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Running In The Cold Weather

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 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!

znyc 380

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 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! 😉

Published on January 3, 2010

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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. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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 😉

  7. Tiffany @ A Dantat's Life says

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!!

  10. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce says

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

  11. 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?

  12. Jessica @ Fit & Clean says

    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! 🙂

  13. 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? 😉

  14. Christina says

    I love this post! I’m never sure if people actually do run outside in the winter. I’m going to bundle up soon and try it – I hate the treadmill!

  15. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) says

    GReat tips 🙂 but seriously I wear an ear warmer in AZ! I have to or else my head just gets tooo cold and I get a Mister Misty headache. When I lived in MN and IL in the winters, I would actually run in below zero temps but I dont think I could handle that anymore. Good thing I have yoga 🙂

  16. Daria @ Daria Can Cook says

    Does a gym membership count as a cold-running tip? 😉 I don’t mind the cold so much (you’re right about keeping your head warm), but the streets and sidewalks up here get way too icy to run safely. The treadmill and I are good friends.

  17. tuffett says

    Great tips! I don’t mind the cold too much, but I HATE the wind (its been upwards of 40 mph, making it feel like 6°F). I have to stay inside when its too windy, but otherwise I run. I always wear a technical fabric as the layer closest to my skin, otherwise the cotton gets sweaty and hot.

    As for running in layers, I think that they mean if you do an out-and-back run, you can pick up your jacket/shirt/sweatshirt on the way back, assuming that no one stole it (but who really wants a stinky running jacket anyway?). I do loops though, so I’ve never tried it (and the wind would blow my jacket away, anyway).

  18. DJ says

    Superb tips from an experienced runner, thanx Katie! I’m looking to start running this year and as it may be cold for a while… I need all the tips I can get!

  19. Katie says

    Ahh I loved your tips!! I couldn’t agree more with the head bundling things…it is what makes the most difference for me. I also like a good vest – keeps me at the right temperature usually. Sometimes i discard my gloves and stuff them into my pants or sports bra (TMI?…sorry). I also play lot’s of stupid games in my head when I run. Maybe I will be brave enough to reveal the inner workings of my running brain someday…haha. 🙂

  20. quix says

    When it gets below “feels like 40” I’m not a happy camper. Yeah, I know I’m a giant wuss. I just really really really really really really really hate the cold. I heat trained through 90 degree running weather for my last half and was fine, I ran every run outside. I’m just lucky if I get ONE run outside each week this time.

    I did receive a headband as a present so I’ll see if that helps any… thanks for the great tips! I find that my best ammo against the running blues is a fast pace, specific goals (I always have a “how fast” and “how far” goal and an awesome playlist).

  21. Sarah A says

    Hilarious post : ) When I do go for a run (bad knees *sigh*) to keep myself motivated I pick new locations, fairly fresh music and then proceed to let my mind wander. My good friends is completely the opposite and likes to pound the same trail or run on a treadmill which I can’t stick with at all. All depends on what works for you!

  22. Kris | says

    Great post girl! I wont throw frozen veg to you from Canada 😉

    I hope you had a great holiday season!!

    I always love reading your wonderful posts. I guess I should get my butt out there and start running 😉 I tend to stay indoors when its chilly out.


  23. littleaspects says

    Great tips! One trick I found was that I would get up 45mins before I wanted to run for a cup of tea and something small to eat. It was much easier to tell myself that I was getting up in the cold weather for a nice warm cuppa than telling myself I was getting up to go running in the cold! (I am, however, probably at risk for being hit by frozen tomatoes too as I live in Sydney and it never really gets that cold here – but it’s cold enough for me!) 🙂

  24. Trail says

    Great tips, thanks! Headgear is important, but I have the same problem with breathing in cold air that Tiffany mentioned. Any tips for that?

    My main tip for staying warm in cold weather? Park close to the door. I’m not big on cold weather!

  25. The voracious Vegan says

    Here in Saudi the colder the better for working out in the great outdoors! It never really gets below 50 in the daytime even in our coldest winters so I’m always rarin’ to do. I love working out when it is cold because it doesn’t even feel like work, it just feels like keeping warm.

    Unfortunately from May – September working out outside is impossible, there are no tips to help deal with 125F and 90% humidity, if you try it, you just die.

    These are great tips Katie! I love your idea about writing a quick note to yourself so you know what you wore when the weather was a certain way. Takes out the guess factor!

  26. Kate says

    What a great post! I especially like how you write down the weather etc., because I do think a lot of people overdress and find themselves miserable…or underdress and find the same problem. Keeping track of how your body responds to the weather is a great way to stay a lot more comfortable.

  27. Annie says

    Living in such a cold climate, I’m forced to workout in below zero, or I’d have to use the hated treadmill too often. But it’s definitely not my favorite weather to go out in!

  28. Mae says

    These are great tips! I found a calculator on runner’s world a while back and you put in the temperaturea nad conditions and it tells you what would be most comfortablet o wear. It works really well!!
    50* is optimal running weather!!!

