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Running In The Cold Weather

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Upon seeing the title of this post, the following may have crossed your mind:

“What on earth is a girl from Texas doing writing a post about cold-weather running?”

Admittedly, I’m not forced to deal with below-zero temperatures, ice storms, or blizzards like those of you in locations such as Canada. But Texas winters can be quite cold. A normal winter morning around here is in the 20s to 30s (Fahrenheit). And I like to run early, meaning it’s even colder. So maybe it’s not too much of a stretch for me to write this post.

*Ducks the (frozen) tomatoes being thrown at her from readers in Canada*

How to make Cold-Weather running fun:

  • Become good friends with weather.com. Don’t just pay attention to the actual predicted temperature, look at the “feels like” temperature too.
  • If you’re going to run in the morning, set out your clothes next to your bed the night before. You can even get dressed in bed, while you’re still under the covers.
  • Pretend you’re an elite athlete, running in the race of your life. Do you think they are thinking about the cold when a chance to win the Boston Marathon is on the line? Imagine the roaring crowd, cheering for you.
  • Know what works for YOU. Those thermal running gloves are supposedly the best for keeping one’s fingers toasty. But for me, waterproof mittens work much better. My fingers aren’t separated in the mittens, so they stay nice and warm.
  • Dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer outside than it really is. You’ll warm up once you start running, and you don’t want to be so bundled that you start to sweat and thus become cold and wet.
  • Figure out the absolute coldest temperature at which running no longer becomes fun for you. For me, that temp is “feels like 5, with 28mph or higher winds” so if it’s going to be uglier than that, I plan to work out indoors, later in the day, or take a rest day. Luckily for me, it very rarely gets that cold and windy (at the same time) here.
  • Wear a hat, wear ear warmers, and bundle up your head. Around 40% of one’s body heat escapes through one’s head, so keep that baby under wraps! Seriously, I’m absolutely fine running even without a jacket in 30-degree weather as long as my head’s covered.

In my Headgear Arsenal:  Depending on how cold it is, I wear a hat, a fleece headband, and the 180s-brand headphones pictured below. I may look a little odd with such a bundled head… but comfort over beauty!

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Another idea that works for me:

I keep reading that when running in cold weather, one should dress in layers so he or she can take layers during the run. Ummm what?! I am not rich enough to just discard my jacket, sweatshirt, hat, and gloves on the side of the road! (Nor do I want to carry them as I run.) But something that’s worked for me is that after I run, I’ll come home and make a list of what the temperature was, what the wind chill was, what I wore and how I felt. That way, before a run, if I see on weather.com that the temp is going to be, say, 40 degrees, I’ll go to my little chart, look up what I wore on a 40-degree day, and dress accordingly. Now that I’ve been running for a few years, I don’t even have to take notes any more, as I’ve already experienced—and written about—most of the possible weather conditions Mother Nature might throw at me. Your list can be in a notebook, posted on your blog, or whatever works best for you.  I keep mine as a Word document.  I don’t bother with correct grammar, but I do make sure the list is detailed.

Here’s a sample from my Word document: 50-54 and sunny or cloudy or windy (wind 8ish mph to 28mph… yes even 28mph works without gloves, etc)—actually this is perfect running weather! It’s not too cold, but not too hot! Long-sleeved thin shirt, with no shirt over. No jacket, no leggings (just nike-type pants or gap black pants). No gloves (no fingerless mittens either). Use earmuff headphones. No hat nor headband.

Now, tips for early-morning running in a blizzard/ice storm/horrific weather:

Step One: Pull one hand out from beneath the blankets.

Step Two: Feel around with said hand for the alarm clock.

Step Three: Turn off the alarm clock.

Step Four: Roll over and GO BACK TO SLEEP! 😉

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. Chef Aimee says:

    I ran to the market this morning here in NY and felt like I was in Siberia! My first secret weapon against the cold? Cherry Chapstick! My second? Soup on the stove. 🙂

  2. This post is too funny!

    I like to feel like I’m an elite athlete when I run in the crazy cold weather 🙂

  3. Jennifer says:

    Perfect timing! I just got BACK from running in the cold (feels like 5 degrees)! :] Oh well, I’m warm now!

    Oh, and I did not feel elite. I felt mostly like my thumbs would fall off!

  4. jcd says:

    I LOVE this post! It’s way too cold for me to go out running these days (-26C/-15F before the wind-chill) but I agree with all of your tips.

    As for layering, I’m all for it. I usually wear a tight summer tank top, light fitted long sleeve top, fleece hoodie, and then my running jacket in the coldest temperatures for running (about -15C/0F). On the bottom I wear tights, double socks, and these really nice wind-proof fleece pants. Definitely add a toque and mittens. As I start running I usually warm up and need to take off my running jacket for a while so I tie it around my waist – it’s no so bad. Wearing tighter first layers keeps you warmer than loose ones too, and some company recently invented clothes that turn sweat into 2C/5F extra heat – I may look into some of those for next year. (Some die hards up here still run in -35C/-30F (before wind). I think they need their head examined.)

