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Tips for Winter Outdoor Running

I have always had an interest in health and fitness and for over 35 years have been running the roads of western Massachusetts.

Enjoy the beauty of the season

Enjoy the beauty of the season

Just because the calendar has rolled over to winter in your part of the world doesn’t mean that your running has to go into hibernation. While the weather conditions can make running outdoors in winter a challenge, there is no need to pack away the running shoes until spring.

If you have the desire to extend your fitness regime to a year round program I have a few tips to make your winter outdoor running an enjoyable and successful venture.

The obvious first thing to be aware of when considering an outdoor run in winter is checking on the current weather conditions outside? I am always mindful of the five-day weather forecast in planning my runs and I try to schedule them when the weather is quiet and cooperating. With that in mind, I try to plan on three to five runs per week during the winter months. I like to check the extended weather forecast to plan my runs ahead of time as much as possible based on my schedule and the forecast. I find that this helps to keep me motivated and always looking forward to my next workout.

Winter running involves a little more preparation than just throwing on a pair of running shoes and hitting the road. Your attire is the most important thing to be mindful of and some simple common sense will help you to be as comfortable as possible. The best advice anyone can give you for running in the cold weather is to use layers.

Base Layer

The most important layer is your base layer. A good base layer of CoolMax, DryFit, Thinsulate or polypropylene will help to wick the moisture away from your body and keep you as dry as possible. The one material to definitely avoid as a base layer is cotton as once it gets wet it stays wet. These hi-tech materials are designed to wick the sweat away from your body, which will keep you warm and most importantly, dry.

Insulating Layer

On those really cold days, below twenty degrees or so, you will want to consider adding an insulating layer. The purpose of this layer is to continue to wick the moisture away from the skin to the outer layer where it can evaporate. Materials that make a good insulating layer include Thermafleece, Dryline, Microfleece, Thermax and Polartek.

Outer Shell

Your outer layer should consist of a nylon winter running jacket or windbreaker. As the wind is often the culprit a good windbreaker will help to prevent the wind from penetrating to the body.

There are some wonderful materials available today that are breathable, will break the wind, and provide a waterproof layer. Gortex is one of the best materials out there and it is also one of the most expensive. If Gortex is not in your budget there are a host of other materials that will do the trick such as Supplex, Windstopper, and ClimaFit.

By running in a jacket that is breathable, the moisture that is generated by your body while running will have an avenue to escape, instead of collecting in the clothing that you have on. This will definitely help to keep you more comfortable out there.

Protecting the Legs

While a few layers will help to protect your torso, let's not forget about the legs. A good pair of winter running tights or a pair of running pants will help to protect your legs. On those really cold and windy days, I will use a pair of running tights under a nylon shell and this has always provided more than enough protection during even the harshest of conditions.

Running tights are usually made of spandex, which is flexible and will help to insulate your legs. Wind pants are made of nylon and are better for blocking the wind. A running pant is usually made of a wicking material to help keep the legs dry and has a more casual fit. Find what works best for you and hit the road.

Head and Hands

Probably the most vulnerable part of the body when running in cold weather is your head. We lose more body heat through our heads than any other part of the body. So before heading out be sure to include you’re winter running hat and of course a pair of winter running gloves to protect your hands.

A wool or fleece winter hat will go a long way towards keeping your head insulated. You can also resort to a face-mask, neck gaiter or a balaclava, which will protect your face and neck on those especially cold days.

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The running shoe industry has really capitalized on the need and desire of runners to remain active year-round. There are numerous shoes now designed specifically for winter running and a pair of these hi-tech shoes will help to keep your feet dry while out in the elements.

I have on occasion run in specialized winter running shoes and while they do help to keep the feet dry they also offer a more aggressive outer sole, which helps when running on snowy or slushy surfaces. Lately, I have resorted to simply alternating between two pairs of shoes to ensure that I always have a dry pair available.

