Cold weather running can be invigorating, and a great way to start your day!
I’ve found there are two major factors in not retreating indoors during the occasional cold spell: your mindset and your gear.
Have the right mindset
This may even be the bigger of the two! When I wake up, look at the thermometer and it reads -13 F, as it did this morning, I can have a couple different thoughts run through my mind:
- “That’s way too cold! Forget it.”
- “Hmm. That’s pretty cold. Good thing I’m not running for a couple hours yet. It’ll warm up a few degrees by then.”
And it did. It was -8 when I started, and had warmed up to almost 0 by the time I finished 🙂
The reason I can have a positive mindset about running in these kinds of temps, though, is I…
Have the right gear
After a few winters of running outdoors in our glorious state, I’ve found the right combo of layers and materials that work for me…
- Wool socks — a must.
- Waterproof trail shoes — waterproof means they also keep out the wind. Trail shoes means the tread is deep enough to catch any traction at all on icy roads. I love my Altra Lone Peak runners.
- Warm, breathable inner layer(s) and a wind-breaking outer layer — for both my legs and my torso. This jacket is enough with a wool-blend base layer and light fleece jacket in this weather for me.
- Wind-blocking face mask — a must for awhile. I can take it off half-way through unless it’s windy.
- Wind-blocking warmth on my head — I wear a light knit hat over a super-thin Columbia Omni-heat® cap. (That Omni-heat is amazing stuff!)
- Warm mittens at first, then I can switch out to my lighter running gloves half-way through. I’d rather carry an extra pair than have frozen fingers or sweaty fingers 🙂
I’ve talked to quite a few who have a hard time breathing when it’s this cold. Some even find it painful when the cold air hits their lungs. I’ve never had a problem with that, which I’m thankful for.
Where to draw the line?
The line will be different for all of us. That’s ok! Personally I’m willing to go outside until it’s down near the -15 mark. After that the rubber outsoles on my running shoes seem to freeze, which can’t be good for my knees and legs.
This may sound crazy, but I’d rather run in -8 like today, than in 80 and muggy like we get in the summer sometimes.
Here’s another reason I prefer it colder: When the temps are up near 30, the snow on the roads is mushy and hard to run on. The colder it gets, the harder the snow, which makes for a better running surface.
When it’s this cold, it’s not usually windy too. But if it is — with wind chills colder than 20-30 below — I’ll skip my run that day.
Fun fact: The eyelashes start getting frosty at right around 0º F.
(PHOTO: That’s me, this morning, 2 miles into my run)
Sharon is the founder and publisher of Active Outdoor Women. She loves getting outside in beautiful places to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe, ski, ride—and encouraging others to come along! Besides maintaining AOW and her other website, Twin Cities Outdoors, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails, books and other marketing tools for clients.