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Easy Does It! 10 Tips for Running in Cold Weather

Last year, as the days got shorter, the temperatures colder, and the year wound down to an end, I braced myself for what I expected to be one of the most difficult, numbing experiences of my life. In April I would be running my first Boston Marathon, and if I was going to get to the finish line in decent time and with a minimal amount of pain, I was going to have to run all winter long. In the cold, in the snow, in the dark. In previous years, my running went on hiatus for the winter, and I became a weekend warrior, waking up early on occasion if the weather was warm enough not to send chills down my spine.

But Boston was on the schedule last year, and so I gathered all my long-sleeved shirts, winter accessories, and warm thoughts, and began my training. And it was cold. My toes and fingers would become so numb some days. Other days I would have to dodge the ice or catch myself from slipping on the thin layers of snow. There were a few days when I looked at the weather report when I woke up and changed my mind. If the “feels like” temperature was in the single-digits, I’d turn off my alarm and get some extra sleep. Everyone has their limits, and that was mine.

However, I was surprised that before too long, the cold didn’t bother me. In fact, far from hating to wake up early, bundle up in so many layers, and head out into the cold and dark of morning, I began to look forward to it. I may have been swimming through a foggy mental haze when I first stepped out my apartment door, but by the time I stepped back in 6 miles and 50 minutes later, I felt alive and refreshed and happy. It was energizing to be out and running in the cold. By the end of my training, when temperatures were just beginning to warm up and spring was finally starting to show her pretty face, winter was no longer a season of semi-hibernation from running for me and instead I looked forward to waking up early and layering up for a solid run.

I don’t necessarily think winter running is going to be as exciting or fulfilling for everyone as it was for me, but I do think that there are ways of making it tolerable, and possibly even enjoyable. I’ve been working with Paul Smedley, running expert at Sport Chalet, to come up with some tips make that jump into becoming a winter runner safe, comfortable, and enjoyable.

 

  • 10 Tips for Running in Cold Weather 1 of 11
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    Don't just survive this winter; keep running and thrive

     

    photo credit Lizzie Heiselt

  • Re-think Your Warm Up 2 of 11
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    Your body warms up at a slower pace in the cold, so take 10 extra minutes to do warm-up exercises indoors. Jumping jacks, walking lunges, and running in place will all work. By the time you get outside, you'll already be sweating and ready to run.

     

    photo credit Lizzie Heiselt

  • Rethink Your Shoes 3 of 11
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    Not all running shoes are created equal, Smedley says. Winter conditions mean less mesh is more — more warmth, fewer frozen toes. Good winter running shoes will help keep the warmth in and the snow, sleet and slush out. Shoes made with Gore Tex, such as the Brooks Women's Ghost GTX have waterproof, breathable material that will help keep your feet warm and dry.

     

    Get Brooks shoes $140, sportchalet.com

  • Layer Up! 4 of 11
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    As the temperatures drop, the need for coverage — layers and layers of it — grows. For die-hard cold weather running fans, Smedley suggests the following guidelines:

    • 30 degrees: 2 tops, 1 bottom.
    • 10 to 20 degrees: 2 tops, 2 bottoms.
    • 0 to 10 degrees: 3 tops, 2 bottoms.
    • -10 to 0 degrees: 3 tops, 2 bottoms, gloves and 1 scarf wrapped around your mouth.
    • -20 degrees: 3 tops, 3 bottoms, 1 extra pair of gloves and 1 scarf wrapped around your mouth

     

    photo credit Lizzie Heiselt

  • Conquer the Wind 5 of 11
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    Winter winds can be fierce, so look for a jacket that will shield both wind and water like the Nike Women's Shield Flash Jacket. This jacket has 62 percent more visibility than a normal reflective jacket to make sure you are not only warm and dry, but seen and on those dark, gray days. 

     

    Nike Flash Jacket $350, sportchalet.com

  • Cover Your Legs 6 of 11
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    Smedley says that the best way to keep your legs going strong during cold weather is by covering them from hip to ankle. Running tights like these from Under Armour — are quick-drying and help trap the heat. (They also happen to be a personal favorite of mine!)

     

    Under Armour Allseaon Run Tight $60, sportchalet.com

  • Protect Your Hands 7 of 11
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    Cold, chapped, and cracked hands are my biggest pet peeves of winter weather. And, Smedley says, they can distract you from running your best. It's worth investing in a good pair of gloves if it means you can still use your hands without pain for the rest of the day. These, from Brooks, are lightweight and have reflective detailing the better to see you with and have touchscreen compatible finger pad. (Bonus!)

     

    Brooks Women's Adapt Gloves $50, sportschalet.com

  • Keep Your Head On 8 of 11
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    Wrap your noggin with a hat that will stay secure and keep in the warmth because your head is super sensitive to cold temps. This beanie from Under Armour comes equipped with a thermo-conductive coating that absorbs and retains your body heat, so you stay warmer longer with no extra bulk or weight.

     

     Under Armour's Infrared Cozy Beanie $27 sportschalet.com

  • Shun Cotton Socks 9 of 11
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    Fear the cotton! Never wear cotton socks when running. Ever. Not in cold temperatures, not in hot. Cotton retains moisture, which can cause cold feet, blisters — and pain. Keep your feet warm and dry with a sock made of wicking fabric like SmartWool.

     

    PhD Run Light Mini Socks, $17 smartwool.com

  • Watch Your Step 10 of 11
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    It's okay to run in the snow as long as you are smart about it, Smedley says. He suggests running on the part of the path that's most beaten down, or to take it slow and watch your step if you are the first one on the path. You may also want to think about wearing trail shoes for extra traction.

     

    photo credit Lizzie Heiselt

  • Race the Winter Away 11 of 11
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    Organized races provide motivation and excitement in what can be a dark, dreary time of year. Winter races often serve up hot chocolate along with camaraderie and happiness, and can be a great way to stay in shape and help the winter pass more quickly. Plus, many winter 5Ks are holiday themed, where dressing up is encouraged, so start looking for your best reindeer or elf running costume now!

     

    photo credit Lizzie Heiselt

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