10 Tips For Cold Weather Running


Brrrrr! Winter is here. The temperatures are low and the snow has made it’s debut. For most people (including me until a few years ago) that meant putting away the running shoes till the spring months. I used to assume no one ran in the winter. Or should I say, I assumed I couldn’t run in the winter. Last year in an attempt to convince Kev we needed to go to Hawaii on vacation, I told him we could run the Honolulu marathon together while we were there. It worked and we registered for the race. It was nearing the end of the fall so that meant lots and lots of training in freezing weather. I pictured it being brutal and yes, some of it was but all in all I sort of fell in love with running in the Winter. Something about it just refreshes my soul like no other run in the summer has ever done. The cold air in your lungs and the quiet silence the winter brings is so dang peaceful. I can’t get enough. It does take some effort and a bit of planning, but here are some tips that have helped me along the way…

snow^^pictures from my run the other morning.

1. Layers

When you are use to running in warmer weather it can be quite an adjustment being covered up so much. Remember to wear light layers to stay warm. It’s a fine balance between wearing too much and wearing not enough. You have to find the sweet spot in the middle. Wearing too much can make you sweat more than you’d like, which in the end will just leave you extra cold and damp. Wearing not enough obviously just doesn’t keep you warm enough either. I usually wear one base layer, a light running jacket to break the wind and lined running leggings. The rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer than it really is outside.

2. Appropriate gear

This is so huge! It will make or break your winter running. It can be a bit of an invest up front but the items will last you forever. You could definitely make do with whatever you have and over time add a piece here and there too.

Base Layer: Like I mentioned above I always run with a stretchy, tight fitting base layer. Something like this, this or this.

Jacket: I wear a similar jacket to this. It cuts the wind and adds the warmth. It’s super important to get moisture wicking fabric on all your gear. It will totally help keep your body temperature warm! Love this Nike jacket!

Leggings: I’ve tried a lot of winter running leggings. They are usually lined with a light fleece type material. I never really found a pair I liked all that much. They always felt stiff and heavy. I just got this pair at Target a little while ago and OMGOSH! They are by far the most comfy pair of leggings ever. I totally wear them around the house even when I am not running. They are so soft, light weight, stay in place and super warm! These ones look pretty great as well!

Shoes: If i’ve been running a lot of miles, I try to time out my new shoes for end of fall and end of spring. That way when fall ends I can get a trail running shoe for the winter. They are usually more durable, waterproof and a bit thicker of a shoe. Which makes it perfect for winter running with snow, ice and cold temperature. These are my top trail picks Saucony, Merrell, Helly Hansen.

3. Pay attention to temperatures and wind chill

I will admit my “I really hate every minute of this” point is around 23 degrees or less. If the sun is out and there is no wind then I am still good at that temp, but oh man! That wind chill is deadly. Be aware of what it “actually” feels like outside and not just what the thermometer is saying. It makes a big, big difference.

4. Get warm first

Before you head outside to run, do some light stretching and warm up in the house. Try not to get sweaty yet but enough to feel warm and loose. It will make heading out in the cold not so bad.

5. Train your body

Running in the Winter isn’t something that just naturally feels good. I feel like you have to train your body. Every year when the falls ends and the winter begins, I have to go through a few weeks of transition as my body adjusts to the cold weather. It takes practice. Your lungs burn a bit at first, your legs can feel weak. It just takes time to figure it all out. Stick with it!

6. Forget about PR’s

Winter running isn’t for running super fast training runs. At least not for me. It will be hard to hit your fastest time. Just soak up the beauty, the silence, the fact that you are actually out of the house and just run!

7. Hydrate

I totally forget to drink water when I run in the winter. It’s weird. You are just as out of breathe but because it’s not 80 degrees it doesn’t come to mind as quick as it does in the summer. DON’T FORGET!!!

8. Cover all body parts (hat, gloves, ankles, face shield):

Appropriate gear goes so much farther than just jackets and pants in the winter. You should make sure almost all of your skin is covered. I am partial to gloves that have half fingers but also the mitten that flaps over. Sometimes when I am feeling just a bit too hot, I will undo that flap and let my fingers hit the air. Just that alone is enough to make me feel cooler. I love a hat over a handband but both work great. I wear tall socks that also wick moisture and I pull them up over my leggings (it’s not real fashionable but hey…) I also wear a neck warmer. Kev loves a face shield. For me though, as long as the neck warmer has a drawstring that I can tighten up over my chin, I’m happy! Also good to pick up a pair of these!

9. Be visible

Remember it gets dark super fast and early. You don’t want to be caught out in the dark on the side of the road. Make sure to plan your run before the sun goes down or wear a reflective vest. Safety first!