Sometimes winter running is a breeze

Sometimes winter running is a breeze

Sometimes it's just not wise to hit the roads

Sometimes it's just not wise to hit the roads

Let's Not Forget About the Eyes

The last piece of equipment to consider during your winter run is sunglasses. You might be asking, why sunglasses? Well, if you are running on a very bright and sunny day and there happens to be snow on the ground then glare can be a problem. Whenever there is a chance of slippery conditions the last thing you want is to be temporarily blinded by the glare of the sun and to hit an icy spot. I know it’s sounds like a long shot but I have seen it happen.

Roads and sidewalks can make winter running a challenge

Roads and sidewalks can make winter running a challenge

Winter Running Tips

  • Even though it's winter you still need to stay hydrated!
  • Don't take unnecessary chances, wear a reflective vest or clothing if running in the dark.
  • Be aware of pot holes if running on the road.

Now that we are all geared up it‘s time to hit the road. Everyone knows their own running areas so the only advice I can give here is to select routes that you frequent often and that provide a safe means of passage. When running on the roads please be cautious and be aware of the traffic coming towards you. If you must run on the road you should always run opposite the flow of traffic so that you can see what is coming your way. If your particular running area has sidewalks, then try and stay off the road and utilize the sidewalks if at all possible. And when running in the winter always be wary of icy conditions, which can cause a very sudden and unexpected fall and injury. Winter running definitely requires that we be much more aware of our surroundings so watch your step out there.

If all else fails there is always the trusty treadmill if you happen to own one, or you can head to your local gym. While I do not love running on the treadmill I will resort to one if the conditions outside are so bad that it is unsafe. There is certainly nothing wrong with running on a treadmill and I have found that as I get older I have been doing this more and more (Must be getting soft?). Winter is also a great time to work some cross training into your routine and a spinning workout on the stationary cycle can help to maintain your overall aerobic fitness level.

There is nothing wrong with hitting the treadmill

There is nothing wrong with hitting the treadmill

The last tip about winter running that I can give goes back to the idea that this is not the time to be setting records and doing speed work, especially when the conditions are less than optimal. I use my winter running to build up a solid fitness level so that when the weather does break I have a good running base from which to start. Save the speed work for the warm weather. Wintertime is a great time of year to get out for those long, slow runs and to enjoy the beauty of the season. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Give it a shot; you just might actually enjoy it.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Bill De Giulio


Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 11, 2015:

Bill, I'm the same way, especially when I have to walk to the gym and downtown. Especially in snow storms! You're welcome my friend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 11, 2015:

Thanks Kristen. Summer is flying by and unfortunately it won't be long. As much as I don't like the heat and humidity I really don't like the bitter cold of winter.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on August 11, 2015:

Bill, great tips for everyone to dress warm for outdoor winter running. Voted up for useful!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 26, 2014:

Hi Dianna. Certainly there are challenges to running in the winter. While I don't like the bitter cold and especially the wind a nice calm winter day can be both refreshing and beautiful. Thanks so much for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Dianna Mendez on September 24, 2014:

I am not sure-footed enough these days to run in the winter weather. I love that some people enjoy this challenge, the fresh air would be wonderful. Great tips and advice for all runners who bravely take on winter's weather.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 20, 2014:

Hi Kim. Congratulations! You're doing great. Running in the winter doesn't have to be hard. I actually enjoy a nice winter day over the heat and humidity of the summer. A little preparation and the right clothing and you'll be fine. You are doing the right thing in listening to your body and laying off when needed. Nothing but the best of luck :)

இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу from Niagara Region, Canada on September 20, 2014:

Hello, Bill. This will be my first winter that I intend to run so this offered great suggestions for me. I had started running in March (or should I say alternating between power walking and running) and am down in and around the 20 lbs mark. I've had to lay off slightly of late as my back has gone out twice this last month, so I'm trying to take it easy, but am looking forward with continuing my regime. Wish me luck! Kim

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 16, 2013:

Hi appsthatpayyou. Thanks for the visit. Spring is just about here in New England also. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 27, 2013:

Hi My Moments. Welcome to HubPages. Congratulations on starting to run. It is beautiful to be out on a crisp winter's day. Many thanks for stopping by and good luck with the running.

