Cold Weather Running

Wednesday’s Workout – 5 easy recovery miles (8:27 pace) on the treadmill: 3.8 miles while both boys napped and another 1.2 after I went to get little guy from his crib (he sleeps 9-10 hours straight at night but only likes 30 minute cat naps during the day).  This was my view for the second part of the run – my own cheering section =)

Thursday’s Workout: 3 mi at half-marathon GP and 2 mi at 10k GP (with a 2 min rest in between).  Note: These are my goal paces – these are certainly NOT the pace that I can currently run a half marathon OR 10k.

  • Mile 1: Warm-up (8:47 pace)
  • Mile 2: 7:05
  • Mile 3: 7:00
  • Mile 4: 6:55
  • Mile 5: 6:40
  • Mile 6: 6:28
I love workouts like this – I get lots of speedy miles in without pushing myself for 5 straight miles.

After a couple of brutal summers in Iraq and Texas (think blowdryer hot), I learned to deal with super high temperatures.  My first winter back in NYC was a HUGE wake-up call for me.  I avoided the cold weather at all costs – and when I had to run – my hatred for the cold was only further deepened because I was always freezing.

Fast forward a few years and I now am pretty okay with running most days in the cold.  Don’t get me wrong.  Give me the choice of freezing cold or heat and humidity and I’ll happily choose the heat any day of the week. But I don’t hate the cold as much as I used to.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned about cold weather running:

Go early:  If I sit inside for even a few hours, I am much more likely to opt for the treadmill.  I do best when I get up and go – with little to no time to dwell on the fact that I’ll be out running in freezing temps.

It’s all about layering:   Two weekends ago I ran 14 miles in temperatures that felt like 15-20 degrees. I had three layers of clothes on my upper body:

  • Bottom layer: base layer – something fitted (usually short sleeved) – that will keep my core warm.
  • Middle layer: slightly thicker long-sleeved shirt (The Saucony DryLete SportTop is my favorite)
  • Outer layer: light jacket or thicker/heavier long-sleeved shirt.  This can also be a wind resistant vest if it’s going to be a windy day.  Look for something that fits higher on your neck for warmth.

Opt for lighter, comfortable, and breathable clothing as opposed to something bulky and constricting.  I also love zippered or half-zippered clothing (on the outer layers) because it gives me the option of unzipping if I get warm during the run.

– Expect to be chilly until you warm up: Your body will generate a lot of body heat and keep you warm once it has been given the chance to warm up (usually 10-15 min into the run).  Dress for that as opposed to how you feel when you first walk out the door.  If you overdress, you’ll end up sweating and will be freezing shortly into the run.  I expect to feel a bit chilly during my first mile.

 Protect your extremities:  These are the areas where heat tends to leave your body.  Protect these and you’ll be amazed at how much warmer you will feel.

  • Hands: My fingers have poor circulation and it wasn’t until I tried mittens that I was able to finish a run without feeling as though my fingers would fall off from the cold. (For temperatures above 32 degrees, I wear my Saucony gloves).  You may need to try a few different gloves/mittens before you find the ones that work best for you.  The mittens I wear are not running mittens – but they do the trick!!
  • Head: For years I would only wear a light headband to cover my ears.  My ears were warm but my entire head was freezing.  I recently began wearing a hat and I feel exponentially warmer.
  • Feet:  If you feel as though your feet are cold in the chilly temps, wear thicker/warmer socks.  I have a pair of hiking socks that I wear when it’s really cold out (15 and below).

– Be ready to go:  Lay out your clothes, gear, have the coffee ready.  Don’t let anything stop you from getting out the door!

Start low: Don’t make your first run in the cold be a 20 miler.  Just like the heat, it’s a good idea to acclimatize yourself AND get comfortable wearing more layers / gear.  Start with an easy low mileage day and build from there.

Do you run in the cold? 

What’s a cold weather running essential for you?  

