Finding the motivation to head outside for a run can be tough enough without the added deterrent of the cold winter months. We caught up with Coach Muldowney to get his tips on how to survive running in cold weather.
Running in Cold Weather
1) Wear the Right Running Gear
One of the biggest mistakes runners make is overdressing on cold days. Although it’s tempting to pull on your warmest clothes before you brave the cold outdoors, you are better off dressing in layers. The reason for this is that when you run, your body produces an incredible amount of heat. Wearing too many layers can cause overheating which results in sweating. This is the bodies way of regulating your temperature and cooling you down – not something you want on a freezing winter day.
Everybody is different and it is difficult to advise how many layers you should be wearing. We all know a few runners who NEVER wear anything other than shorts. That’s fine if it works for them. However, most of us will require more layers to keep us comfortable in the very cold weather.
It is important to get to know your wardrobe and know which of your shirts, jackets and tights are warmer, as well as those that are lighter in weight. This will help you to select the proper garments based on the conditions of the day.
For me, if the temperature is around 40°F (≅ 4°C), I would be wearing an Under Armour turtle neck, t-shirt, and tights. When it gets down to 30°F (≅ -1°C), I will add a vest. If it drops below this, I’ll go with a full jacket.
In terms of the best material for your running gear, the quick-wicking fabrics of today are fantastic. They are a must for every runner as they help take the moisture, which can make you both uncomfortable and colder, away from your skin.
From socks to hats, to base layers, I recommend you spend the extra money and invest in staying dry in order to maximize comfort while on the run.
2) Keep The Extremities Warm
Cold weather can chill your extremities and cause discomfort so it is important to keep them warm. You should always wear a hat when the temperatures are below freezing. In Polar Vortex conditions, you should additionally wear a face mask of some sort (but avoid entering banks or convenience stores!).
Keeping your hands warm can sometimes be a challenge. My hands are always cold, so I’ll wear painter’s gloves when it’s under 50°F and heavier gloves as it gets colder. In bitterly cold conditions, I prefer to wear mittens since gloves separate your fingers, whereas mittens keep them together. This allows heat to be shared from finger to finger which is better for keeping your hands warm.
Feet rarely get cold when you have started running since the constant movement keeps them warm. However, it is essential to take measures to keep they dry when running in cold weather. For that reason, socks made from a dry-wicking material are essential.
3) Be Prepared for Snow, Ice, & Rain
Cold weather inevitably brings with it snow, ice, and rain. When these conditions hit, it is essential that you prepare.
If you plan to run in the snow, wear shoes with a good tread e.g. trail shoes. You may also consider trying a traction device like a Yak Trax. If conditions are very icy, the safer option would be to take the day off, or run on the treadmill.
For rainy conditions, make sure you wear good quality waterproof apparel to ensure you remain as dry as possible and comfortable throughout your workout. Many runners also like to wear a hat with a brim to keep the rain off their face.
Running in cold weather throughout the winter season needn’t be a problem if you keep a close eye on weather conditions and make the proper wardrobe decisions.
About Joe Muldowney
Joe Muldowney is an accomplished runner who has been involved in competitive long distance running for 40 years. His vast experience has enabled him to coach several running teams and he now provides a one-on-one coaching service.
During his running career he has run 54 marathons, 51 of which have been under 3 hours. His best marathon time is 2:22:54, and, at age 57, he ran the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon in a time of 2:58:56. The Boston Marathon is a particular favourite – he has run this an impressive 16 times. Marathons aside, he has run more than 1000 road races, and logged over 123,000 miles.
Joe is also the author of the book “Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes” and his latest book is, “Personal Best.”
To find out more about Joe Muldwoney, you can visit his blog.