Ten Tips For Running In The Cold

February 1, 2014; 9:48 AM ET
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RunnersWorld.com

1. Get Motivated

"Make a date to meet someone for a run," says Jean M., a reader in Colorado. "There's no wimping out when someone is waiting." John Stanton, the founder of the Running Room in Edmonton, Alberta, says the club's Wednesday and Sunday group runs are popular in winter, when the average high is 17°F. In January and February, the Running Room hosts the Hypothermic Half-Marathon, which attracts 3,500 runners in 14 cities across Canada--even at temps as low as -40°F. "There's a big, free brunch afterward," Stanton says. "People will do anything for omelets and pancakes." Solo? "Tell yourself that you can go back inside after five minutes if it's really bad," says Patti Finke, a coach in Portland, Oregon. "Usually you stay out there." Of course, not everyone objects to winter weather. "A night run during a light snowfall is one of the most peaceful things you can experience," says Justin Lord of Kenmore, New York.

PLUS: Tips for Running in Sub Zero Temperatures

Credit: Flickr/Peter Mooney

2. Arm Your Feet

To keep warmth in and slush out, run in shoes that have the least amount of mesh. If you have shoes with Gore-Tex uppers, all the better, says Mark Grandonico, president of the Maine Track Club in Portland. Wear socks that wick away wetness but keep your feet warm. Runner Joe McNulty of Philadelphia swears by nonitchy SmartWool socks.

PLUS: Are You Running in The Right Shoes?

3. Get Dressed

You want to be warm without sweating so much you get a chill. "The rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer," says Maine Track Club president Mark Grandonico. "You should be slightly cool when you start." Think layers of technical fabrics, to wick sweat, with zippers at the neck and underarm area to vent air as you heat up. You'll learn your own preferences, but readers Darrell Arribas, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, and Eric Maniloff, of Stittsville, Ontario, both helped create these general guidelines. Assume you always wear gloves or mittens and a hat.

30 degrees: 2 tops, 1 bottom. Long-sleeve base layer and a vest keep your core warm. Tights (or shorts, for polar bears).

10 to 20 degrees: 2 tops, 2 bottoms. A jacket over your base layer, and wind pants over the tights.

0 to 10 degrees: 3 tops, 2 bottoms. Two tops (fleece for the cold-prone) and a jacket. Windbrief for the fellas.

Minus 10 to 0 degrees: 3 tops, 2 bottoms, extra pair of mittens, 1 scarf wrapped around mouth or a balaclava.

Minus 20 degrees: 3 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 extra pairs of mittens, 1 balaclava, sunglasses. Or, says Arribas, "Stay inside."

PLUS: The Perfect Workout Outfit for Winter Weather

4. Be Seen

With limited daylight, chances are you'll be running in the dark (Alaskans, sadly, get only a few hours of dim light per day). Tall snowbanks on plowed streets make you even harder to see. Wear reflective, fluorescent gear, and don't be shy about lighting yourself up like a Christmas tree, says RW's own Ed Eyestone, who runs in snowy Utah. Says Adam Feerst, a coach and trail-race director in Denver, "I use a headlamp or carry a flashlight, less so I can see where I'm going and more so people can see me."

MORE: How to Keep Your Hands Warm During Winter Runs

5. Warm up Prerun

Move around inside enough to get the blood flowing without breaking a sweat. Run up and down your stairs, use a jump rope, or do a few yoga sun salutations. A speedy house-cleaning works, too, says D. A. Reng from Kentucky. "The cold doesn't feel so cold when you're warm," says Laura Salmon of Akron, Ohio. If you're meeting a group of running buddies, don't stand around in the cold chatting before you run. "We sit in our cars," says Denver's Feerst, "waiting for one person to get out before we all get out."

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