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    52 thoughts on “Cold Weather Running

    1. Pingback: Winter Running Necessities |

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    3. Pingback: Running in Cold Weather

    4. Great tips, thanks Michelle! This will be my first winter running OUTSIDE – in Minnesota. I need all the advice I can get! I know I’ll be stuck on the treadmill once the streets get really snowy, so I’m determined to make it out there while they’re still dry. 5+ miles in the mid-30s this morning. Brrr!

    5. I quite like cold weather running, it’s the only time I’ll be outside in the cold, because I know I’ll warm up quickly! I just won’t run outside when it’s icy. Gloves or mittens, and headband or hat are essential for me, I can’t stand cold fingers & ears!

    6. I run in WI winter so usually its pretty darn chilly. I am still mastring the right way to dress. I usually go with 3 layers on top as well and then running tights. Thicker socks that cover my ankles are a must to I was wearing no shows and i got some minor frostbite on the inch of skin that showed between my sock and tights. Oops. I discovered the saucony mittens that have gloves inside I love them and have noticed i am way more comfortable during my runs now that i havce those.

    7. Pingback: Am I Holding Myself Back?

    8. Love the treadmill view for your last little bit of time. :) Okay, so I have it lucky since I don’t really have to worry about really cold weather. We’re so spoiled. Um…….. can you be any cuter after a treadmill run BTW? Hugs!
      STUFT Mama recently posted..Well That’s ConvenientMy Profile

    9. I figure skate so I’m used to exercising in the cold and being able to work out hard without sweating. I prefer it! I don’t know layering would work when you are running, but I start out with a hat and an extra fleece layer and after about 15 minutes of warmup the fleece and hat come off. I wear gloves and those always stay on. This is my first visit to your blog; I read your About page and I’m really impressed by your service and your accomplishments!
      Mary @ Fit and Fed recently posted..Bronze Ice Dance Test | Hickory HoedownMy Profile

    10. Question for Michele or other readers – can you recommend a good cold weather sports bra? I’m all set in my Smartwool and Mizuno BreatheThermo, but my UnderArmour sports bra is staying wet and cold. Thanks!

      • Thanks, Jess!!! YES!! If you can, definitely try to get one! Running when they nap is a great way to fit in a workout without getting up super early! It’s esp useful early on postpartum when you are waking up a lot at night to feed the baby =)
        It was one of the best investments my husband and I made last Christmas – I haven’t regretted our decision once!!

    11. These are such great tips Michele! It took me a little while to learn to appreciate cold weather running but now I do. Every year though it always takes me a one or two runs before I figure out my layering situation :-) My hands HAVE to be covered and definitely a hat. I think that my favorite gear are my Smartwool running socks.
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Live.StrongMy Profile

      • I always wimp out when the temps get to mid-low 40s…then after a few weeks of running on treadmill I get the urge to go back outside and 30 doesn’t seem cold! HA. =)

    12. Great post! I’m doing a lot of running in the winter weather these days… I just reviewed an accessory to increase grip in snow and ice (see below), and I also have my own Winter Running Tips and Reality Checks post:

      I also bought a headlamp for the inevitable day when I need to get up earlier or run later to run.
      Axel recently posted..Gear Corner: Review of the Yaktrax ProMy Profile

    13. I’m a cold weather runner! I spend a good part of the year wearing long-sleeved thermals and long tights for running in Scotland. For winter running, I don my thick, winter tights, a warm long-sleeved thermal top underneath my waterproof/windproof jacket, an ear band (luckily my head doesn’t get cold), and thin gloves. I do love running in the winter, however, and I’m disappointed that we’ve had snow this past week which has created icy conditions unfortunately, so like you, I’ve taken to the treadmill :)
      Danielle recently posted..2012 reminiscing: Winnipeg gluttony!My Profile

