How to Run in Cold Weather

The falling temperatures and shorter days shouldn’t mean that you put your running schedule on hold. Although heading out into the cold might be one of the last things you feel like doing, training in the chilling temperatures can boost your energy levels and help to make sure that you’re in good shape once the warmer seasons come back around.

So get your running trainers back out of the cupboard and follow these tips for making sure your cold weather runs are manageable, safe and comfortable.

Cover Your Miles on the Treadmill

Sometimes it’s just not worth going outside in the cold. On certain days, the temperature is going to feel extremely bitter, so stay inside and save your tougher workouts for the warmer days.

Remember that if you’re taking part in a virtual challenge, the miles can be covered on a treadmill – just remember to make a note of how many miles you run!

Cold Weather Running Clothes

In order to enjoy your run, it’s essential that you’re appropriately dressed. We advise wearing lightweight layers of breathable clothing that can be removed during your run if the conditions change or you become too hot.

Your base layer is the first layer you put on and should be a thin, synthetic and breathable material that wicks sweat away from your body. Avoid wearing cotton because it’ll hold the moisture and take time to dry, which will keep you wet and make you feel cold.

Your outer layer should ideally be a light water-resistant jacket that releases moisture to prevent overheating and chilling, but still protects you from the wind and rain. If you’re still not warm enough, put on a middle layer (such as a fleece) for added warmth and insulation.

For your legs, either wear a pair of tracksuit bottoms, or leggings/running tights underneath a pair of shorts.

You also lose body heat through your hands and feet, so putting on a pair of gloves and a wicking sock liner can help you to maintain a healthy body temperature on your runs.

Another good idea is to wear a hat or headband to prevent heat loss through your head. If it’s really cold, consider wearing a scarf or a face mask as well to cover your mouth and warm the air you breathe.

However, it’s important that you remember that you’re going to warm up once you start moving, so you should expect to feel a tad chilly before you start your run. You’re going to start sweating very early in your run if you’re warm and comfortable when you first start, so avoid overdressing –  a rule that some runners follow is to dress as if it’s 10 – 20 degrees warmer outside than it really is.

Be Visible

With limited daylight during the winter months, it’s absolutely crucial that you wear light-coloured, reflective clothing. It’s much more difficult for motorists to spot you in darker evenings, so make sure your winter running attire is full of fluorescent jackets and running tights that will help you to stand out no matter the weather.

Get Out of Your Wet Clothes!

Chances are you’re going to get wet at some point either from rain, snow or your sweat, but for the benefit of your own health, it’s vital you get out of your soaked clothes at the earliest stage possible. Getting wet in cold temperatures lowers your body temperature and increases your risk of developing hypothermia (symptoms include intense shivering and fatigue – if you’re in any doubt, seek emergency treatment immediately), so as soon as you finish your training and you’re back inside, be sure to change your clothes from head to toe.

We also recommend drinking a hot drink or tucking into a hot soup afterwards to warm yourself up.

Importance of Warm Up and Cool Down

The importance of a warm up and cool down in the cold weather can’t be emphasised enough. You’re at a greater risk of pulling a muscle when running in the bitter temperatures, so it’s critical that you spend time to warm your muscles before starting your run.

We advise starting your run lightly with a slow jog or even a walk to prepare your muscles for exercise, and gradually increasing your pace until you reach the speed you’ll maintain for most of the run.

At the end of your run, help your body to recover by decreasing your pace to a gentle jog or walk for up to 10 minutes, and do any final stretches inside to avoid becoming too cold.

Wear Suitable Footwear

Running in the winter often involves running through frozen paths, deep puddles and piles of mud, so it’s fundamental that you’re wearing an appropriate pair of running trainers – your shoes must be weather-proof, waterproof and have extra grip/traction in order to keep you both safe and comfortable. There’s a range of running trainers available purposefully designed for the cold climate and shield against ice, so if you don’t think your current pair are satisfactory for the tougher conditions, consider making a visit to your local sports shop.

Be Aware of Frostbite

When running in the chilly temperatures, remember to keep a close eye on and monitor your fingers, toes, nose, lips and ears for frostbite. They’re bound to feel cold at first, but after a few minutes of exercising they should start to get warmer.

If certain parts of your body start to feel hard and frozen, it’s possible you’ve developed frostbite. The affected area is likely to initially turn red and blister, before becoming white or blue. When this happens, get out of the cold immediately (to not only limit the effects of frostbite, but because you might have also developed hypothermia) and avoid putting pressure on the frostbitten area. The next step is to consult a health professional who will be able to carefully warm up the affected area.

Keep Hydrated

Although it’s cold, you’ll still heat up and lose fluids through sweat, so it’s vital you stay hydrated before, during and after your run.

Consult Your Health Care Provider

Your health and safety should always be the priority, so before deciding to tackle the elements, be sure to speak to your GP or doctor about any medical conditions or concerns you might have. It’s not uncommon to hear of the cold air causing chest pain or asthma attacks in some runners.

Sunscreen & Lip Protection

Counterintuitively, it’s still possible to get sunburn during the winter as even though the temperature is lower, the sun’s radiation isn’t. Apply sunscreen to any exposed areas, and wear sunglasses with polarised lens to avoid snow blindness caused by the glare from the snow.

Your lips also need protecting from the sun, and they can easily become chapped in the wind and cold, so it can be beneficial to protect them with lip balm.

Virtual Challenges with Race at your Pace

Here at Race at your Pace, we inspire people of all ages and athletic abilities to enjoy exercising. Every month we run awesome virtual challenges that encourages you to get active and have fun at the same time. Whether you’re an experienced athlete looking for a new challenge, or have only just started to get into running, we have a challenge for you!

See more: How to Prevent Running Injuries

See more: Diet & Nutrition Tips for Runners

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