Running in the Cold Weather

Modify Your Aerobic Workouts for Optimal Seasonal Training

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Running in the Winter Snow
Running in the Winter Snow
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This article was updated on 03/23/21.

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When I headed out the door this morning to put out the trash and the recycling bin I noticed a small change in the air. OK, the temperature was almost exactly like yesterday and the humidity was not giving me a break, but the air had a certain feel to it. We have turned the corner. It will be a while before we switch back to heat and humidity running.

Fall Season Running

Here in South Texas, fall is the best time for running. Spring is good but fall is the best. Maybe it’s just a feeling of relief from the summer heat. Maybe it’s the fall color as the leaves give up the ghost. Whatever, as long as it cools off I’m a happy camper. An additional benefit? Recent studies show that running improves memory and brain function!

This doesn’t mean I’m ready to start breaking out the singlets or t-shirts yet (those that I still have left after the flood from Hurricane Harvey) but not having my a water bottle run out so fast is a relief. I really like this collapsible handheld running water bottle.

I favor trail running in the fall. The trails can be stifling in the summer heat but in the cooler temps with the leaves falling it can be a mystical experience. One caveat–I still have to remember to keep moving; the mosquitoes will find idle bodies. Don’t let this be you!

Winter Running Clothes

When it gets really cold it’s hard to decide what to wear. I like watch caps (or beanies if you prefer) but they can be itchy depending on what they are made out of.

Long sleeve t-shirts work well for me. The sleeves can go up; the sleeves can go down. Your choice. A windbreaker and a pair of gloves are also nice since they can be put on and removed as the situation calls for. Generally, I don’t need anything on my legs. I don’t know why. Even when I was stationed in the tundra-like state of Maine I didn’t need those long johns on my pins.

That said, I am no stranger to running tights. The better quality ones are light enough to be comfortable without being stifling. Remember that what feels warm enough when you start will quickly become uncomfortable.

Don’t Change Your Running Routine Too Much

When the weather turns cold, it’s tempting to modify the successful training routine. This can be a mistake. What worked before will continue to work. If you are doing marathon training of course continue your yoga or stretching, just do it inside, preferably before and after your jaunt.

Rather than shortening your workouts, search out better locations, especially for your weekend long runs. As mentioned above, trail running is excellent in cold weather because it cuts down on chilling wind. But there are other possibilities. The Weather Channel and other sites can give you detailed info on wind direction and strength. Plan in advance. It goes without saying that if you are training for a particular event, you want to match the environment as closely as possible. That includes the prevailing wind.

Other Just-In-Case Preparations

Running in warmer weather is the ideal minimalist workout; the simplicity is part of the beauty. Winter can be a different story. Consider taking along some cash money in case you, for some reason, have to take a break close to a convenience store. A cup of strong coffee or hot chocolate might be in order. A few packs of long runs. You’ll need a running gear belt for all this.

Running in the cold weather does require a shift in technique but it does not mean abandoning your training plan. It might help to pick a race goal to train for. Setting your sights can also set your outcome.

Further Reading

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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