  29. JCD says

    Tips for breathing in cold air – wear a light neck warmer or scarf. After you warm up a bit the cold air is no longer cold (unless it is -43 outside, and then there’s no hope of it warming up.) I have asthma and I was a bit fearful of running in cold dry air too, but after warming up with a scarf or neck band (which I put in my pocket after I was warm) the cold air didn’t bother me at all. (that was in -10C/+14F) Another trick is to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth until you warm up a bit – then it doesn’t matter how you breathe.

    As I adjusted to running in the cold, I found the cold air less and less bothersome as I warmed up. It may be something your body just has to get used to. The human body is brilliant; it warms up the air before it gets to the lungs.

  30. erintakescontrol says

    Love your running tips! I tend to sleep in my workout clothes so I can jump, er — crawl out of bed in the morning and get to my workout!

  31. Scott in Ohio says

    Great tips, Katie!

    I definitely follow the “dress as if it’s 20* warmer” rule. Like you, I can’t just leave workout gear along the side of the road because I got too warm.

    If you have a treadmill, warming up inside for just a quick couple of minutes before heading outside is a good trick.

    Stay warm!

  32. Katie says

    I love the directions for running in a blizzard! It was -10 in Minneapolis this am and I saw several people outside running! I couldn’t help but think of how crazy they were while I was inside at the gym working out!

  33. Bekah says

    Great tips Katie! I’ll def be needing these when I move to school on the 23rd! AZ>>>> state of NY. AAAHHHH. It’s gonna be cold. And I totally get where you’re coming from saying TX is cold. AZ gets cold too! Except not recently.. its been like 70 degrees.

  34. elizabeth says

    great tips!! and i love the headphone earmuffs! i might have to invest in those!!
    especially in when there’s a chance of ice, i remind myself to look down and watch my footing. its not as fun as looking at all the scenery, but i’d rather not sprain my ankle!

  35. Katharina says

    I loved this post!! You have such a great personality Katie 🙂 You’re so funny and these tips were helpful!! Thanks so much for sharing!


  36. Jenn says

    When it’s cold out (and we’re talking in the negatives – like -4F and lower) I love love love my Balaclava.

    Also, one thing that makes it easier to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer is to put your base layer(s) in the dryer for a few minutes to warm up. That way you feel nice and toasty when you get started!

  37. Jean says

    Amazing tips Katie! I’m one of those [non]-tomato throwing Canadians:) Just set out on a 13 degree Farenheit run this morning and the two “gear” pieces that really helped were:

    #1 – MITTENS (not gloves) as you mentionned, keeping the fingers together is key!

    And #2 – LAYERS – I invested in some UNDER ARMOUR gear for my base and outer layers (I put 2 thermal layers on my top half in between the two for today’s temperature) – this stuff is amazing and it looks pretty chic too!

  38. Crow says

    I run with no shirt on. Always. Once I got in the habit of it, doing it in -7 C with wind is ok. If you reach thermal equilibrium with a good core temperature, the main risks are injury preventing safe continuation, and running out of energy before you get back to warmth and food. Cold really isn’t a big risk, compared to ice on the ground. I don’t concern myself with how the cold feels because it’s fun as soon as I get used to it, but I really take care with what I run on, and on the grip my feet have on it. So long as I can move without damaging muscle or something else, I can keep warm for a few hours. Below freezing can be easier than slightly above too, as it’s usually drier. Moving humid air has lots of cooling ability so I’m often a lot more comfortable with a very dry day than a damp near-freezing one even if the dry one is more than ten degrees colder. The excitement of going shirtless in that sort of cold helps too, stimulation makes us regulate heat better. I don’t even use gloves or mittens though if I lived in the US or Canada instead of south west UK, I’d do it because my fingers (and my nose) are always the first things to suffer if I’m not careful. The nose thing is interesting too, whatever most people wear, that usually gets overlooked. When I stop running, I usually hum quietly to myself, it regulates airflow out through my nose to keep it warm, and reduces the time I draw cold air in through it. This may sound odd, but little details like that make more difference to me than trying to escape the cold. The rest of me can easily be warmed up by moving around, but nose, fingers, and to a lesser extent, toes.. those stay cold if they get cold, even persisting that way long after I get back to warmth. If I take care of those, the rest takes care of itself, so long as energy is there to keep going.

  39. Agi says

    I see that several people from the UK run shirtless the whole year long, even in winter and it’s freezing. Actually, I usually run shirtless when the temperature goes above 15C or above 10C/50F and it’s sunny, as the idea to remove my shirt in the chilly weather makes me worried. Nevertheless, when I come back home, my singlet is totally wet with sweat, especially in these damp days. Should I try with no shirt on?

  40. Marianne says

    Hey now – not all of Canada gets weather like that. Us West Coasters barely see snow all year! I’ll still complain that it’s cold though 😉

  41. 5h0kw4v3 says

    I, too, run shirtless regardless of the weather, but I’m here in the US.Last Winter, I went out in 20 degrees Fahrenheit shirtless (only shorts shoes, socks, and fingerless gloves) for a number of runs. One in particular was 3 hours long…and I never felt better!!

    It isn’t exhibitionism or showing off…I do it for the challenge. And it just feels good…

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