My Moments on February 27, 2013:

Great hub. I am a beginning runner and started running when I turned 50. So this is my first winter as a runner. Luckily, it has been a mild winter, keeping me off the treadmill, which I hate. When running outside I always check the weather and dress like it is 20 degrees warmer. I find winter running to be spectacular....nothing like it!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 07, 2013:

Hi Margarita. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the hub. I noticed that you are from Oregon, one of the Mecca's of running in the U.S. I am of the belief that any exercise is good exercise so whether you are outside or inside good for you. And you are right, there is something about running in the great outdoors that is refreshing and healing. Many thanks, have a great day.

MargaritaEden from Oregon on February 07, 2013:

Wow Bill, you are really a good writer! I love your ideas on running outside in the winter, I didn't know too much about winter clothing for running until I have read your hub, I mostly do indoor exercise, but fresh air itself it healing sometimes. I have to run outside more, will follow some of your advice. Great Hub, thanks!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 04, 2013:

Thanks Tammy. We were just in Florida for a few weeks and I must say that it was nice to run in the mild weather. Up here in new England we have to learn to deal with the cold, snow, etc.. Thanks for stopping by.

Tammy from North Carolina on February 04, 2013:

Great suggestions! Where I live it never snows and winters are mild. It is great to get out for a jog in the winter when it is mild. I tend to lapse on a workout in the summer when it is too hot to move. Love the snow photos! I haven't seen that much snow for a long time. Excellent hub!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 03, 2013:

Hi Paul. Welcome to HubPages and thanks for taking the time to read. I've thought about getting a pair of snowshoes, it is supposed to be a great workout. Maybe next winter. Appreciate the vote, etc. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 03, 2013:

Hi prasetio30. Great to see you this morning. If you have never experienced running in the snow you should definitely give it a try some day. While I don't love the cold, the snow does make the landscape beautiful. Thank you for stopping by, the vote, etc. Have a great day.

Paul Maplesden from Asheville, NC on February 03, 2013:

Great article - Fantastic photos and lots of really great advice. I'd quite like to see someone running in thos big snowshowes, I imagine you'd burn a fair few calories! Voted up and a few other bits.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 02, 2013:

I love jogging and I really impress with this hub. My dream is going to the country where the snow falling in every year and touch the snow in person. Wow..I can't wait running in winter surrounded by the white snow. I love your tips and useful for us. Voted up (useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting).


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 02, 2013:

Hi Carol. Nice to see you today. Ice can be a problem so in some respects it's a leap of faith. But, there are many of us in the cold states that manage to do it every winter without a problem. It does take some preparation and care. On those really nasty days I hit the treadmill. Have a great weekend.

carol stanley from Arizona on February 02, 2013:

I guess if you are warm enough and have good tread on your shoes it will work. What about unexpected ice. Good hub and lots of good information.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 02, 2013:

Thanks Sheila. I don't love winter, I tolerate it. I can certainly see why folks head south as they get older. Many thanks for the vote, etc.. Have a great weekend.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on February 02, 2013:

I have to admit that I am not a cold weather person. I try to stay indoors as much as possible in the winter. For those of you that are die hard runners, these are really great tips. Stay warm my friend! Voted up and useful! :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 02, 2013:

Hi Bill. Thanks for stopping by. I prefer a nice Fall day that's about 60 degrees with the foliage changing, but alas that is not the case here in New England in the winter. We make the best of it. Have a great weekend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 02, 2013:

Those days are gone for me my friend, but there are some great tips here for those hardy souls who want to run in the winter. Well done!

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