Friday 5: 5 Cold Weather Running Tips

Brrrrrrrr! Do you want to build a snowman? I would rather go for a run, but that’s just me.Photo Nov 13, 12 50 41 PM

Running in cold weather isn’t for the faint-of-heart, however. I live in the Puget Sound region of Washington, where the winters are pretty mild and getting an inch of snow causes the school districts to cancel classes.  Although I’m not experienced with running in arctic conditions, I have enough experience running in cold temps to provide some tips for surviving—nay, enjoying!—a run in chilly weather.

1.  Follow the 20-Degree Rule: Dress warmly, but don’t go overboard.

My golden rule for dressing for running is to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer outside than it actually is. I call it the “20-Degree Rule.” You consider the weather conditions for your run and then add 20 degrees to the actual temperature, then consider what you would wear if you were just going about on your regular business at that elevated temperature. For example: I feel comfortable in shorts if I’m just hanging around on a 75-degree day, so if it’s 55 degrees when I want to go for a run, I’ll wear shorts for that run.

So, applying my 20-Degree Rule dressing for cold-weather runs, I don’t dress like I’m attempting to summit Mt. Everest.  If it’s 30 degrees outside when I want to go for a run, what do I wear? Well, I wouldn’t wear shorts while hanging out on a 50-degree day. That would leave me a little exposed and chilly.  I also wouldn’t wear heavy pants and a sweater with a down jacket on top—I would end up a wilted, sweaty mess. Rather, I would wear long pants and either a shirt with long sleeves or a short sleeve shirt layered with a light jacket or sweatshirt. I might be a little cold at the start of my run, but 5 minutes in I’ll feel comfortable.

2.  Wear Chapstick or what-have-you.

Cold weather is drying. Running or doing anything out in the winter elements can dry out the skin on your lips faster than Kim Kardashian tweets a picture of her rear end.

Eucerin beauty product
I apply a small amount of Eucerin Aquaphor on my lips before every cold-weather run to prevent prune mouth or flaky lips.  Because lipstick looks awful on flaky lips!

3.  Warm up before you really run.

I’m getting old. No, really. I note significant differences in how I feel now when I wake up in the morning versus how I felt even just a couple of years ago. I wake up creakier. Stiffer. That’s what happens to my joints when my body’s cold.

Last Saturday at the Mustache Dache, I started the race with tight ankles. It was a strange feeling because I’d never before noticed having tight ankles at the start of a race. I used the first minute or so of the race running at a slower pace in order to warm up and loosen up, which prevented me from breaking off at the ankles and keeling over into a pile. Okay, so I don’t know if that exact nightmare-scenario would have happened if I’d sprinted through that ankle tightness, but I can’t imagine that it’s good for anyone to break into a fast pace while being improperly warmed up.

If you’re planning to go for a run in the cold, I recommend that you run the first mile or half-mile at a slower pace to warm up your cold muscles and joints. Give your body a chance to get used to the cool temps before you expect it to motor at a higher speed.

4.  Run with a buddy.

m and a I don’t want to sound like a sloth, but I have motivation issues. As we march closer and closer to the start of winter, I feel less motivated to wake up in the early morning and run. The frigid, windy weather doesn’t help matters. Having a running partner or group can help motivate you get out of the door on those brutal, wintry days when you would rather hang out in front of the TV and drink hot toddies.

5.  Wear running shoes with substance.

I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell does that mean?!” Let me explain.

I regularly wear two different kinds of running shoes: one pair is for races and workouts/speed work, and one is for my mid-week utility runs and long runs

Women's Mizuno Wave Inspire 10 Running Shoes
Brooks 'Adrenaline GTS 15' Running Shoe
The pair for races and workouts, my Mizuno Wave Inspires (top photo), is lighter, enabling me to go a little faster when I need to. That shoe is lighter because it’s simply less shoe. If I wore it 30+ miles per week, my feet would suffer because it doesn’t offer them enough protection from all that pounding.
The other pair? That’s the Brooks Adrenaline (bottom photo), my workhorse. I can wear my Adrenalines for long runs and my practically every day’s run because they have more cushioning, thereby allowing me to run more miles without banging up my feet.  This pair can take 30, 40, and 50+ miles per week of running—even on pavement! I call it my “injury shoe” because it helped me train for the NYC Marathon when I was coming back from an injury, and it carried me to the NYCM finish line injury-free.

When it’s cold outside and I want to go for a run, I lace up my Brooks because they are more substantive shoes than the particular model of Mizunos that I own. Why? Cold weather increases the stiffness of the soles of running shoes, which has the effect of running on a harder surface. Therefore, cold weather running is harder on your feet. (Don’t just take it from me.) And because it’s harder on the feet, I wear a more cushioned shoe to try to offset that extra impact.

What are some of your best cold weather running tips?

Today’s post is part of the famous Friday 5 link-up hosted by bloggers extraordinaire Courtney (Eat Pray Run DC), Mar (Mar on the Run) , and Cynthia (You Signed up for What?!). Please check out their sites and some of the other bloggers who’ve linked up.

11 thoughts on “Friday 5: 5 Cold Weather Running Tips

  1. These are great tips, Molly, and I totally get what you’re saying about the shoes…that is a great thing to think about, and I will definitely keep this in mind from now on. Also, I LOVE your picture at the top with the “I can’t put my arms down!” OH! Love, love, love “A Christmas Story.” J has been out hunting and he said he felt like this a couple of days ago – ha! Great post and I hope you have a great weekend!

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