Cold Weather Running

Posted by Filed Under: Inspiration & Motivation

Many of us are now in the time of year where the colder weather is approaching as fast as the dark evening hours, and the beginning of winter is issuing a challenge to runners everywhere to find the time and the motivation to get out and run.

Gone are the summer days when you arrived home from work and had time to dally around the house or putter in the back yard while you waited for the temperature to drop to a more manageable 65 degrees. Remember those days? Remember coming home from the office and seeing countless other runners and cyclists out enjoying the summer evening? You couldn’t wait to join them, in fact you were even a little annoyed that they had already been off work long enough to have started their evening runs. Don’t these people have jobs? Are they all government employees or do they all just happen to work banker’s hours? They had some nerve to be home at this early hour, enjoying the summer evening before you were. Those were the days. It was so much easier to motivate yourself to run during those summer months, but fear not because this column is chock full of advice and inspiration to help you get out and run on these cold, dark nights.

The obvious solution might be to just go run in the morning. But, I’m not much of a morning person so running before work doesn’t appeal to me, though the end of daylight savings time makes it a little easier. If you were to list the pros and cons of running first thing in the morning you’d find there are a lot of pros, like more time to watch your favorite shows in the evenings and not having to say no to your coworkers who are going out for drinks after work and more quality time with your family. The only con is getting up early, and even though it’s not so bad once you’re out of bed, that’s still one really big con. So here’s some motivation to help you run on those cold, dark nights.

Running when it’s cold and dark makes you the kind of hardcore runner that Pearl Izumi endorses. It’s a great feeling to be the only one who’s dedicated enough to be out running in the cold of night. Sure some people might replace the word ‘dedicated’ with words like ‘crazy’ or ‘senseless’ but those people aren’t runners, so who cares what they think.

Nike, Under Armour and Adidas don’t make cold weather gear just for their own good. OK, I guess they kind of do, but what better excuse to buy some reflective cold weather gear than to run during the frosty winter nights?

Leave work early. You still want to run when it’s light out, but can’t do it in the mornings? That sounds to me like the perfect reason to leave work early. Tell your boss that I said it was OK, and if that doesn’t fly then try using the “everyone else is doing it” defense and point to all those runners you saw out running in the summer months.

Low risk of heat stroke and dehydration. Since you’re so cold, you won’t sweat as much and you’re less likely to overheat. I’m no scientist, but I think that makes it less likely that you’ll suffer from heat stroke or dehydration.

[Image credit: A Hermida]

About Ian

Hello, my name is Ian and I'm a runner. After several years of promising to train for and run the Bolder Boulder 10K I finally signed up for it in 2005 with zero training under my belt. Shocked that I was slower than I thought I should be, I made it my goal to be faster the following year. I'm still not as fast as I should be, but I have been a runner ever since. I believe in quality miles over quantity of miles. I believe that you have to run faster in order to run faster, and I believe that I can. I believe in the Garmin. I believe in motion control and that I have an unhealthy addiction to running shoes. I believe in carb loading and tapering, even before a 5K. I believe I’ll never need to buy another t-shirt ever again. I live to run and I run for the post race spread, where the free food and drink flows like milk and honey, and sometimes even includes milk and honey.

  1. Jonn on November 11th at 7:48 am

    Thanks for the post it made me laugh. But it has been my experiece that running in the winter there is a risk of dehydration as well. I have never gotten heat stroke, but my son did run the battery down in the car while watching a dvd 🙁

    Jonns last blog post..Saying Thanks

  2. Duff on November 11th at 7:59 am

    I love winter running. The cold air bitting into my skin makes me want to go faster. “Want” is the operative word. Nothing says runner like a beard full of snow or eyelashes frozen together. As for dehydration, open your mouth. The snow will rehydrate you.
    Rock on.

    Duffs last blog post..Keeping the Tank Full (Fueling)

  3. Joe Hrdlicka on November 11th at 6:43 pm

    Love your comments! As an Iowa resident, I can totally relate. Yes, I was one of those “senseless” people running this morning in 38-degree weather and light rain. But I’m a runner, you have to do it!

