Friday, December 23, 2016

5 Things You Might Not Know About Winter Running

When you live in a place that gets colder than Mars, like it was in Chicago last week, you learn a thing or 2 about running in the cold. Oh sure, I could run inside, on my treadmill, but what fun is that? I did one treadmill run last week and it was like a torture treatment. It was dark and icy and I did have to go to work, so sometimes a runner's gotta do...but there is a reason I have a 20 year old treadmill. It barely gets used.

I look at winter running as just one more item on my list of running challenges. But instead of complaining about running in the cold or making excuses for not heading outside, I embrace it. Most of the time, running in the winter isn't horrible. Most of the time, running in the winter is pretty nice.

A lot of folks have been sharing their tips about running outside. Along those lines, I wanted to share a few things about winter running that just maybe you've never even thought about.




The thermometer doesn't tell the whole story. Actually, the thermometer is a liar. In the winter, it's all about the wind: wind speed, wind direction, and wind chill. Cloud cover and humidity can also make your run go from refreshing to raw. Last Sunday I ran in those colder than Mars conditions. But the sun was out and the wind was relatively light. Yes, it was cold, and I dressed appropriately. Sometimes the thermometer can be misleading. If it is really windy and there's a good snow pack, that 32F reading is going to feel much colder than a 10F reading on a calm, sunny day. Add in some humidity--either wet snow or cold rain--that's a whole other pain. I also look at the wind direction to know what part of my run is going to be more challenging and head out into that wind first. You know, to get it over with.


You're going to overdress. The general rule of thumb for running is to dress for conditions at least 10-20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. You should feel cold when you first start out, because as you get moving, you'll warm up. But the temperatures can be intimidating, especially early in the season when you forget how to dress for the cold. When I ran yesterday, it was 34 degrees and sunny with a light wind. I wore a light base layer and a heavier pullover and tights. I was very comfortable. I saw other runners wearing face masks and one in a winter coat! He had to be sweltering. Actually, if my hands and feet are warm, the rest is easy.


No matter how warmly you're dressed, your butt will get cold. And that is the golden rule of winter running. I use those hot hands and hot feet warmer packs for my hands and feet on those brutally cold days, but what I really could use is bun warmers. I wish the hot hands company would make some. I'd buy them.


Your phone gets cold too. I've gotten the black screen of death aka the temperature screen more times than I care to admit. It usually happens on those brutally cold runs where I'm making deals with myself to get my run done. It's not pretty when the music stops and I'm struggling for motivation. I've started wearing my SpiBelt inside my tights and putting my phone in there to keep it warm.


It's therapeutic. Running outside in the winter can be a real treat. There is nothing better than a run in the snow, either while it's coming down or right after the storm. There's a certain peacefulness in the snow. Being outside in the natural light is good for the brain and can help fight off seasonal depression. Running in the snow can make you feel like a kid again! I've had fun playing with my jumping and my yoga poses this past week.


Things you do know but I need to mention: Be safe. A lot of the sidewalks and running paths aren't clear this time of year, forcing us into the roads. Drivers may not see you or they may not be able to stop in time when they see you. Wear high visibility clothing so you stand out. YakTrax are my go to when there is snow cover on the roads. They aren't so great on black ice, though.

Running in the winter can be so much fun if you are prepared for the conditions! How about you? Do you embrace the winter? Or do you hibernate?

I'm linking up with the Friday v 2.0 hosted by Fairytales and Fitness and Running on Happy!



60 comments :

  1. It is definitely hard to remember how to dress for winter running! I think I am starting to get used to it again. My butt always gets cold too! Someone on instagram suggested wearing compression shorts under your tights so Im gonna try that next time its really cold. I hate the black screen of death!

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    1. Let me know how the shorts work! I'm not a fan of compression when I'm running, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

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  2. I always overdress in the winter. I hate being cold, so when I head outside all that's on my mind is not freezing my butt off. Good thing I'd much rather be hot than cold, so overdressing doesn't seem to affect me too much.

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    1. Since I am of a certain age, I fear getting overheated! I always err on the side of underdressing. It usually works out ok for me...

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  3. You are right it's all about the wind. 25 degrees can be very manageable with little wind but a few weeks ago it was just unbearable. It is certainly challenging to dress appropriately

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    1. There are so many things to factor in when getting ready to run in the winter. Not to mention all the laundry!

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  4. I will retreat to my treadmill a lot, but not always. The toasty skirt from Skirtsports is keeping my buns warm, but on one really cold run this week my hamstrings were frozen! It's always something.

