Cold Weather Running Tips

Having grown up in north-central Illinois, there’s not much weather I haven’t experienced in some way or another. There’s also not much weather I haven’t run in, in some way or another. From blisteringly hot, humid days to the frigid “polar vortex” air that sweeps across the prairie, running is possible with the right know-how and gear.

As the holidays come into full swing, the two weeks you may be lucky enough to spend celebrating is plenty of time to incorporate some running into your life, no matter where you live. As I pack my bags for home and some cold weather running, I’ll share some of the lessons I’ve learned about running when it’s chilly.

Drink Water!

You may not realize it, but when you’re running in the cold you’re also getting dehydrated more quickly than normal. You may not be sweating, but your body is using plenty of water to stay warm and keep your feet moving. Although it may seem unnatural to drink cold water on a cold day while you’re running, it is absolutely essential. I’ve found that a wearable water source gets the job done for me, while some people prefer to carry water bottles. Another trick is to put a bottle of water somewhere along your route (if you run a loop) and take a sip each time you pass by.

Layer, Layer, Layer

Those new thermals at the running shop may look really awesome, but there comes a point when the wind and cold cut through even the most hi-tech of fabrics. The best answer to cold weather is the old fashioned layering method. It’s all about keeping the heat in when you’re running, so combining multiple fabrics and clothing weights is a great way to make sure you’re insulated against whatever comes your way. Think sweatshirt over long sleeve athletic shirt, sweats over leggings and socks over socks.  The best part about layering is that if it warms up, you can take a layer off to avoid getting overheated.

Have a Plan

Winter weather can change quickly, so always tell someone you trust about your route during the winter month. Take account for the earlier nightfall and the cooler temperatures that accompany those hours. Cell phones have been known to malfunction in cold temperatures, further emphasizing the need for another person who knows where you’re going. Also, if you’ve never run in cold, start with a shorter run and build up.

Don’t Forget About the Hands!

So you’re all layered up, hydration backpack set to go, and you have….one pair of cotton gloves. A lesson I didn’t have to learn twice is cold hands make for a long run. Invest in a good pair (or two) of winter gloves so you can have toasty hands and return from your run with the same number of digits as when you left.

This is a guest post by Zackary A. Landers. Landers is an ultramarathoner who is always looking for ways to serve his community and help his friends on the path to better health.


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