Run Strong All Winter Long

Fashion - 0, Function - 1
Last Saturday's run was beautiful yet chilly with a light snowfall - notice the flakes that look like mini-comets in the picture - and my first real run since the marathon. Fall has to be the shortest season ever in these northern parts. One day, a run can be hot, humid and sweaty. Then, a few weeks later, it will be cool and rainy, or even snowy!

I've been asked a few times about running through the winter and figured I would explain my winter strategy. Clearly, my approach to winter running is function over fashion (notice photo at right?). My running shorts just weren't going to do it for me this morning. I do slightly resemble a rodeo clown, but I was warm AND I was running out on the country roads by my parents farm and I doubt many saw me!

Before I ramble on any further, here are a few running tips to keep you running all winter long:

Winter Running Tips

Dress in Layers.

Layers are great for winter running because you can add more or subtract them to adjust to the temps all winter long, though it does add to the laundry loads. Keep in mind that you're going to warm up while running. suggests dressing for 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temp. If you dress too toasty, remember your sweat is going to freeze and that's just no fun.

Personally, if it's 40°F or warmer, I'll wear shorts - though, I keep a close eye on temp + wind chill. If it's colder than 40°F, I dig out the running tights and, for style points, sometimes I will wear a pair of running shorts over them.

Cover Your Head.

Wear a hat, headband, or stylish bomber hat to retain body heat. Typically, I wear a cap on my head and a headband around the lower half of my face.

Our running group's "Ugly Sweater Run" for New Years 2013!
The group was very dedicated because it was easily below 0°F and windy!

Wear Shoes with Traction.

Try to find shoes that will have traction in the snow and on icy spots. Last winter, I ran with trail running shoes and that did the trick. Some runners also use ice cleats on their running shoes. I'm looking into a pair of Yaktrax because my minimalist running shoes won't do too well on the ice this winter!

All ready for a Fall jogger ride!

Be Visible.

In the cool months, I run in the dark while the guys are sleeping unless I can take out the jogging stroller with weather shield later in the day. Once the true winter temps set in, the jogging stroller will have to retire until spring and I'll stick to early morning runs.

When running in the dark, make sure to wear reflective and/or bright clothing. Running with a hand light or headlamp helps you see and helps cars see you. I use a small headlamp we had in the house that I wrap around my hand.

Hydration and Fuel Freeze.

I guess this is common sense, but I might as well mention it; Water will freeze and GU gels (and granola bars!) do harden up and become difficult to eat. Last winter I ran with the hand bottle sometimes and camelbak at other times; both freeze. It's a bummer when you're thirsty on a run and everything is frozen! Especially when the water is right there but you can't get to it :(

How Cold is Too Cold?

This is really personal preference. Some runners say it's never too cold for running, others say winter running is crazy. My general rule is that "too cold" means colder than -10°F but this depends on the wind chill. Even a windy 30°F run has potential to be miserable! For longer winter runs, I will break them into shorter chunks and loop by home more often.

Do you run outside in the winter, hit the treadmill instead,
or just take a break from running?

More cold weather running information:
How to Dress for Cold Weather Running


  1. I have just been thinking about this. I recently got a treadmill so I know I have a back up if it's too cold out. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Nice! What kind of treadmill did you get? I'm hoping we can get a treadmill one day in the future and want to start researching the different kinds :) I thought it would be nice when there are more kids running around; you can run, but still keep an eye on the little ones.

  2. Great tips! I just got some cold weather gear - a headband, warmer running socks, a head lamp, and some long sleeve tops. I usually do a combination of treadmill running during the week and outdoor running on the weekends when I can drive to nice spots. I live off a major state route.

    Miss Adventures in Running

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Amy! The combo of outdoor and treadmill running seems to work perfect. Where I live, it seems like each winter brings at least a few days where no sane person would go outside! Until we get a treadmill, those will just need to be off days for me :)

      Happy running this winter!

  3. I've never been a runner nor really an athlete of any sort. I work out and after each pregnancy I've seen the best results when I add jogging/running to my routine. I'd like to start running after I have my third baby but I'm worried about having the time and energy to do it. Any suggestions?

    1. I only have one baby as of now, so can't relate as a mom of multiple kids, but I can tell you what works for me!

      For me, I need to workout in the morning before my husband and son get up, otherwise it just doesn't happen! My son is sleeping a bit more regularly at night now, so I workout at 6 a.m. these days and get back in to make breakfast at 7 a.m. It's working well now with my husband's more regular winter work hours! The jogging stroller is nice for running outside, too, when the weather is nice.

      To start running, just ease into it and maybe shoot for a time goal. You could try running for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute, or something like that. When you get comfortable with running, you could try a beginner 5k program if you would like! Here's a sample one:

  4. It seems like there is SO much gear out there for running in all weather. I was contemplating getting some warmer pants as I wear plain lycra yoga type pants right now and I'm already feeling my fatty areas get cold. It makes me nervous to run in the dark even though I take my dog with me. I'm considering getting some pepper spray or something. Maybe I'm just afraid of the dark.... Thanks for the info!!

    1. Your welcome, thanks for stopping by! I'm not a fan of running the dark, because it does creep me out. I wrap the headlamp around my hand and feel a little safer at least carrying a light with me :)


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