 

3. Wear Fitted Clothing

You want to wear clothes that provide both insulation and breathability. Fitted clothing keeps the cold air from creeping in under your clothes. You can layer loose fitting clothes over your first fitted layer.  

4. Avoid cotton socks

Cotton absorbs water and can provide an unfavorable environment for your feet when you sweat. To keep your feet dry and blister free look for socks made from synthetic materials that help wick moisture away from the skin. 

5. Hydrate

It may seem like you don't need to hydrate as much much it is cold but it is just as important as in warm weather running. Hydrate early and often during cold weather runs, just like you would in the heat. 

6. Warm up Indoors

Take five to ten minute and warm up indoors before heading out for a cold weather run. You want to get the blood flowing to your muscles in preparation for your workout. Some jumping jacks, high knees and butt kicks (dynamic stretches) should do the trick. If you like Yoga, also try a few sun salutations to get those muscles warmed up before your run. It may take a little longer to warm up in extremely cold weather so it is important to warm up indoors to prevent injury.

7. Prepare Mentally

Running in cold weather can be uncomfortable, but preparing for it mentally can make it more bearable and make you stronger. I look at it as another opportunity to practice stepping outside my comfort zone. You are building mental toughness (as well as physical toughness) every time you hit the road in uncomfortable situations. Mental toughness is a skill that transcends far beyond your running journey.

Of course, I recommend common sense. In extremely cold, icy or snowy conditions, take your run indoors, schedule a rest day or do some other physical activity inside. Be safe, friends!

Do you run in the cold, take it to the treadmill or take time off until Spring? Will a little preparation, you can run outdoors all winter long! 

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Coach Lea

I am a NASM personal trainer and RRCA adult distance running coach that specializes in strength training for runners. I offer in-person training in the Shredshed, online training and Fit to Run bootcamps. If you are interested in a more in-depth running or strength training plan, please contact me. Have questions? I'd love to help. 

While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not your personal trainer. Since I don't know your exercise abilities, injury background or medical history, please see your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This is an opinion blog. No information in this blog is intended to be taken as medical advice or prescription. Please see your doctor and/or registered dietitian for any health concerns