Monday, November 5, 2012

Top Tips for Cold Weather Running

Unless you are lucky enough to live where the weather stays warm year-round, you are probably tuning up your treadmill for the winter months.  Just because the temps are dropping doesn't mean that running indoors is your only option.  With just a few simple adjustments to your normal routine, you can continue to log the miles outdoors and enjoy it, too!  Here are some of my favorite expert tips on cold weather running:

When exercising in the cold, do not overdress. This causes the body to become hot and initiate sweating. As the sweat soaks through the clothing, evaporation rapidly removes heat from the body into the environment. Clothing that transmits moisture away from the body may be protective if an outer wind-resistant layer decreases heat loss. However, this wind-resistant layer must retain the same transmission capabilities, otherwise clothing will still become moist. (Courtesy of The Washington Running Report.)

How to Dress
Shorts and short-sleeve top
Shorts or tights and long-sleeve base layer top
Tights and long-sleeve base layer top; gloves and thermal headband optional
Tights, long-sleeve base layer, second top layer (e.g. vest), gloves and thermal headband; second bottom layer (e.g. running pants) optional
Tights, second bottom layer (e.g. running pants), long-sleeve base layer, jacket, gloves, thermal headband

(Chart courtesy of

Before heading out, you carefully layer your clothing, then grab a pair of running shoes with little thought. Big mistake, says Jay Smith, M.D., associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic, who recently studied how temperature affects the cushioning of running shoes. "As temperatures get colder, the shock absorption of shoes decreases," he says. "A loss of shock absorption may result in a higher injury risk." Dr. Smith evaluated four different cushioning systems and found that shoes with a polyurethane midsole were impacted the most by cold weather. When shopping for a pair of winter shoes, ask the staff at your local running store for a pair with EVA foam cushioning, the material that was least affected by cold temps in Dr. Smith's study. And wear trainers with the sturdiest uppers--those with waterproof materials or heavier, supportive overlays and little or no mesh paneling. The porous mesh on lighter-weight shoes will let wind, snow, and water seep inside, quickly freezing your feet. (Courtesy of Runner's World.)


In cold conditions, warm-ups need to be done as close as possible to the training start time, so the opportunity to cool-down is not as great. Warm-ups should also be more intense, longer in duration and done in heavier clothing. (Courtesy of Women Fitness.)

Build up to exercising in the cold temperatures.  It is more difficult to do any cardiovascular activity when you are used to 60-70 degrees one day and try to run or walk in 20-30 degrees the next.  So, over the course of 4-6 weeks, do workouts outside as the weather changes.  For instance, starting in October / November you were probably seeing colder weather of 40-50 degrees depending on your location.  By December / January, if you continued to exercise outside, you might have gotten used to 30-40 degree weather.  As with anything, pace yourself and do  not expect to go from 70 degrees one day and enjoy a 30 degree workout the next.   It is always colder in the am / pm so try to get some cardio at the “heat” of the day in the early afternoon if it fits your schedule. (Courtesy of Stew Smith Cold Weather Training Tips)


Research has shown that trainers do not drink as much as they should during cold conditions. Adequate fluid intake is important because sweating and non-sweating routes of fluid loss can induce dehydration, which can impair performance and thermoregulation. Athletes often think that they do not need to hydrate because it is cold. They may not have as much sweat on their body surfaces as in hot environments, but they "blow off" a fair amount of fluid through their rapid breathing Cold air is usually associated with dry air, thus there is an increase in respiratory water loss during cold-air exercise, emphasizing the important role of maintaining fluid consumption. Recent research by Seifert et al. (1998) demonstrated that ad-lib water ingestion by elite cross-country skiers was inadequate to minimize the disruption in fluid balance during 90 minutes of low intensity skitraining. This implies that the athlete must make a deliberate, conscious effort to drink fluids, preferably a carbohydrate/electrolyte beverage, on a regular schedule during the workout.  (Courtesy of Women Fitness.)

With limited daylight, chances are you'll be running in the dark (Alaskans, sadly, get only a few hours of dim light per day). Tall snowbanks on plowed streets make you even harder to see. Wear reflective, fluorescent gear, and don't be shy about lighting yourself up like a Christmas tree, says RW's own Ed Eyestone, who runs in snowy Utah. Says Adam Feerst, a coach and trail-race director in Denver, "I use a headlamp or carry a flashlight, less so I can see where I'm going and more so people can see me." (Courtesy of Runner's World.)

Your core body temperature drops as soon as you stop running. To avoid a lingering case of the chills, change your clothes--head to toe--as soon as you can. Women need to get out of damp sports bras quickly. Put a dry hat on wet hair. And drink something hot. "We go to a coffee shop after our runs, and take turns using the bathroom to change," says Grandonico. "Then we all relax with coffee and bagels." Driving to a run? Bring a thermos of green tea or hot chocolate in your car. (Courtesy of Runner's World.)

When it's really cold, you should never be further than about 10 minutes away from a warm shelter.  Rather than doing that 10 mile loop out in the country or on a trail, it might be wiser to do four 2.5 mile loops closer to home in case you run into trouble. (Courtesy of Run Quick.)

Shivering is an important first sign that the body is losing heat, and you may be in danger of hypothermia. (Courtesy of Road Runner's Club of America)

Many don't like to run when the temps drop because the cooler, drier air hurts their lunges or throats. Combat this by wearing a scarf. The moisture from your own breath keeps the air more humid and therefore easier to breathe. (Courtesy of Shape Magazine.) Finally, consider wearing traction devices on your shoes if sidewalks, trails or roads have snow or ice cover. (Courtesy of Road Runner's Club of America.)

The photo and more sound advice was found at Run By Design: Winter Running ~ It's a Love/Hate Relationship


  1. These are great tips! I am not a huge runner, but for some reason I always get the urge when the weather turns cold. It's so refreshing to run in the brisk cold air. ;)

    Love the blog!

    -Robin @ Thank Your Body

  2. These are all things I've pretty much learned the hard way! haha! I love that you put it all together in an article, especially the clothing table. :-)

  3. Great tips! I am just getting back into running after a long illness.


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