Tuesday, November 12, 2019

9 Tips for Running Outside in the Winter

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

I can't believe I've never posted on this topic. Certainly, I've talked about running outside in the winter here on the blog many times. After all, I am the queen of running outside all year round. Last winter, when my treadmill died, I seriously contemplated not replacing it. I used the old one so infrequently, it lasted 21 years! Then the polar vortex hit and that reframed my perspective. Still, my new treadmill has only been used a handful of times. I frequently espouse the mental and physical benefits of fresh air and natural light. Besides, running outside in the deep of winter will earn you a reputation with your family and friends. Either they will call you "Crazy" or they will bestow you with compliments like "Badass" or "Diehard".

It's all good.

If you want to brave the winter and run outside, I've got tips for staying warm and upright in the cold. You might be cursing me when you start, but I guarantee that when you finish your run, you'll be thanking me. Running outside in the winter can be a pretty amazing experience! It can also be a challenge. Being prepared will keep you warm and safe.



The air temperature is not an accurate gauge by which to judge the conditions. 
Winter warriors, I have 2 words for you: WIND CHILL. As long as you are dressed appropriately, a windless, sunny, but icy cold day in the teens or below is going to feel much more comfortable for running than a windy, damp, day in the 30s. Before I head out for a run, I check my trusty weather app, Accuweather. It's my favorite. Not only does Accuweather give you current conditions, but it also gives you 'Minutecast', which predicts heaviness and duration of precipitation. I find it to be very accurate. There is also an hourly feature so you can plan your runs accordingly. Living in the suburbs of Chicago, I also check the wind direction--that northeast wind off Lake Michigan is brutal. No matter what direction the wind is blowing, I prefer to head out into the wind and run home with the wind at my back.


It's easy to overdress in the winter. The general rule of thumb is to dress like it's 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. I like to err on the side of feeling cold when I start, figuring that once I get moving, I'm going to warm up substantially.

Runners are like onions. They have layers. 
Layers of clothing, that is. When it's cold out, I like to layer. That way, if I get warm, I can peel down. On a coolish day in the 30s, I start with a tank and layer over that with a half zip or a crewneck. If it's really cold, say in the 20s, I'll layer over that with a fleece top. For polar vortex conditions, the teens and below, I wear the Thermoball. That jacket, by NorthFace, is like a little dutch oven. On the bottom half, I have fleece-lined tights.


Neither rain, nor snow, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays this runner from completing her run.
Without a doubt, I'm much more reliable than the post office. Snowy conditions? Yaktrax are essential. These steel coils have kept me upright and moving forward for many years. Yaktrax are great on snow, but if you spend a lot of time running on the pavement, it can be a rough ride. Yaktrax are not always great on ice. When it's icy, I will stay inside and run on the treadmill. I don't want to risk a fracture or a concussion. Or getting hit by a car that can't stop on the ice.


Cold hands, warm heart? 
The best gloves, hands down (pun intended) are ones with the mitten hoodies. My fingers love to huddle together under there. Even better are the gloves with touchscreen functionality. We have to take our selfies, after all! When it's exceptionally cold, I slip one of those Hot Hands warmer packs into the hoodie. I find them to be a little too hot to put inside my gloves.


On the feet?
I wear wool socks--I've been loving Swiftwick-- that extend up to my ankles or knees. In my shoes, I'll use Toe Warmers (similar to the Hot Hands).  They can get pretty warm, so I like to put them under my insoles.


Full ninja.
I have several different face masks, but my favorite one is fleece with a neoprene nose and mouth cover. My eyes are still exposed. Over the mask, I pull on a stocking cap to keep my head warm.


If it's good enough for a defensive lineman...
I read once that the Chicago Bears defensive linemen, who like to go sleeveless in the thick of winter, apply Vaseline to their bare skin to protect them from the cold air. I decided to try it on my exposed skin on my face and you know what? It really works.


No one will see it but you're still going to sweat.
Don't forget to hydrate. For longer runs, either carry fluid or plan your route accordingly.


Technology doesn't like the cold. 
Have you ever gotten that screen on your phone that tells you your phone has to "cool down" from the extreme cold? The cold air just kills your battery. To prevent this from happening, I put my phone in my SpiBelt, which I tuck INSIDE the waistband of my tights. Keeps it warm. Don't tell me that you run without your phone in the winter. If you're going to risk the cold and icy conditions, you need to be prepared to call for a rescue ride home.


Last but not least...
Take time to enjoy the beauty of the season. Yes, it's cold, but it's peaceful, it's pretty, and it's an adventure!

This photo is from last winter during the record cold -28F polar vortex.
I don't recommend this.
BTW, I was only out there for about 30 seconds.
Yeah, it was cold.

Hell has frozen over extra early this year, but that doesn't mean you have to stop running! /via @oldrunningmom #running #runchat #winter #chiberia

Running outside in the winter can be a wonderful experience, but you have to be prepared! What do you do to keep yourself warm and upright in the winter?

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics.



34 comments :

  1. I am a classic overdresser, and I don't care. I also tend to run somewhat cold, not hot (although I do sweat -- always). I don't like face masks, although occasionally in extreme cold I'll use one. Usually prefer a gaiter I can just pull up if need be (I suppose you could just push a face mask down if it was making you too warm).

    Paying attention to wind chill and sun vs clouds is really key for me. I can run in pretty darn cold weather if there's no wind & there's sun.

    It's supposed to be in the teens this saturday. My friends are meeting for a run, but I might just go solo later in the day when it warms up. Yup, sometimes (not always) I'll be antisocial in order to not be cold. We'll see.

