Cold Weather Running

Although lower temperatures arrived well before the phrase “Winter Begins” appeared on the calendar, now that the season is upon us it might be a good idea to provide some winter running tips. If you do not have access to an indoor running track or you are not a fan of running your long run on a treadmill, then you will have to brave the cold at some point – whether braving the cold for you is 15 degrees or just below 50 degrees for those living in warmer climes.

Regardless of where you run or how cold it gets; you can take the same steps to ensure that the weather does not get the better of your run. Start by wearing layers. It might be too cold to even think about wearing shorts or a short-sleeved running shirt, but even if the temperature does not rise during your run, it will feel like it. As you run, your body will also warm up. In fact, studies have shown that during exercise, the air temperature will feel about 20 degrees warmer to your body than it actually is out there. So, if it is 45 when you start training, it will soon feel like 65, and of course when it reaches 70 degrees, it will feel like it is 90 degrees!

In other words, the best plan to adjusting to the changes in temperature is to wear clothing that you would normally wear for temperatures 20 degrees warmer. Simply put, more often than not, most people would therefore wear shorts and a short-sleeve shirt (unless you run in places where winter began in October and lasts until April). However, standing around at the start of the race, or during any light stretching before a workout, it can be rather cold, and it often takes about 5 minutes of running to get warmed up – so what to do? The answer is easier in preparing for a race than it is for training runs.

On race day, plan to bring clothes that you can throw away. That’s right, a long-sleeve shirt or sweat shirt that you can take off a mile into the race and toss to the side of the street. These extra clothes will be picked up by race volunteers and donated to those in need. Find yourself an old shirt or go shopping for something inexpensive and provide clothing to someone who needs it when you no longer do.

As for “throw-away” clothes during a training workout… If you would rather not leave an expensive long-sleeve running shirt or running jacket along your running route with the hope of picking it up later, simply employ the old shirt routine as noted above. Tying a shirt around your waist is another option, but can be rather annoying for some. A good option to use if you are running from your home or even from your parked car, is to plan your run so that you run past your home or your car 5 to 10 minutes after you start running so that you can disrobe once you are starting to warm up. Of course, if you do leave your outer clothes along your route – on a bush, tree, or fence, for instance – just keep in mind that someone may possibly come along and donate your clothes to themselves while you are out for your run.

BEST PIECE OF COLD-WEATHER CLOTHING: Gloves. Inexpensive cotton gloves are a great way to keep warm in cooler weather and can be taken off when you warm up. Plus, no need to throw them out or off to the side of your running route like bulkier clothing. Stuff them in your running shorts to use later if needed. No need to purchase expensive “running” gloves that wick away moisture like your running shirts either (Unless of course you live in truly frigid weather where taking off gloves in the sub-freezing weather is not the best plan.). If your hands get too sweaty, just take the gloves off as noted above.


Richard Stark is the founder and head running coach of Running Arizona with more than a dozen years coaching experience and the pleasure of having worked with and learned from nearly 1,000 runners in that time.

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