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A Beginner’s Guide to Winter Running

I’ve always considered myself a “fair weather runner”. I would run only if the weather was right, not too hold, not too cold, no rain or strong wind and definitely no snow. It was fine when I only ran casually to add some cardio into my weight training. But over the last year or two, I began running a little more regularly and any progress built up over the summer would become lost while I hibernated in the winter.

This year was the year I was determined to continue running throughout the winter. While I still consider myself a more casual runner, I still want to go into the next season with a solid base. My hope is that without having to start over again, I will be able to hit a PR at the Calgary Marathon this year. Now that I’ve got a few months of winter running under my feet, I thought I’d share some tips that have helped get me through.

A Beginner's Guider to Winter Running

  • Set your conditions. I decided that anything under -20° with or without windchill was a deal breaker. In case of temperatures falling under -20, I would instead take a spin class. So far, we’ve been lucky with our winter this year and haven’t faced anything that frigid so far (although it’s been close).
  • Dress properly. This is the one thing that intimidated me the most about running through winter. I had no idea how to dress myself. The best advice I’ve learned that you should dress as if it’s 10° warmer than it is outside. It doesn’t take a bunch of expensive gear to survive the cold, it just takes the right layers. Old Navy has been great for picking up the odd piece of inexpensive winter gear (especially if you wait for sales). It’s been a learning curve dressing myself, but I have to say I’ve done really well with the limited pieces I have so far. That said, I’m still hoping to add a good winter running jacket and a pair of trail shoes to my closet for future years.
  • Find a buddy. Without Mary suffering running with me every Sunday morning, I’m not sure I would have gotten out as much as I have this year. Having someone to keep you accountable makes it easier to hit the snowy trails.
  • Embrace it. The feel of the cold air on the lungs. The sound of snow crunching beneath your feet. The quietness of a winter morning. The beauty of a fresh snowfall. I’ve really learned to embrace the winter months through running.
  • Reward yourself. Every cold run I complete, I come home and make a giant mug of coffee to enjoy in a bubble bath. It’s the perfect way to take the chill off and treat myself to a little piece of luxury after a cold run.

Are you a winter runner? What is the best tip you can give someone starting out? 

 

10 Comments

  • January 8, 2016 - 7:34 am | Permalink

    I would suggest start slow. I used to never run if the temperature hit below 0. Then I pushed myself to run if it was -5C or higher, then -8C, etc. That’s a great way to ease into it. And I have learned that -17 is my thresh hold! Just can’t do it when it’s colder than that. 🙂

    • January 8, 2016 - 8:16 pm | Permalink

      That’s good advice. It helps if you’ve been running all year to just keep going as the weather changes and gradually gets colder.

  • January 8, 2016 - 8:53 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing “NOPE” isn’t the advice you’re looking for?
    In all honesty, as long as I had someone to go with, being out would be great….up to about -10/-15 and don’t wear something that forces your breath up (like a scarf). Walked 4km to the library in -8 earlier this week and had a loose fleece vest as my top layer and felt with the wind (thus looking down) my breath was forced up onto my face and everything under nose was absolutely frozen. My skin is super sensitive and I know I can get frostbite easily. Know your conditions is the best suggestion!

    • January 8, 2016 - 8:14 pm | Permalink

      Haha, trust me there’s a VERY large part of me that thinks that every Sunday morning when I wake up.

      Ah yeah I think that’s the biggest reason why I don’t want to run in anything colder than -20 because I wouldn’t know what to do with my face, aside from wear a balaclava, haha.

  • January 8, 2016 - 9:17 am | Permalink

    As much as I wanted to embrace winter running too this year, I haven’t, haha. I absolutely agree that a running buddy would make it so much easier! I don’t like to let people down, so that’s a huge motivator to follow through with plans 🙂 I also heat up so easily so I find dressing appropriately – to the point where I’m not going to overheat but still keep warm in freezing temps – overwhelming. Or maybe I’m just full of excuses 😉

    • January 8, 2016 - 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Haha! It’s overwhelming learning how to dress but the best thing is trial and error. I think I’ll follow up this post with my tips for dressing in the winter. Or at least how I’ve been making my wardrobe work without a ton of new stuff/options.

      Luckily, you have a treadmill so you don’t have to suffer out in the snow!!

  • January 8, 2016 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    i’m all about “treat yo’self” so those baths sound amazing. i find the most difficult thing (besides the actual running) is figuring out how to dress, too.

    • January 8, 2016 - 8:10 pm | Permalink

      I think I might follow this post up with how I’ve been dressing and what works.

  • January 9, 2016 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

    This is a great guide! I’ve picked up some great layering pieces for good prices at Costco and MEC. They are the most important part- if you are always cold, you will never want to get out there again!

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