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    1. We'll see if I head out tomorrow morning. Not only is it ridiculously cold, it's also very icy. I hope this is just an abberation and not the start of a very long winter.

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  2. I tend to overdress and I have lots of fleecy lined things. I have Yaktrax and also bought some nanospikes last winter - and we had a really mild winter and I didn't get to use either at all!! Not that I want to ... I am a great believer in layers, too, including a buff round the neck that you can pull up over your nose and mouth. Love that pic of you out in your one layer!

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    1. It's all for the 'gram... as much I prefer to be a little cold when I run, that was a little dramatic!

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  3. I'd never heard the vaseline tip before, that's a great idea! I'm definitely going to try that this Winter.

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  4. I LOVE running in winter, with the exception of when there's ice or snow that hides ice on the road. So running was flat out this AM: Temp of 12, wind chill at 2 (still doable) and black ice on my of my route. I noped on out of that and did HIIT instead.

    And I'm with you on layers and also on varying types of the same gear. I've got three different pairs of gloves or mittens, two of those neck dealies, two ear bands etc. And I LOVE using the 32Degree stuff under my tights and jacket. They're cheap and they work!

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    1. I don't know about this 32 Degree Stuff! Off to check it out!

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  5. I remember that last picture, lol! It doesn't get as chilly down here but I also agree with dressing a bit warmer, having layers, and gloves! My hands get chilly sooner so I tend to put on at least a thin pair of gloves on with temps in the 40s. It's rare to get anything in the 20s or teens down here so I always get outside because there's no excuse!

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    1. I do wear gloves when temps drop into the 40s. My hands don't like the cold.

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  6. Ahh, looking at your pictures makes me miss the snow! Unfortunately, there's no sign of it in my part of the world, and I'm afraid only little (if anything) will fall over the winter. It's been like that for a few years now :/

    Anyway, I love running in winter conditions. There's nothing better than an early morning run when the city sleeps tight, and I'm plowing through, steaming like a cup of coffee ;)

    Could you tell me more about doing quality workouts in the snow cleats? How is the stability during, say, fast reps or drills?

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    1. I don't know if I could recommend using the YakTrax for speed work. They work best on a snowy base but are kind of stiff. They're really best for long, steady runs, IMHO.

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    2. OK, thanks. If it ever snows here again, I'll give them a go :)

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  7. Though I basically default to the treadmill from Oct to March, there is nothing that feels more awesome than getting out in the cold for a run. What's the best option for running on sidewalks and roads, not when it's super icy but when it's just that packed layer of snow that hangs around for most of the winter? Yaktrax or is there something else? Or is the best bet to get off the roads onto a trail or grass with a layer of snow and use Yaktrax?

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    1. YakTrax are best for the snow packed road, trail, or track. I've never used them on grass. Maybe snowshoes would be better for that!

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  8. I also love winter running it’s so exhilarating. Time to pull out all the winter clothes. Way more laundry too

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  9. Yes, the winter keeps us humble, but I refuse to let it keep me inside. It's rather exhilarating to conquer a run on a very cold day ;-)

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    1. I know you prefer the heat, but I find that more humbling than the cold.

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  10. Excellent tips and wonderful winter pictures!
    Do you take the Yaktrax on and off during your run, depending on whether you're running on snow or on the pavement? Or do you just keep them for convenience's sake?

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  11. I ALWAYS overdress on the first few cold weather runs but eventually I get the hang of it. What always surprises me is how much I still sweat during my Winter runs - it's ridiculous!

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    1. Which is why I try to underdress! My Thermoball makes me sweat even in the subzero windchill, tho!

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  12. That's some serious cold weather running that you do. My cold weather is much milder but when I run in the mountains in the winter I'm super careful about ice. I fall on flat, ice-free ground, icy mountain roads are scary!

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  13. If I wasn't sure before I definitely am positive now that I live in the right place. I hope never to have to use your tips! And I choose badass. :-)

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    1. I think you live in the right place too! Especially since we're in the polar air already...it's going to be a long winter!

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  14. You are a badass! I like the Vaseline tip - I have Aquaphor for putting on my baby's face for going outside in the cold (because when you're in the Great Lakes region, babies have to go out in the cold!) and never thought to try it on myself.

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    1. I was pleasantly surprised how well the Vaseline works to keep my face warm!

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  15. I've had a Thermoball jacket for a couple years now thanks to you! Thank you! I cannot wear it above about 25 degrees b/c I get WAY too hot. I tell people it has to be made out of spacesuit material.

    And I just ordered some hybrid gloves thanks to your suggestion. This is my one problem area left... my hands. I have been known to wear gloves and then wrap knitted hats around my hands on top of the gloves and just clutch onto them the whole run with my fists, but that's a pain.

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    1. That Thermoball does get really warm, doesn't it? I only wear it in the bitter cold/windy conditions. Glad that my tips worked for you!

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  16. The one thing I've never acquired are fleece-lined tights. That's on my list, maybe for next winter. Toe Warmers are something new to me and I'm getting them just for life in general! Thanks for that tip.

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    1. The fleece lined tights are a must have for our winters! I don't like to layer on the bottom--it restricts my movement, and the fleece really helps keep my legs warm. Athleta has the best ones, IMHO.

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  17. I had no idea about the Vaseline! I used to a lot of my runs on the treadmill too during the winter. There was one winter that I started to do most of them outside. It wasn't too bad because I found the right gear. It definitely makes a difference!

    Thank you for linking up with us!

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