Winter Running | Tips, Tricks, and Training Motivation
When I started running [it feels like a million years ago] I would go all in with my training. I would slog through humid summer nights and rise bright and early for weekend long runs. Progress would build, PR’s crushed and spirits were high.
And then November rolled around. Woof.
It got dark. It definitely got cold. And I would basically high tail it into hibernation mode and not run a single step until April. Maybe I would do a few celebratory “runs in the snow!” or treadmill jogs here and there. But ultimately I hated being cold. If I had to chose between running on a 90 degree day vs a 30 degree day 90 would win every-time-hands-down -100%.
You know what I hated more than cold though? When April would show it’s face and I started kicking myself for getting “out of shape” over the winter.
So a few years ago I made some shifts. I managed to get over that hump of winter hibernation and FINALLY made winter running a regular habit. What did I do - read on to find out my top tips for making winter running a habit
All my top tips for running through the winter
First things first - if you’re going to get outside in the winter you’re going to need to update your wardrobe. I get that this may seem expensive at first but once you’ve invested in some staples they should last you a long time.
What to wear / how to dress for winter running
As the one and only Mary Berry would say — lots of layers. Except in a British accent it’s more like laaaays.
Wear thicker fabrics and close fitting layers. Thin fabrics are going to let a lot of air away from your body and you want to trap body heat and keep it as close to your skin as possible.
*pro tip if TUCK your base layer top into your leggings or base layer bottom. Fitted layers tend to be so stretchy that they can ride up [this is not the fault of the manufacturer - it’s just how bodies work guys].
The general rule of thumb is to dress like it’s 10-15 degrees warmer than it really is. Aka you’re likely to warm up as you run so if you are comfortable when you first step outside you may need a shed a layer as you run. There are a lot of factors that contribue to this though - if you prefer to be warm at first and then ditch a layer, or don’t mind starting out chilly knowing you’ll warm up later. if you’re run route is in the sun you will obviously be warmed than in the shade. The time and distance are also factors in how warm to dress. Shorter runs at easier paces or runners doing a run/walk interval may want to dress warmer.
While all of the above is a great starting point it will take some trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a few weeks to figure it out!
My top picks for must have pieces for winter running:
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Fleece lined or fleecy inside tights.
Thicker fabric tops for layering.
Mock neck zip top for layering
Lightweight insulated vest
Gloves - bonus if they have touch screen tips so you can still access your tech.
Face cover/balaclava like this one.
Warm socks /wool socks
Embrace the lunchtime workout [if you can]
With the less daylight hours available - it can be helpful to change your morning or evening workout to mid day. I personally struggle with this right now because of my day job - but in past years it was a great solution. If you have a work gym or a gym membership with showers take advantage it. Or invest in some athletic cleansing wipes to freshen up post workout.
Winter races are great because they usually center around things like hot chocolate and chili. They may not be a PR or goal race, but they’re a reason to get out the door and have fun with friends. Stick to shorter distances like 5k or 5 milers that don’t require a rigorous training schedule or can just be run for fun. Encourage friends or coworkers to run with you so you’ll be motivated to show up on race day and of course have someone to snap selfies with at the finish.
That one year I figured it out - want to know the number one thing I did to stay motivated? I signed up for a spring marathon. Putting down a nice chunk of change and committing to a race was the motivation I needed to go out into the cold. This may not work for everyone. I had built up a good base over the previous summer and fall and needed a distance that didn’t require a lot of speed work. It just meant logging miles for the cold winter.
If you are a newer runner consider signing up for a spring 10k or early summer half marathon. Something that depends on you training at least a little bit through the winter.
Join a group.
The first year I trained through the winter was the year my husband and I joined a running group in our town. They met every week on Thursday nights for 3 miles and most weeks it was the only outdoor running I did. It was dark and freezing and we looking like a spectacle adorned in light up gear and reflective vests and tights but it was a blast because we were all in it together. Need help finding a group that hits your stride - check out this post for more info on that.
Don’t give up on weekends
If nothing else - don’t give up on your weekend “long” run. Maybe you work at a job where lunch workouts aren’t possible, a gym is not accessible, and you’re overall just too busy. Hi welcome to the club. You can still probably find time to run on the weekend, and better yet later in the morning when the temps will be warmer. You may not be able to keep up with the same mileage you were doing previously [without the support of shorter weekday runs] but If that’s all you can manage to get you through the winter then go for it.
Hit the gym
There is no shame in heading indoors for the winter. If you just can’t face the cold — I hear you!
If you are this type of person - consider the winter your off season. Running on the treadmill can be great but it can get boring so change it up and add other forms of cardio like cycling or swimming. Hello this is also the perfect time to add strength training to the mix!
Know when to play it safe.
Winter running comes with a certain badge of honor in the running community that can be a little tricky to navigate. It starts to feel like a competition of who can handle the most grueling conditions.
Don’t get caught up in the comparison trap of other people’s choices and do what is best for you. If sidewalks are slippery and you feel unsafe — stay home or go to the gym. If the wind chill is in the negative — you might be better off taking a rest day and picking a day with better weather. One of the keys to winter running is know that you have to get really flexible and make smart decisions.
Always ask yourself — is this going to make or break my training? And if you feel stressed out making that call — hello come work with me as your coach and I’ll help you figure it out!
Get warmed up - literally.
if the idea of even stepping outside is giving you chills — spend 10 minutes getting warmed up inside. Think about how long it takes your car to warm up outside on a cold day. Now think about what you do when you run in the winter. You head outside - and just start running.
Do a warm up like this one to get muscles activated and ready to go. You’ll have better form, and get the most out of your workout.
A few other helpful tips for winter running:
Remember to hydrate — It may be cold but you're still sweating. Stay hydrated before and after short workouts, and during longer runs.
Sunscreen is still important. Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean the sun isn’t shinning. If you’re running mid day don’t forget the SPF
Try to vary your terrain if possible. In the winter frozen streets and sidewalks can be extra hard [literally] on your bones and joints so if you CAN run on some dirt trails every once in a while — do it.
A hearty coating of Vaseline on your upper lip and nose does wonders for preventing chapped skin in cold temps
Don’t forget to BE SEEN if you have to run at night. Whenever possible wear bright colored, neon, or reflective clothing or accessories. Best yet get some light up armbands that can go over any outfit.
DON’T get discouraged if things aren’t going exactly as you planned. If winter running is new to you — give yourself the grace you deserve to figure things out. You won’t get it perfect the first time. You’ll probably have a day that you dress too warm. You’ll probably skip some runs because it’s just too DANG cold. The important thing is you’re trying.
Did you find this helpful? If you did I would he HONORED if you would share it out to just ONE friend who might also benefit from this information. Better yet just share it with your whole Facebook feed because who can pick just one running friend?