10. Have fun

Above all else… don’t take it or yourself too seriously. Have fun with it. Don’t let the gear hold you back. You can make do. Don’t wait till January first to start some kind of exercise routine either. Ask for some of items for Christmas and get out there!! I promise you CAN learn to love it. And if you’re a crazy person like me, you might even like running in the winter better than any other time of year.

p.s. for those wondering about your kiddos. I totally still take them out in the stroller with me. If it’s real cold, we keep it short and sweet for everyone but they still come with. I bundle them up with coats, hats and gloves. Then Finley gets in her little bundler and Rowan (she out grew hers) gets a warm blanket. I also use the weather shield to cover the stroller and block the wind. Creates a cozy cocoon in there for them.

  1. Great post! I always stop running in winter because I can’t fathom how. However, a 23 degree winter day where I live would be mild! It is 5 degrees here today, which feels tropical compared to earlier in the week when it was -15, which is a pretty average temperature for our winters. Perhaps I should just stay inside…

  2. I will have to give it a go. I have always hated to run in the winter and since I don’t have a treadmill at home or access to a gym near me, I completely change my workout routine depending on the seasons and when the warmer days come back I need to re-learn to run long distances which is a pain. All that to say, thank you very much for those helpful tips !
    Also, beautiful pictures ! I’m hoping that we’ll get snow too here in south of France but the temperatures are nowhere near cold enough so far.

    Charlie xx

  3. I have those running pants from Target in Pink! The lining is SO comfy! I live in Florida, so we don’t need them as often, but from Jan-March, it can get pretty chilly in the early mornings or night, especially because I workout outside right across from the beach. There is an ocean-breeze and capris just won’t cut it. I normally wear mine with a t-shirt and light jacket, and then take off the jacket once I have warmed up and start working out.

  4. Good for you! I love love love running, but lately have let myself be ok with the fact that I don’t do it much these days (two toddlers plus 20 weeks pregnant, and we live in Upstate NY, like you said, brrrr). But this is inspiring, I might just give it another go one of these days soon. Do you still get out with the kids when it’s recently snowed? P.S. Just found out the gender of our third baby, fun announcement here in case you’re interested 🙂 http://sarahmkeller.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-results-are-in.html

    As always, thanks for the great blog posts! Yours is definitely one of my favorites to keep up with these days!

  5. One more thing, you mentioning running in Hawaii brings back so many great memories! Isn’t it the best? (We lived there in Mililani for a few years and that was definitely the height of my running days).


  6. rejeana •

    Great tips! Could you link to the weather shield pictured in your post? Thanks. 🙂

  7. I am curious what brand are your sleepsacks for the kids? We just had our third little girl back in May and are in need of a extra large sack for our lanky 4 1/2 year old girl. We have 2 sacks, a baby one and a toddler one (that our 2 1/2 yr old uses) that we bought while living overseas and they weren’t crazy expensive, but here they seem rather pricey!! Also, as a homeschooling mom of a preschooler, when do you go for your runs? It’s so hard to find that perfect time to do it with school and nap time.

  8. Oh, Jen, you are playing with my emotions with this post! Last February, I ran a half-marathon in Sudbury (five-ish hours north of Toronto), and it was my worst running experience ever. Training was no treat, either, but I am now considering the Mississauga marathon in May, which means winter running/training. I just don’t know if I can face it, even though the urge to sign up for a race is nagging at me!

  9. @Judith Our sleep sacks are jj cole. The toddler one doesn’t fit Rowan anymore so I just cover her with a blanket but Finley still fits in hers. We go running usually first thing when we get up, right after the girls have some breakfast. Then we work on school. It seems to work out best for us.

  10. Have you ever tried a hot water bottle in the stroller? I live in Buffalo and find a snowsuit (we have the Columbia “snuggly bunny bunting”) plus a hot water bottle (a family friend gave us one with a cover intended for use with little ones) and 2 blankets keeps my 13 month old nice and toasty even when it’s below 30 degrees.

  11. This is great! I do hate running in the cold, the cold teeth & lungs and itchy skin. I think a lot is do with not buying the appropriate attire just to run during the colder months. I need to invest. Did you run when you were pregnant?

  12. @becky That is a great idea!! Wow! Love it.

  13. @April I did run when I was pregnant. I was 13 weeks with finley when I ran a half marathon in CT. I tapered down after that until it was just too uncomfortable. It helped with all the nausea.

  14. justine mckenzie •

    I love me some winter running! All year round in Toronto…

  15. Thanks for your tips Jen! My average running time is about 30-40 mins and I find it so hard in winter (as I normally run after work, being dark does not help either!). The 2 tips that really stayed with me is to dress for 20 degrees higher – I’ll try that. And also will try get a neck warmer!

  16. One of my favorite cold weather pieces is this Polar Buff Collar: http://www.amazon.com/Buff-Unisex-Polar-Reversible-Gaiter/dp/B00F4IH2RC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1419092988&sr=8-1&keywords=buff+polar+reversible It can be used in so many ways, but I use it to shield my face at the beginning of a run and pull it down when I warm up.

  17. Stephanie •

    Would love to see more details about how you dress the girls! Finley is close to the age of my daughter and she always takes her shoes off and peels anything zippered off! Ergh!

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Hi, I'm Jen!

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