Cold Weather Running or how to stay off the treadmill despite the winter

Hey, remember when this was a running blog?  Me neither.

Moving on, despite my inability to run this winter, I ran outside all through last winter despite sub-zero temperatures, ice storms, and 16 days of snow in a row.  I have new coworkers who just moved here from Miami and we were discussing winter running, so I’ve decided to share with you what I told them.  Also, even I’m a little bored of reading about my pregnancy.

1.  Know your limits.  I can tell you what I did, but you have to be smart enough to know if you should be running outside.  For some people, anything below freezing is too cold.  For me, anything with a severe frostbite warning is too cold.

2.  Dress in moisture wicking layers.  The first half mile was always by far the hardest for me.  I was SO cold, but I once I warmed up I hated having all that clothing on.  The solution was layers.  I could stuff gloves in my pockets, unzip various layers, or even tie a coat around my waist.  I tended to wear a light long sleeve tech shirt, an UnderArmour thermal hoodie and then a light coat on top if I needed it.  I actually did also invest in a pair of tech long johns to wear under thermal tights if it was under 20 degrees.  And the reason I invested in tech stuff is because you do not want cold nasty sweat against your skin.  It will freeze and make you cold and miserable.  Also, speaking of thermal tights, they are worth the money.  Personally, I love Moving Comfort tights and Nike thermals when it gets really cold, but everyone is different.

I own two of these. I love layers.

3.  Discover YakTrax.  I’m sure these aren’t the only product that does this, but it’s the only one I’ve heard of.  You slip them on to the bottom of your running shoes and have instant tread.  The one caution with YakTrax is I found them very uncomfortable if I hit a patch of regular concrete, but they were a life saver in the mega ice storm.  I actually fell during the storm, but that was walkin around in boots.  I never fell running on snow and ice all last year and I’m pretty sure I can thank the YakTrax.

Observe the metal springs on the bottom of his shoes.

4.  Gloves.  My fingers always felt like the weakest link.  They got cold really easily, so gloves were really necessary for me to be happy.  You can even get gloves with special thumb pads to help you manipulate your touch screen phone of mp3 player.  Along with this, cover your fool ears so you don’t get frostbite.

5.  Get warm tech socks.  Personally, I own hunting socks (hunting gear is the warmest stuff ever) back from when I had to be at equestrian team lessons in freezing weather.  The problem is they are huge (men’s sizes only) and made of weird material.  I decided I was better off investing in really warm tech socks so I’d stop making my feet bleed.  I also got the crew length socks because it gave me more warmth on my legs.

6.  Don’t play chicken with cars.  Word on the street is you shouldn’t do this anyways, but it’s really dangerous in the winter because people are sliding everywhere and can’t stop as well.

7.  Stop and walk if it’s really slick.  There’s a bridge on my favorite running trail that freezes horribly.  I heard tell that someone had to have dental work after slipping on it in the spring.  Needless to say, I will always walk that bridge if it’s wet or icy.  Same goes for obvious ice patches or anything that looks unstable.

8.  The hardest part is getting out of bed and getting dressed.  When it’s cold it’s so much harder to drag yourself out from under warm blankets.  I often slept in running clothes so I didn’t have to be naked and freezing.  I know that’s weird, but it got me out of bed.

9.  If your throat is burning, drink water.  Cold air is really dry and can dry out the soft tissue in your throat and mouth.  And being properly hydrated helps everything anyways.  You can also try a gaiter (looks like a ski mask) to keep the air around your mouth and nose warmer.  Personally I own one, but it makes me feel all suffocatey.

10.  Have fun!  Duh.  But really, a moonlit morning/evening run in the snow is so peaceful and gorgeous.  Just stay in relatively well lit areas and avoid traffic.

What are your cold weather tips?  Any item of clothing I should tell my new friends to invest in?  Are you going to stay outside for your runs this winter or move inside to the old dreadmill?

And speaking of hydration, there’s still a little time to enter my Bobble filtered water bottle giveaway HERE!