    Joe Hrdlickas last blog post..More On Injury Prevention

  4. Stairmaster 7000 Stepmill on November 12th at 3:26 am

    Great article! makes me laugh.

    Stairmaster 7000 Stepmills last blog post..Monday’s Workout On The Stairmaster 7000 PT Stepmill

  5. Greg on the Run on November 12th at 6:14 am

    In my neighborhood, morning is the better choice. The criminals are usually home in bed. Not so much in the dark of the night.

    Greg on the Runs last blog post..Wednesday Run 06:01 am

  6. kyle. on November 14th at 3:15 pm

    great article about the horrors of this time of year, but cold weather will actually dehydrate you pretty quickly too. i am a scientist so i can say that cold air is usually very dry so every breath causes you to give up moist air that you can’t regain. you might not sweat as much, but you’ll lose that moisture regardless just by having the audacity to breathe. antartica isn’t called a desert for nothing, you know.

  7. Colorado Running on November 14th at 3:40 pm

    You get +1 for making fun of government workers.

    I do love running when it’s snowing though, that’s awesome.

  8. Dawn - Pink Chick on November 15th at 2:39 pm

    Well you get a -1 for making fun of gov workers from me – I used to be one…lol. As for winter running being I live in Calgary it’s rather unavoidable. We have a trail race series that goes all winter so I’ve even raced in -25C. It was cold but once you get moving it really isn’t that bad after all. It also makes for beautiful snow covered trees and trails to run through.

    Dawn – Pink Chicks last blog post..Edworthy XC – Race Report

  9. Photo of the Week: Winter Running : Complete Running Network on November 17th at 6:01 am

    […] thought it only fitting to find a winter photo to go along with Ian’s “Cold Weather Running“. I for one enjoy running in the winter and have been know to run in temperatures of colder […]

  10. David A. Shaver on November 23rd at 7:11 am

    Since I retired I try and run around noon, as it is the warmest time of day especially in the winter. Here in Illinois we have some pretty cold days some that never get above zero. It must be even worse North of the Great Lakes. I tried running early in the morning but it was so cold I would get icicles hanging from my stocking cap.

    David A. Shavers last blog post..Great Race!!! Cross Country Challenge

  11. Randy on November 30th at 5:08 pm

    I love running in the winter. The trails and running venues are far less crowded, the scenery is different and you can enjoy it more with fewer bicyclists, fewer dogs on long leashes with oblivious owners, and the sound of snow crunching underfoot is priceless. The only downside for me is the wind, but if I run into it on the way out, it feels almost toasty on the return trip. Like Dawn – Pink Chick, I have run in -15 and -20 in Ohio and Michigan, and I ran a Half Marathon locally in 15 degrees last weekend. I am always amazed how quickly people disappear when it rains or gets below 55 degrees outside.

  12. TNTCoachKen on January 8th at 6:52 am

    Loved the post and it got me thinking of a few more reasons to get out and run.

  13. RaymondVG on February 16th at 12:12 pm

    Cold weather running is really underrated. My biggest problem in the winter is the dark; I just dread stepping on a rock or into a rut that I can’t see because it is either too dark or a car coming towards me with his headlights on has blinded me.

    Having said that, I bought myself some paradox underlayer from Costco last month. What great stuff. I found that I can run in 20 degree weather (I haven’t tested it any lower) and not feel cold. I do notice that my speed is a little down this winter, but, then that is probably largely due to the hiatus that I had to take because of injuries.

    I prefer cold weather running to running in the heat.

  14. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on February 17th at 4:50 am

    Raymond –

    Just invest in a good headlamp. Here in Maine, I have no choice but to run at night if I want to get a run in. I just put sheetmetal screws in my shoes for grip and wear a headlamp and head out on the trails – if I’m on the roads then I add a blinking red taillight from my bike and a reflective jacket.