    14. Awesome tips! The temp here this morning on my way to work was -1! I only get to run outside on the weekends but don’t want to let the cold stop me. I recently bought a warm hat with a hole in the back for a ponytail…and I love it. Also, I wear those merino wool socks and find they keep my feet nice and warm.
      Maria recently posted..Back in the Game..and Food StuffMy Profile

    15. Like you I used to hate, hate hate cold weather running (Thank you living in Arizona for four years). But last winter something changed and I started embracing cold weather running. I think partly because I started dressing appropriately and also because I went early. Something about seeing winter sunrises over twinkling white snow got me hooked:)
      Sarah @RunFarGirl recently posted..Quick Dinners: Soup and Sandwich NightMy Profile

    16. I LOVE cold weather running! I will run in almost every kind of winter weather we get in Ohio. My favorite piece to run with? A gaiter to cover my face. I find if my nose freezes then I start to get colder too, so I cover my face up and I am warm and toasty!

    17. I do run in the cold. Lately I won’t go run in the morning if the conditions are cold and icy. If it’s just cold then the biggest essential is layers, layers, layers.

      Michele, my little one is just a couple weeks older than yours and she’s sleeping the same way. Nice stretch at night, and about 30 sometimes 45 minute naps right before a feeding. :-)
      Stacey Thureen recently posted..Awareness is KeyMy Profile

      • Cold and icy is a definite treadmill day for me!!
        Glad that my little guy is not the only one who is taking such short naps – it’s driving me crazy! Occasionally he’ll give me a long one – but it’s never timed with my older son !! UGH! =)

    18. You’re getting in some awesome workouts this week! I’m itching to get back out there- might do an easy 3 this afternoon. As for the cold, I am not a fan of winter running but I do it. Thankfully, we’re currently in a warmer climate where I rarely pull out my gear. I think that’s the worst part– so many layers, so much to pile on, and so much more laundry!
      Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Why Running Dreams MatterMy Profile

      • Glad you were able to do your first run !! And with a stroller none-the-less!! The laundry comment is SO true. The basket fills up SO fast during the winter – I hate it. LOL =)

    19. Well timed post–I think today might have been one of the colder runs I’ve done so far this season. Just lots of strong, cold wind. But the sun was out and while I was banging out my six miles at MP I took a second to reflect on the fact that I was so happy to be out there, winter or no winter. And there’s really nothing better than a warm cup of something post- cold run, is there?
      misszippy1 recently posted..The year of racing locallyMy Profile

      • I find that I crave a fresh cup of hot coffee soon after my run – I take it up to the shower with me – it warms my inside as I’m stretching and getting ready to shower =)

      • My legs are never really cold – I think it’s because they are moving the whole time, you know? I am so jealous that you’ve never run in anything under 40!! That’s crazy =) LOL

    20. Definitely not a fan of the cold, but I had my first 36 degree run the other morning and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought! Learning to layer, although with the temps creeping up again already, maybe it was a once in a season experience for me 😉
      Melissa @ Melissa Running It recently posted..Wednesday Warm UpMy Profile

      • HAHA. I’m totally jealous!! The first 10 min are always the worst and then it’s really not so bad. My face is the only thing that ever really feels chilly!!

    21. This has been my first winter running outside. Although I have been running inconsistently and haven’t had a super cold run yet I have to say as long as you are dressed properly (and the wind isn’t too bad) running in the cold really isn’t bad! (so far) I will not due cold and rainy though – I don’t mind rain when it’s warm/decent out but I can’t do the winter temps with rain.

      • HA. SO true about the cold rain! I love warm rain – there’s something so calming and peaceful about it. But cold rain is just mean =) I hope the mild temps continue for you!!! =)

    22. That’s a great workout. Sometimes I need the reminder that it’s OK to take rests during a run and that I don’t have to run hard the entire time.

