Were you like me this summer, cursing the heat, and hoping for cooler temperatures? Wishing for fall (or winter) where your pace is quicker, and you don’t finish a run with your clothes drenched? Well for most, that wish has been granted! With it, it brings new challenges: less daylight hours to exercise, the “how much to wear” dilemma, and braving those first few minutes of cold. Here’s 10 tips to make the best and most of your cold weather running when chilly weather hits.
Favorite Cold Weather Running Tip: Treat Yo’self!!
Knowing a “reward’ awaits at the end of a cold weather run, or you’re meeting a friend to run can help get you out the door. Running friends keep us accountable, and less likely to “wimp out.” A warm cup of coffee and bagel with a friend is a just reward for braving the elements. For me, having breakfast or coffee in warm clothes with a friend after a run is one of the highlights of my run, and even my weekend!
Warm Up Before Heading Out
Spend a few minutes inside getting warm without breaking a sweat. Some options are getting your dynamic stretches done inside, or running up/down your stairs a few times, or even some light jumping rope to get warm. It’s a lot easier to bear the run in cold weather when we are already a bit warm; the transition doesn’t seem as difficult (because you’re warmer!). If you’re driving to meet friends for a run, don’t chat idly before the run; get out, and get going.
Related Topic: Ultimate Guide: What to Wear to Run in the Cold
Give it 5 Minutes
Tell yourself “if it’s terrible after five minutes, I’ll bag it.” For most, it’s that few minutes/first mile that’s the toughest, but we feel much better once we have warmed up. After that transition, we are often glad we stuck with it! If anything, think of the summer’s unbearable heat that made your pace suffer. Those temps that made you feel as if you’re melting into a puddle before you finish your run.
Don’t Over Dress
Dressing for a run in cold weather temps is different than dressing for work, errands, etc. For the latter, we want to feel toasty when we enter the cold. But, that same tactic while running will have you strip layers shortly after the start, and sweat excessively. The rule of thumb is to dress for 10-20 degrees warmer than the feel like temperature (includes wind chill). You should feel slightly cool when you first start running. But, even with that, you may still need to strip a layer to manage your comfort. Tech fabrics to wick sweat are a must, and a top with a zippered neck and underarm vents will help keep you comfortable as you heat up.
Manage the Wind
Cooler temps often bring more wind, thus colder “feel-like” temperatures. If you are able to alter your route, run against the wind in the first half of run, and have the wind at your back on the second half. Running into the wind after breaking a sweat can be unpleasant (increased chill and effort). Or, break your wind exposure into smaller segments, running 10 minutes in one direction, and then turning to run in opposite direction for five minutes, and repeat. Also, look for cover on trails, or even man-made shields like high-rises and buildings.
TLC for Hands, Head and Feet
Your head, hands, and feet bear the brunt of discomfort in a cold weather run. For hands, I typically wear gloves once temps are in the low-mid 40’s. I’m a big fan of arm sleeves, too, especially ones where you can tuck your hands into the sleeve. And, if you get too warm, it’s easy to push the sleeves down around the wrists for balance of run.
Socks that wick away sweat but keep your feet warm, like SmartWool socks are a great option. Also consider wearing a running shoe that has less mesh to better keep in warmth. Some shoes have Gore-Tex uppers, but a spray water repellent can also do the trick to keep moisture out.
Hats, ear warmers, beanies, scarves, and other options keep heat from escaping from your noggin. While your head is ~9% of your body’s surface area, your body’s core temperature drops more rapidly if you don’t protect your head (even if the rest of your body sufficiently is).
Safety Cold Weather Running Tip: Lights, Reflection, Action!
Seriously, there’s higher odds you’ll be completing more of your fall/winter runs without daylight. Wear gear that’s reflective and bright, and use some type of light device that helps you to see (and be seen!). There’s a lot of good options available; I’ve listed a few that I like: Nathan Streak Reflective Vest, Knuckle Lights, and Nathan headlamp. If you’re running after work, it’s likely you may start in daylight, but need the reflection/lighting before your run is over.
< Related Topic: 10 Tips for Safer Running! >
Plan a “Warm” Weather Race
Nothing provides incentive to keep up our training up like a race on the calendar. Temperatures in the southeast U.S. during the winter can set you up for a PR, even as late as March in some states (my marathon PR was the Myrtle Beach Marathon in South Carolina in March). If you’re not shooting for a marathon, there are plenty of other race distances (half marathon, 5K/10K/15K, 10 miler) for which you can train. And, some events offer “challenges,” which are multiple events over the course of the weekend. RunDisney alone offers three weekend events between November and February. All races are at Disney World in Orlando, and all provide a challenge option.
Don’t Let Rain be the Enemy
Living outside of Atlanta, we don’t get much snow, but a lot of rain during the winter months. While running with a dusting of snow can be exhilarating, running in a cold downpour is not. It is important to wear the right items to keep yourself as dry/comfortable as possible. Technical socks help to wick water/sweat, and help prevent slipping. BUT, most will get wet during a long, soaking rain. I invested in a pair of Sealskinz socks last winter after a couple very wet runs. They do help keep your feet drier (but they’re fairly expensive, and thicker than your typical sock). A waterproof (not water resistant) rain jacket is a good “must have” investment. Attempt to find one which is lightweight and use other layers beneath to manage the temperature. Runners’ World just posted an article on recommendations for waterproof rain jackets.
Critical Cold Weather Running Tip: Get Warm and Dry
During a cold weather run, your body temperature decreases rapidly, and that, with wet clothes is a bad combination. A lingering chill will ensue if you stay in wet clothes (even after you’ve changed out of them). Therefore, as soon as you can, change into dry clothing – all clothing, if possible. If wearing a hat, remove it and replace with a dry hat (ie: a beanie). For women, a damp sports bra will quickly chafe your skin if it’s left in contact with your skin.
Drinking a hot beverage (hot cocoa, soup, tea) will also help moderate your body temperature, and provide some nutrients you need anyway after a run. Bring a thermos, and have the contents ready to drink post-run!