    Also, I would like to mention that WICKING clothing is a MUST in cold weather. Cotton is the worst thing you can wear because it gets damp and cold. Yuck. And outdoor activity stores (like MEC in Canada or REI in America) have lots of great clothes for running in the cold, especially those essential breathable, wicking, warm under layers.

  5. Michal says:

    I love all of these tips! They are going to come in handy today since its snowing non-stop here in chilly ohio. But my favorite tip has to be numver three. Whenever im running and need an extra boost a pretend im like a super athlete (which if you know me is laughable haha 🙂 ) and it does make me run a little faster.

  6. eaternotarunner says:

    Great tips! I usually just head to the gym in the cold but I think I will try some outdoor running if it ever stops snowing!

  7. Jenny R. says:

    i’m laughing b/c I’m from Canada…but not throwing things at you!! My dad runs in the snowy weather still. I make friends with the treadmill. Basically it’s scary snowy ice-weather here from december to the end of march so these tips help a lot 😉

  8. psychoj1 says:

    Awesome tips! Thanks for sharing!
    <3 jess
    xoxo

  9. I’ve actually been pretty scared of running in sub 60*F weather, so during the winter, I just hop on the elliptical at the gym, forgoing running altogether. I find that the treadmill really hurts my hips, but outdoor running does not, so I have to stick to the elliptical. Also, I find that it is much harder for me to breathe in cold air, so its one thing to dress properly, but it is another to accustom my lungs to the harsh air. Oh, and I have those 180s, but not with headphones in them, that’s awesome! Thanks for the tips on cold weather, maybe I’ll be brave enough to venture outside sometime haha.

  10. Jessica says:

    Those are great tips girl! Thanks!

  11. Jena says:

    Ear muffs with built in head phones…genius!

  12. Maria says:

    Those ear muffs sound awesome! Definitely handy for people who are crazy enough to run in the cold weather 😉

  13. Juliane says:

    I live in Germany and I ran today at -2°Celsius. I wore a t-shirt, a winter running jacket, a winter running tight, a hat and gloves which I had to take off during my run because I got really warm. The two most important things are to use special running clothes so the sweat is transported away from your body and you don’t get cold and not to dress to warm! After ten minutes of running I am warm. Try to dress so that you are a little bit freezing at the beginning.
    I also ran at -7°C which was still quiet ok but I think I would stop running when the temperatures drop under -10°C.

  14. chrysta says:

    Great tips!!! I find as long as my head and hands are covered Im ok. I gotta say I cant run (have to stick to low impact because of my knees) so I give everyone props that runs outside in the winter! I hate the cold! But if I do have to be out I bundle up like crazy. Plus there are these temporary heating packs you can get at places like the Home Depot that once you crack them they heat up instantly! They fit inside gloves to help keep your fingers nice and toasty. I think they are made for construction workers who have to be out in the cold but they work awesome! Unfortunately you can only use them once so might not be ideal all the time. But great for the those “special” cold days. My mom and I used to get them when we would go to hockey games alot. You can even stick them in your back pocket for instant bun warmers!

    Thanks for sharing all the se amazing outdoor tips! I love the headband with earphones in it!! Cool idea! Have a good one sweetie!!!

  15. Jenny says:

    I’m not much of a runner (okay, I’m not a runner at all…) but I do love youuuuuuu 🙂

  16. ilanalala says:

    I totally don’t run but I’ll keep these tips in mind, modified to fit the theme of “tips on going outside in cold weather.”
    thanks 🙂

  17. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce says:

    i’m loving those iPod headphone ear muffs! totally unnecessary where i live but i would wear them anyway :).

  18. Janet says:

    I’m from Canada and there’s no frozen tomatoes coming your way from me.

    I just started running a few months ago, so your tips are very helpful! I loved the one about what to do if there’s a blizzard 😉

    I find running in the snow to be hard – there’s resistance with each step as you plow a path through the snow. And my running shoes get soaked, which in turn lead to wet feet. How do you keep your feet dry, even when running in the rain?

  19. Love the tips! I just started running again, because I was injured for the majority of the year. Last winter I was in 9 degree weather, and all I needed was a pair of spandex running pants, a long sleeve wicking shirt, and my under armour jacket. (plus my hat and gloves, both under armour too). Worked like a charm. I have yet to venture outside this year, but will need to at some point!! (especially since I am training for a 1/2!!) I tried to double up on clothes and was WAY too hot! 🙂

  20. Danielle says:

    I completely agree about covering your head, it makes ALL the difference. I also find that tighter clothes (like spandex) keep you warmer than a long sleeve t-shirt or a baggy sweatshirt.
    Is…winter over yet? 😉

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