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About Sarah S @RunningOnWords

Married 20-something in flux and trying to cope by running and occasionally crafting.
This entry was posted in Gear, Training. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Cold Weather Running or how to stay off the treadmill despite the winter

  1. Kara says:

    I’m not a pansy, so yeah I run in the winter. Outside, where the real runners go, not on the sissy treadmill. Even my baby ran outside all last winter, so she’s tougher than most people already. 🙂

    My rule of thumb is that if you don’t feel cold when you start, then you overdressed. I don’t like to strip down at all as I go, so I start with less and just run until I feel warm.

  2. chelsea says:

    It doesn’t really get super cold here…just DAMP. Wool socks are a necessity, as is a hat or visor w/ a brim. Also, know your body. My legs will get cold before my arms do, so I’m usually in short sleeves up until it gets down below 30 degrees, but wearing tights below 50 degrees.

  3. Emily says:

    I have a ton of stuff to learn about (and purchase for) the Winter! I have no recommendations, only questions. Thanks so much for this post!

  4. Abby says:

    Micro-spikes are a great alternative to Yaktrax. They’re more expensive, but we’ve both found them to be far more effective, especially on trails.

  5. Michael says:

    This is awesome – seriously! Even though I’ve been running for two years, I’ve always gone to the treadmill in the winter and reduced my mileage. This winter I’ll be training for my first marathon, so I will want to avoid the treadmill as much as possible so I’ll be braving the elements in Nov and Dec…which hopefully won’t be too bad yet, but still. I know I need to get prepared and even after my Jan marathon I don’t want to stop running outside. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Army Amy says:

    I’ve been looking forward to some cool weather! It’s been too hot here for too long!*

  7. Alyssa says:

    I might need to add those Yak Trax to my Christmas list. The streets being completely covered in ice is the only thing that forces me to the treadmill. If I didn’t run in sub freezing temps, I’d be on it all winter. My tip is take out your Gu a mile before you need it and hold it in your glove to warm it up so you can actually use it! And don’t use a camelbak if it’s sub-freezing – it turns into a block of ice on your back. Great post!

  8. I ran outside in the winter except when we had like five feet of snow on the ground. The roads were too narrow and I didn’t want to die. I need some YakTrax.

  9. Sam says:

    you are SO much braver than me. i stay on the treadmill unless it is between 60 and 70 degrees with less than 20% humidity 🙂

  10. Candice says:

    I LOVE running in winter weather. And keeping my hands and ears warm are key to me being comfortable. So your “cover your fool ears so you don’t get frostbite” advice is perfect.

    And I love the pregnancy talk!

  11. michelle says:

    I never was a runner when I lived in the Mid-Atlantic so I don’t know what it’s like. I know that winter running here in South Florida is amazing. Start temps around 50-60 and no humidity! I’m usually freezing then too. God help me when we move somewhere where there is real winter.

  12. Terzah says:

    I like winter running so much more than summer running. Imagining those slogs where it’s 80 degrees at 6 a.m. helps get me through the really cold ones. You can also divide a long run between outside and the treadmill (I’ve done this in hot weather, too).

  13. This is a great post with great info! Thanks for writing it! I sooooooooo needed to be reminded of these things as we gear up for a winter training season. I didn’t know you should drink water If your throat is burning, although it seems obvious now.

  14. These are all great tips for cold weather running! I have one to add: wear brightly colored or reflective clothing. I find that everyone gives you wide berth when you look like a moving traffic cone in bright orange. You contrast quite well with all the snow if you’re wearing something bright. 🙂

  15. This could not have come at a better time!!! Thank you for reminding me to get out there and brave it!
    I SO wish I had this last season – YakTrax. Great find. Awesome post and really good tips.

  16. Raquelita says:

    I bought Yak Trax last year, but I never actually used them. I’m going to try to be more intrepid this winter. I did run outside in the winter in C-bus some, but it is much colder and windier in my current location.

  17. Mandy says:

    Great post!

    The gaters make me suffocate too! I’m another one that bought Yak Trax and never used them.

    One other thing I would say – dress like it’s 10-20 degrees warmer than it is…based on your own personal hot/coldness. (everyone has different tolerances). If you are comfortable while waiting to start your run – you’re dressed too warmly!

  18. Elle says:

    Thanks for pointing me to this post. Very good information here.

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