      I’m looking into buying something to protect my face when it’s windy. I feel like I have everything else to make winter running enjoyable, but that’s the only thing missing!
      Hyedi recently posted..Let’s try that again..My Profile

      • So am I – I have heard that neck/face gators are great – they just take some time to get used to!

        Yes – totally true. Sometimes it’s better to push hard during intervals during a run rather than run hard the whole time. =)

    23. I run in all kinds of Iowa cold :)! I have a love hate relationship with my treadmill :)…I love that I am blessed to have a really nice with one with a tv in front of it, but I still just don’t really enjoy running as much on the treadmill. I will definitely choose my treadmill on certain days though! I actually like to try to wait until the warmest part of the day though if that is an option for me. Like today was 20 when I got up but is supposed to be 45 so I will go at lunch time and get the warmer weather :). I am going for 6 slower miles after my 7 faster miles yesterday.
      I just love your blog…it makes me really want to start one. It is so fun to get to know other runners and chat about the things we love :).

      • That’s awesome that you will still go later in the day. My bravado with dealing with the cold decreases over time, so if I’m not out the door early, I’ll end up wussing out and running on the treadmill =)
        Hope your run went well!!!

      • AMEN to the wind. I despise it. With a passion. LOL. I don’t leave the house without hat/glove now that it’s chilly – definitely my must-have items =)

    24. I don’t mind running in the cold as much as I used to. I’m like you though, I prefer the hot temps over the cold any day! I also have exercise induced asthma which is made worse by the cold air but I’ve learned to cope and plan for that as much as possible! I’d say 60-70 degrees are my favorite temps for running. I like to start out with a little chill but remove a layer on the trip back. :)
      Carissa recently posted..2013 – Plans & GoalsMy Profile

    25. I treasure your blog posts! I check your site and twitter daily for updates and read them real quick during the first few minutes of my planning period each day at school. It’s my few minutes of personal “down” time between teaching 3rd graders all day:) I love that you list your minutes per mile for runs and workouts, because then I can adjust my goals based on your times-I’m obviously slower, but I do what works for my current goals for 5k, 10k and half marathon times this spring. I know I am looking for PR’s in all three races! I hope to run around a 23min 5k, 49 minute 10k and 1:50 half !! Thanks for being a great motivator:)!! ((hugs))
      Kara Forrest recently posted..Taco Bake TuesdayMy Profile

      • This makes me so happy!!! You totally have got those times this year, Kara!! I hope your long run and recovery run went well this weekend!!!!! =) =) xoxo

    26. No gym, no dreadmill, and I hate the both of them anyways when it comes to running, so in the cold it goes. I much prefer it because I don’t feel as hot as when running in the summer. I also tend to run in the middle of the day when it’s slightly warmer.

      My favorite piece of equipment is my UA headband though. Covers my ears, keeps my headphones in, and half the time I don’t even know it’s there. Perfect
      Emily @ FitMamaInTheCity recently posted..WIAWMy Profile

      • I think that is key with winter running gear – something is almost transparent to you when you are running.
        I’m always amazed and impressed with runners who ONLY run outside during the winter. I do most of the time but I hop on the treadmill if it’s really (really) cold or windy!!

    27. I don’t have a gym membership or a treadmill at home so if I don’t run outside, I don’t run. I actually much prefer cold weather running to running in the heat so I’m no stranger to layering. Whenever I’m in Target I buy cheap ($1-$2) pairs of gloves to wear when it’s cold – that way if I throw them away during a race or lose one at least they were cheap. If it’s really cold I also wear something around my neck for extra warmth.

      • I LOVE the idea of cheap gloves to throw away if you get too warm. I wear gloves even if it’s like 45-50 degrees but sometimes end up overheating. May need to get a few pairs for this!

      • Thanks, Michelle =) I do too (now). My first winter back in NYC I did almost all of my running on the treadmill and got SO sick of it by feb. UGH. I do okay on the treadmill every now and then (actually doing my long run on it tomorrow since the wind is going to be super strong – BOO) =)