    Sun and no wind make all the difference. And that thermoball! Thanks again for that recommendation (and my momentum bracelet -- I love them both).

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    1. Oh, that thermoball is my polar vortex survival jacket!

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  5. Yike! Sorry about your colder than Mars conditions! I don't run in the mornings so I can usually avoid the coldest time of day. My behind never gets cold but my feet do. I think I need to look into those smart wool socks! -M

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    1. Smart wool and the toe warmers for the win!

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  6. I love this post! I try to run outside as much as I can during the winter b/c I too hate the treadmill. The only things that get me through the treadmill are a Precision Running class led by an instructor (intervals) and sprint or hill intervals on my own...I literally cannot get on there and just run.

    And my hands and feet are my problem areas...I just ordered some new gloves that I hope will help and will try the warmers. Also good to know about the weather...will keep that in mind!

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    1. I do not know about this Precision Running class! Where is it?

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  7. I love running in the winter but it's all about layers for me. If I'm not dressed appropriately my run is horrible. Yak traxs have been used already as we've had lots of black ice this week.

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    1. I haven't found the YakTrax to be really effective on ice. I have Stablicers for that.

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  8. Running in the woods with light snow falling is peaceful and perfect. (With yaks, of course)

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  9. I agree with you that winter running can be so beautiful and I've gotten some of my very best runner's highs out there during snowfall. But yeah there are issues with road safety and water freezing to a block of ice and breaking teeth on rock hard GU. Compression under tights under wind pants will lessen the ass freeze. I just don't want people to feel "less than" because they choose the mill. Any run anywhere is badass in my book.

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    1. There are so many issues with winter running--I try my best to work around them. Sometimes there is no other option but to treadmill it. Which is a badassery in a whole different sense.

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  10. Totally embrace it! I have yak trax too! Just gotta be ready with the right gear. Depending on the weather I certainly have to adjust distance or pace, but I'll get out as much and as often as possible. Will also bundle up and get out on my bike too!

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    1. Now that I won't do--I'm pretty wimpy when it comes to biking in the cold. It's just not pleasant for me, at all.

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  11. I do not think I could run in the cold!! I hate breathing in the cold! But these are very good points! I'm going to share them with my dad who just started running in the cold!

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  12. I want to move South!!!!!!!!!!

    I don't really get cold when I run. Just my hands & face.

    I have to be careful not to overdress.

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  13. Oh man! You are so fierce! I'm such a wuss when it comes to the cold. Comes from my Floridian blood. :-)

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  14. You are so right about how challenging it is to dress for winter weather running - I fear being too warm, but things like wind and dampness really make me cold. I have a lot of options to consider - gloves? neck gaitor? ear warmer headband? vest? - well, you get the idea. Needless to say, I've had to set my alarm a little earlier on the cold days just to give myself enough time to not only pull on the extra clothes, but also do decide what, exactly, to wear.

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    1. I have all those same issues--like which gloves? The hooded ones? The insulated ones? Ugh...

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  15. Such great tips! The main things that halt me from running outside are too much snow/ice and wind. Colorado is so dry we don't deal with the humidity that can chill you to the bone! I actually dress very minimally--one base layer on top and bottom and my thin running jacket that has LED lights on it :) My biggest items I have to have: a neck gaiter if below about 25 degrees, my fleece beanie cap and my mittens that are too big so my hands create a little warm environment in there (will use hand warmers if it goes below 25 degrees). I am with you...running indoors (indoor track for me) is emergency only and even then I find myself choosing the pool. I always say the cold weather does not bother me but the snow/ice do because then it gets riskier! But there is nothing like coming inside after an outdoor workout. Talk about invigorating! That being said...."when is spring?!?" LOL.

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    1. Right? I think you guys get a lot more sunshine than us too. That has to make it bearable!

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    2. Yes, we do get a lot of sunshine which helps so much. That is why I never really mind our epic spring storms (March & April are actually our snowiest months)....because the sun will come out the next day and melt it away! Dec, Jan, Feb are more challenging with less sun but nothing like the midwest. I lived for a year in SD and wow, talk about depressing winters!

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  16. "Winter" running is perfect here in So Cal, it actually feels good! But, of course, we don't get colder than Mars. Last week in Hawaii I actually said, "It feels kinda cool out," and it was 69 with lowish humidity.

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    1. Haha! But I agree, 69 feels cool to me too.

