6 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Cold Weather Run Session

For those that are training for a spring marathon, cold weather running is inevitable.  Of all the seasons to run, winter running is many-a runner’s least favorite (myself included).  It’s cold, it’s dark.  It’s a total chore.  However, there are some things you can do to make sure it sucks a little less.

Dress Like It’s 20 Degrees Warmer

Keep a solid base of running gear that’s easy to mix and match.  When we start working out, our bodies crank up the heat, so it ends up feeling 20 degrees warmer.  Thus, bundling up too much could hurt more than help.

30º :

  • 2 shirts
  • 1 pair of tights
  • A vest to fight off the elements

10º to 20º :

  • 2 shirts
  • 2 pairs of tights
  • A running coat
  • Balaclava and other accessories to fight off frostbite

-10º to 10º :

  • 3 shirts (ideally fleece)
  • 2 pairs of tights
  • A running coat
  • Wind Briefs for men
  • Balaclava and other accessories to fight off frostbite
  • Extra pair of mittens

-20º :

  • Go to the gym, you overachiever


Set Your Limit

“Go to the gym” raises a good point.  Much like the heat, there are occasions when it’s just too cold to run.  Set a temperature limit, and try not to get too frustrated.  Personally, I refuse to run at anything below 20 degrees.  On cold days, I’ll cross train or opt for an indoor track.  Sometimes, I’ll even jump on the (ugh) treadmill.

Keep an Eye on the Terrain

The first thing a runner should do is check the temperature.  Then, opt for the elevated terrain if possible.  When you’re at higher ground, temperatures tend to be a little warmer.

Keep an eye out for ice.  That goes double if there’s sleet.  There are few sensations that are as unpleasant as a surprise patch of black ice.  Even worse, falling in the cold is one of the most preventable/dumb injuries an athlete can have.

Run for Maintenance

All those layers are certain to be a challenge for even the most skilled runners.  In the freezing cold, take the weather like a champ.  You’re not going to hit marathon pace during this time.  Ideally, running in the middle of the day is great.  However, breaking up a quick run in the morning and the evening can help make the temps bearable, too.

Take Advantage of the Wind

Shout out to all the runners in the Windy City.  For out and back runs, plan to have the wind at your back for the second half.  Otherwise, don’t be surprised if you feel a few icicles on your face.  That sweat is gonna freeze.

Take a Hot Shower After

Outdoor runs suck.  Make sure to treat yourself when the challenge is complete.  For me, a hot shower feels incredible after a freezing cold run.  Have a small reward as your post-run motivator.  I promise you’ll feel a scrap of motivation to get out in the cold – very crucial in the winter months.


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