Staying active during the winter can be tough, especially when cold weather hits. For those who don't enjoy indoor treadmills for a run, outdoor running is the only option, even when snow and colder temperatures tempt you to throw in the towel and stay inside.
However, with the right winter gear and running know-how, you can still enjoy running outside all winter long, helping you to stick to your training for spring and summer races. Here are some winter running tips to help you run better in the winter.
Have the Right Gear
Wearing the right clothes is the main way to maintain your comfort while running in the cold. Every runner should have:
- Long-sleeve performance shirts. You should have a tight fitting long-sleeve performance tee as your base layer for cold-weather running. Ideally, this shirt would be made from a synthetic, moisture-wicking fabric that helps to carry sweat off your skin. Some shirts can be insulated for more warmth. Heavier shirts are good for colder weather, while a lightweight shirt is more versatile and could be used in fall and spring weather without causing you to feel too warm. It's be best to have more than one shirt, because you might need a second layer on very cold days.
- Running tights. Loose pants will only cause chafing on longer runs, so your base layer should be tight and warm. You can layer shorts or baggier running pants over this layer to give your legs some extra insulation, but many runners find that a good pair of insulated tights provide enough warmth.
- Running gloves. Leave your cotton or acrylic gloves at home and opt for some sport gloves with a thicker weave that still allow moisture to leave your hands. Thick mittens meant for snow play will only cause your hands to sweat as you heat up.
- Ear covering. You may not want a full hat, but a headband to cover your ears will help prevent ear pain from cold winter wind.
- Windbreaker. You'll want a lightweight jacket to help block the wind, especially in humid areas where the cold more easily cuts through clothing.
- Wool-blend running socks. You'll want thick, warm socks, especially if you have thinner, lighter running shoes. Wool keeps your feet warm even when it gets damp, which helps when running through snow.
These layering essentials make it easy to customize your coverage depending on the weather and the outdoor temperature.
Factor in your own heat.
Some people bundle up for a run, only to feel too warm after a few minutes of moderate intensity running. When getting dressed for your run, you should factor in your heat-up factor. A good rule of thumb is to assume you'll feel 10 degrees warmer than the actual outdoor temperature. So, if the temperature is around freezing, dress like you would for 40 degree weather if you weren't going to go for run.
Running in winter often means more mishaps, trouble with layers, or unexpected weather changes. Instead of planning one long out-and-back run, plan runs that consist of smaller loops so you can drop off a layer at home if you're getting warm. You can also cut a run short if you injure yourself or if it suddenly starts to snow too hard to continue running safely.
It's easy to miss dehydration cues when you're running in cold weather, so planning loops can also let you stop for a drink before you keep going with your run. Make sure you hydrate plenty before beginning your run. When you return home, drink some more when your run is over, even if you don't feel thirsty.