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  17. Yes yes and more yes! My phone automatically shuts off when it gets cold. It shouldn't, because it doesn't get cold enough for that quite yet but Callum has destroyed my phone with his smushy cookies and drool, so it glitches out all the time.

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    1. I'm probably destroying mine with snow when I take all those snowy selfies!

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  18. I've been hibernating this year, but most years I get out. I have a quilted running skirt that I wear over my tights to keep my butt warm!! I've always kept my phone in my hipsister (spibelt of sorts) and even in single digit temps haven't gotten that black screen of death because its right against me!

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    1. Even wearing my thermoball doesn't keep my phone warm enough!

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  19. I don't think I "embrace" winter running, but I certainly deal with it and accept the challenge. I totally agree...there is nothing like that calm feeling on a cold day...it is SO tranquil. And running at night? You almost don't need a flash light because the snow reflects the light (from streetlights and the moon). And yeah...the wind is THE game changer LOL

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    1. I'm always nervous about running at night in the winter because... black ice...

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  20. I definitely embrace the cold! I mean, there *is* a limit. Last week we had to bitter cold days. I had no clue it was going to be so cold (all due to wind) because it normally doesn't get BITTER here in PA until January. Well, out I went and I knew right away that it was colder than I normally run it. It was absolutely horrible whenever I was running into the wind. I did 6 miles because by the time I realized how bad it was, there wasn't time to go back inside, change, get all my weights out, and lift. I don't know how I made it through that run but I really hunkered down. When I got home I looked up the temp on my phone- it was -3!!!!!!!!!!! NO WONDER IT SUCKED!!!! Normally I don't like to run in lower than 12 degrees and try to plan the two coldest days of the week as my lifting days. I just have to plan ahead!

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    1. I do a lot of planning ahead in the winter. It's just something a winter runner has to do...

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  21. I don't mind the cold but I avoid slippery conditions. And my phone dies if it is too cold because the cold temps suck the life out of it. Enjoy your weekend !

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  22. Why do our buns get so cold? I would not like to spend the winters on the treadmill either! I am sure I could get used to the cold just like I get used to the 98% humidity here :) 6 miles on tap this morning and it is a nice 61 degrees- gotta love December in Florida!

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    1. You know I would love December in Florida! I need to move!

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  23. I have a horrible winter running problem of overdressing then under layering... if that makes sense, like my layers aren't right, i've been trying to master this for years... maybe this year ill get it right:)

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    1. I never seem to get it right, especially in the early winter. You'd think after all these years, I'd have it figured out!

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  24. I second that motion on bun warmers! I would so buy them as well. And you're right on temperatures - it can be a starting point, but doesn't even begin to tell the whole story. This winter has been so crazy already - freezing to warm and we'll be heading back into freezing again. hang in there up in North Mars! :)

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    1. You hit the nail on the head. We've gone from Mars to the sun this week--it's 54 degrees today!

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  25. Yes, Yes, Yes! Spot on with the wind. The temperature can be 10 degrees and it feels fine if it's sunny and no wind. Or it can be 25 with horrific wind, and that's the worst! The only time I hate running is when it's super windy on top of cold. These are all great tips and it's awesome that you go outside and don't opt for the treadmill unless it's totally necessary.

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    1. I truly believe that the wind is the biggest factor affecting my runs. This more than any temperature or precipitation!

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  26. F'ing phones freezing in the cold. NOT AWESOME.

    And yeah. My butt is cold all the time. Supposedly SkirtSports makes a pair of pants that keeps your butt and your quads warm. I think I saw them on Deborah's blog (Confessions of a Mother Runner).

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    1. I saw one of those skirts on sale at Athleta just now as well. I don't know how I feel about a winter running skirt, but I bet it works pretty well.

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  27. Yep, I'm pretty well padded too! Still cold!

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  28. I see that I commented (the first time LOL), but this bears a second "2 cents." I love running in the snow (if the wind is playing nice...or not at all), but this frigid cold icy crap can go. I"m glad the thaw is coming tomorrow!

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    1. 100% agree! We are going to have nice conditions for our weekend on Saturday!

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  29. I swear I try to feel cold while reading this post here in Palm Beach!!
    Great tips as usual though!!

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  30. I always wore sweats over my tights in college, and my butt didn't seem to get as cold. I definitely layered then too, but there were times I didn't remove a single layer.

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  31. I despise running in the cold and I never, ever dress right but my goal once I'm healed up is to stop being such a wuss and get out there more! If my phone starts freezing up, though, forget it, I'm going back inside. ;)

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