The Casual Runner

Top 10 Cold Weather Casual Running Tips

Ok folks, it is cold out there. What? You don’t believe us? Go outside and check for yourselves. Its OK, go ahead, we’ll wait while you do…

There? Are you satisfied? Do you believe us? They may not be using the term “polar vortex” this year, but many of our readers are enduring the deep freeze, and most are not enjoying it.  Except for our west coast, Florida, and Australian friends who are enjoying the sunshine, and for that, we are jealous of all of you.

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Even when its colder than a looks, you do not have to be stuck inside all winter.

Mid-February is about the time when cabin fever starts to set in. You don’t believe us? Ask Jimmy Buffett:

“Twenty degrees and the hockey game’s on

Nobody cares they are way too far gone

Screamin’, “Boat drinks”, something to keep ’em all warm

This mornin’, I shot six holes in my freezer

I think I got cabin fever…”

The best cure for cabin fever is NOT to hibernate and wait for spring. That’s correct, you heard us: you do NOT have to stay inside all winter.  If you are like us, you are chomping at the bit to get out and log some miles.  Indoor running tracks and treadmills may not be available to you (or, if you are like Mike, you are bullheaded and loathe the thought of running on them), which means logging those miles outdoors between the snow flakes and blustery breezes.  To help you out, the Casual Runner Team assembled our top 10 tips for Casually Running in the cold. If you have any more to add, we’d love to hear from you:

1. Keep an eye on the forecast. This is the time of year where the schedule really should dictate when and for how long you run. It is ok to sacrifice time on your feet for safety, especially when the temperature dips to dangerous levels. Also, be sure not to just focus on the usual temperature and precipitation forecast, but keep an eye out for the wind chill factor and “feels like” temperatures, as those give you a “truer” sense of what the conditions are really like.

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Remember last summer when Casual Running was fun?

2. Dress in Layers.  This one sounds obvious, but it is a cliché for a reason.  This is more than an art than a science, and you will want to experiment to determine what are the optimal combinations of layers for you to wear at any given temperature.  Remember, while under dressing and prolonged exposure with bare skin in the cold can lead to frostbite, wearing too much clothing can cause you to sweat excessively even though you are cold.

3. Plan your layers. Try to wear moisture wicking fabrics close to your skin, and an outer “shell” layer to reduce exposure to wind.

4. Be visible. When planning your training attire, don’t focus solely on warmth, make sure that you are visible.  This applies both when runnning at night where you don’t want to wear outer layers that turn you into a ninja dog walker, and during the day when you want to wear colors to contrast from the surrounding snow banks so drivers can see you.

5. Head gear. Remember what your mom told you about how much of body heat is lost through your head? We don’t remember either as we weren’t paying that close of attention, but we do know that our moms were right.  Make sure you cover your ears (which are easily exposed to cold winds) with a head band, beanie, cold weather hat, or even a full face mask if it is cold enough.  You may want to bring a backup piece of headgear with you on your run in a pocket so you can switch-off mid-run if you guessed wrong as to how much head covering you need.

6. Gloves. When it gets really cold, please don’t rely on T-Rexing your run and trying to ball your hands up into your sleeves and pinning them to your side. Grab a pair of gloves. They don’t have to be true running gloves, just something that will keep your digits warm enough to avoid exposure injuries.

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Wait – you want me to go running with you in THAT?

7. Socks.  Gloves, socks, what a boring discussion, right? Well, not really. These really are important. Most running shoes do not offer much in the way of warmth or insulation, you want to make sure you choose the right pair of socks to avoid damaging your feet on your runs. However, do not overdo it with the socks, and stick to moisture wicking materials. If your feet sweat too much, you are inviting blisters and other problems.

8. Hydration. This seems to make all of our Top 10 lists, could it be because it is important? In the winter, Casual Runners tend to be less focused on hydrating than they are in the summer, but the risk of dehydration is just as serious. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after your cold weather runs.

9. Watch you step. It should go without saying, but it still warrants mentioning, that most winter running conditions will have inconsistent footing.  You may go from bare pavement, to patchy ice, to black ice, to a snow damn, all in a matter of a few steps.  Plowing and the clearing of sidewalks may be inconsistent, and running trails may be inaccessible.  So watch where you are stepping and perhaps even consider adding additional traction to your shoes.

10. Adjust your expectations. We all want to get out and escape cabin fever, but we need to adjust our expectations. Weather conditions simply may not be safe to log our target distances, so we need to accept what the weather gives us and just be glad to get out and log a few miles. Staying out too long in cold temperatures can be counter-productive and actually put you at risk. So be happy with what you can do, stay within your limits, and stay safe.

We hope these tips help you to stay safe and avoid cabin fever this winter. Hang in their folks, spring race season is right around the corner!

The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. If you have any questions about anything we cover here on Casual Runner, if you have any questions regarding running gear or training for your own Casual Running needs, or if there is anything that you would like us to cover on Casual Runner, please leave a comment or email us using the links below.  To ensure that you do not miss all of the great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.  See you out on the running trails!

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8 thoughts on “Top 10 Cold Weather Casual Running Tips

  1. Mike

    A bonus tip would be to protect your electronics. It has been so cold this winter that my Iphone 5S shut itself down several times when I carried it in an outside pocket. To prevent this I wrap the device in an extra hat or headband to try to keep it warm inside my pocket. That seems to do the trick.

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