running winter cold

Tips and tricks to go running when it is cold outside

Hi everybody! I don’t know if you have noticed but it’s freezing outside! Yes, we say hello to fur coats, scarves and woollen hats, the cold is freezing our little noses… To make it short: Winter is back! And when it’s winter time, most of outdoor athletes start to hibernate, so do runners. Many running adepts choose winter for their annual break.


However, winter shouldn’t be an excuse for not practicing running during this period. You have to know that the minimal temperature for running is -18C°!  In this article, I’ll show you that, with a good equipment and some advice, running in winter can be as pleasant as running in spring! So put your shoes on, it’s time to run!


Having the good equipment: the basis to go running when it’s cold outside


running winter cold

You maybe guessed it but you can’t run in winter with your usual equipment. You are most likely to catch a cold, but you also have a highly risk to perform poorly. You’ll be freezing quickly and you will only want to stay in bed with a good hot chocolate! Don’t worry, I will explain how to dress up to go running when it is cold.


First of all, dress warmly. You have to adapt your clothes to winter conditions: favour synthetic fabrics, such as polypropylene (which enables to keep heat against your body) or technical outfits, perfect for isolating your body from low temperatures. You can also go for nylon outfits, in order to protect you from wind and rain. If you are sensitive to the cold, you can wear a fleece jacket too.



Now that you have protected your upper body, you must cover up some other parts of your body. In fact, these “strategic areas” are your body’s extremities, such as:

  • The head. You lose 30% of your body heat by the head! In winter you must wear a woollen hat while running.
  • The hands. Put gloves on, you will see, you will feel much better. You can also wear mittens.
  • The feet. Put thick socks on, with a running skin or a fleece trousers. Useful tip: to stay warm, you should wear trail shoes and socks!



The best way to keep your body warm is to adopt the three layer technique:

  • The first layer consist of wearing a second skin outfit, lightweight, close to your body to keep you warm, allowing your skin to breathe.
  • The second layer should be an isolating outfit, breathable, a fleece or a Gore Tex one.
  • The third layer is a protective jacket, weatherproof. You have the choice between a windproof jacket or a rain one (avoid especially K-Way, which is not breathable): it’s up to you!



Nevertheless, if it’s really cold outside, you can always try the onion technique, which consists of adding more layers, in order to insulate your body at most! Please avoid heavy and thick outfits! Favour multilayer, in order to have more freedom in your movements and run better!


Now, you can be sure to be well covered! However, you are still not ready. Indeed, you will have to face the changes of weather that occur at this period. Your greatest enemy will be the icy wind: you can’t avoid it and this wind penetrates your clothes while running. Here is a useful tip: when you start running, run against the wind, so that when you are on your way back, later on, it will be in your back. Why? Because you will start sweating when you run. With the wind in your back, you will avoid catching a cold and it will cool you when you get too hot!


Finally, here is the last advice I can give you, which can seem odd: do not cover yourself too much, in order to not ruining the race effort. You have to be cold a little bit at the beginning of your training. Dress as if it’s 20° higher than the actual temperature, in order to avoid sweating and running in damp clothes.


Put the emphasis on a good physical preparation!


running winter cold

This is THE best way to be efficient before a winter race.


First of all, warm up before you exercise longer than usual, without pushing too hard, in order to minimize the risk of injury. In winter, you have much more risk to get injuries, because of low temperatures. Indeed, when you start running, your muscles are cooler in winter than in spring or in summer. In order to start your training well, your muscles must be warm.


In order to warm up your muscles well, I advise you to do the following exercises: rotate your ankles, do some heel-to-buttock and run slowly during 20mn. Start with small strides, then lengthened them. You can also do these exercises indoor: you are ready to run!


Stretch well AFTER your training and please avoid to do it outside! Go back home, take your time and once you’re in, stretch for roughly 5mn, normal. With the cold, your muscles stiffen and chill faster than usual and muscle tears are much more common. If you stretch carefully, you will avoid stupid injuries. Stretch out the adductors, the hamstrings, the buttocks, the quadriceps and the calves.


Pay attention to your breathing during your running too! Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth: it will enable to warm the air before it reaches your chest. To breathe well, take in a big gasp of air and exhale through your mouth, to completely empty your lungs, while contracting your abdominals. You sure are ready to face your winter races!


Running when it’s cold outside: a good or a bad idea?


running winter cold

Running in winter has its benefits and its drawbacks. It’s possible to run daily when it’s freezing, it’s not that complicated. Okay, this is not the ideal season to go running but let me remind you that, to improve your running performances you have to be regular. It all depends on you.


Indeed, according to John Castellani (physiologist at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine), low temperatures shouldn’t be an excuse for not practicing sports. As muscles and joints are more sensitive in winter, runners are apprehensive about practicing their activity at this period of the year. Just pay attention to the weather conditions but still go running that will do you good.


Winter running brings many good things, such as the reinforcement of your metabolism: indeed, you will be fit and feel good, since you spend a lot of energy every day. Thus, you will also avoid the famous winter weight gain (due to the inactivity implied by low temperatures and the usual laziness), because you burn a lot of calories when you run.


You will also be capable of facing the well-known winter blues. When you run, you release hormones like endorphin, which prevent you from sinking into that temporary uncomfortable mood. Moreover, according to a survey of the Environmental Science and Technology, people who are running in winter have more energy, are less depressed than the average, less prone to diseases and to winter chills and are full of energy. Nothing but positive results!


Latest advice to conclude…


As this article comes to its end, it’s time for me to give you my last (but not least!) advice.

  • Go to the GP: you will need his approval to go running in difficult weather conditions. Beware of asthma and chest pain! Be sure to be able to run at any temperature.
  • Beware of wind burn on your skin! Cover your hands, your nose and your ears well. If you spot redness on your body, apply moisturizing cream on the affected area.
  • Drink plenty of fluid: you become dehydrated faster than you think in winter. Breathing cold air and being exposed to the wind highly increase the risk of dehydration. So drink before, during and after your daily run.
  • Take some food with you: running in winter makes you hungry. Your body spend much more energy to fight against cold. If you are planning to run more than an hour, take a little snack with you, like dry fruits or energy bars.


That’s all for this article, I hope you will go running despite the cold weather and the snow!

And by the way, what are your tips to run in winter?

See you soon, you running maniacs!

Sources: Jogging Course, Cosmopolitan France, Camille Pic (Running Blogger), Running Addict, FitNext, John Castellani (physiologist at the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine), Shape, Very Well, Tom Holland (physiologist and expert in running).
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