Cold Weather Running


Maybe I’m weird. Well, I know I am, but I do love running in the snow and cold. I’m not a fan of driving in the snow or shoveling it or scraping it off my car, and I would rather live in a place where it doesn’t snow… Basically, I don’t like snow–blame it on my years of growing up in Cleveland where you had to shovel the driveway before you could go to work or school because nothing closes when the white stuff falls.

A snow day was a gift in Cleveland involving miraculous timing. It had to either start with freezing rain that turned to snow so that there was a nice sheet of ice under the powder, or there had to be a good old fashioned blizzard–the kind they had before weather people started naming winter storms. But it couldn’t just snow an inch like it does in the South. Oh no, the clouds had to dump a few feet of snow over icy roadways beginning at precisely 3 or 4 am so the plows and salt trucks had absolutely no time to clear the roads before school started. Then, and only then, you would have a snow day.

Since, I don’t live in a place where it’s 55-60 degrees with low humidity all year long, and I now live in a place where it can, gasp!, snow, I need to get out there unless I am content with running on the indoor track or treadmill, which I’m not. Here’s what I use for winter running so I don’t slip and fall and kill myself:

  1. Yak Trax–they go on over your shoes and keep you from slipping on hard snow and ice. I don’t recommend them for slushy roads (please run inside on slushy days). $20–get some if you want to run outside.
  2. Ear warmers–unless you want burning cold ears, wear them or a hat.
  3. Gloves–layer up with the cheap ones, and if you want to invest in a better pair, go ahead. I’ve run in the dollar store brand for years and finally upgraded this winter with reflective gloves (North Face $20). My favorites are still the packs of three stretchy gloves from the dollar store though; they’re breathable, and if you lose them, c’est la vie!
  4. Layers, lots of layers! I like my fleece-lined running pants (baggy enough for another pair of tights underneath if needed), my fleece lined shirt, tech shirt over the fleece, an outer fleece layer (if close to 0 degrees), and top it off with a wind breaker. I wear the cheapest windbreaker I can find or my cycling jacket with removable sleeves. On cold days, I wear two pairs of gloves and socks. Keep in mind, the outer sock should be wool or a wool blend to keep your feet warm when they’re wet from snow. The great thing about winter running is pockets. If you’re marathon training, you’ll look like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man before you eat your way out of your clothes. Sweet! By the way, I raid Target for fleece-lined shirts, but I do pay good money for my fleece running pants ($70 Nike Running). I’ve had them for four years now and they double as pajamas for me (roll out of bed and go run!), so they’re a good investment. The C9 brand at Target is cheap and durable too for shirts. I’m picky about my tights although I have one or two from Target, Road Runner Sports, Nike, Asics… You get the idea.
  5. Buff–this can be worn around your neck and pulled up over your face for super cold days. I look like I’m going to rob a 7-11, but I’m warm. I like Hoo Rags for $15 because they are thin, breathable, easy to pull up over your nose or down, and will help you warm up the air and make breathing easier. They have lots of designs, but any sporting goods store should have generic buffs.
  6. Lights–get a headlamp to see where you’re going and some kind of flashing light for your back side. Most headlamps are under $25. Winter running means there is limited daylight, so be seen with reflective clothing and lights. Always assume the car DOES NOT see you. Even if you’re waiting on a corner for the light to change, assume the cars do not see you.
  7. Bring a phone, just in case. You’ll sweat when you run, even if it’s below 20 degrees, and if you stop due to injury or whatever, you can get hypothermia. Run where you can duck inside a store and call someone if you need a ride back.
  8. Water and fuel–have enough and use those pockets. Check your water bottle for leaks because you don’t need a frozen waterfall on your windbreaker like what happened to my friend on an 18 mile run in December. Your water will freeze in the bottle if it’s cold enough, so take time to untwist the cap to drink. Most city and park fountains are off for the winter too.
  9. Hand warmers are super cheap and last for hours if your hands need some extra warmth under your gloves on those winter days.

That’s it! Get out there and run in the snow. It’s like being a kid on a snow day all over again.