Preparation Is Key for Running in the Winter Months

Welcome back to our Fitness Fire Storyteller series! This week our guest storyteller is Chris. He describes himself as an athlete who initially only ran to keep himself in shape for the various sports he played (including Quidditch). He always considered himself an athlete but not a “runner.”

Despite not being a "runner," he got more invested in running in March of 2019. Later that year he fully jumped into the running lifestyle by signing up for the 2019 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon.

You can keep up with Chris’ training and reviews on his blog: A Runner’s Resolve.

In many parts of the country, it has taken some time for cold weather to arrive, but winter is officially in full swing and for most people that means layering up to stay warm. If you're a runner, however, there is a bit more to thriving during the winter than just layering up. As temperatures continue to drop, you should prep for runs in several key areas: apparel, safety, warm-ups, and more.


The first thing to understand is how to dress properly for winter runs. That means not just haphazardly throwing on a few layers because you assume that it's “cold." It's important to dress appropriately for the specific conditions you'll encounter. Obviously, what you are going to wear correlates to the temperature outside. However, you don't want to wear too much because if you get so warm that your run becomes uncomfortable, you may hinder your technique or cut your run short.

You will typically want to "under-dress" by about 10 degrees (though the exact number will change from runner to runner). It may feel chilly at first but as you start to run, your body temperature will naturally rise. As it does, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable with the layers you decided to wear. If you are not comfortable under-dressing, you can also wear layers that can easily be removed as you progress through your run.

Next, know your body. Just because you are layering does not mean that you need to cover every inch of yourself. For example, some runners may layer up but decide to not wear gloves or a hat. This lets them feel the cool air, which will help to regulate their body temperature so they don't become overheated.

If you choose to wear a hat or gloves, try out several different kinds so you can find what best suits you. For hats, you can wear a regular cap, a beanie, earmuffs, or a headband. Choose based on how much coverage you prefer as well as how cold the weather will be during your runs.

Options for running gloves include full gloves, mittens, finger-less gloves, and conversion gloves, which are either finger-less or regular gloves that have a removable mitten cover for extra warmth when you need it. Just like with your headwear, choose hand protection that suits your personal needs as well as the weather you'll be exposed to.

Once you have decided on what to wear, the next thing to look at is the material. Should you wear items made of a thinner fabric or do you need something thicker and warmer? Try them both and see which works better for you!

Remember that you want to stay dry as long as possible. As you run and exert yourself, you will naturally begin to sweat. Regulating your body temperature through removing layers will help you sweat less, which will allow you to feel comfortable longer. Wearing apparel that wicks moisture is another great way to stay dry and comfortable, ensuring you can get the most out of your run.

One last tip for winter running is: If it is snowing when you go out for your run, you should dress to get wet. Fresh snow will melt quickly on your warm body and—as I stated earlier—you want to stay dry! Look into wearing a breathable jacket similar to one you might wear on a rainy run.


Beyond just monitoring the temperature outside, it is important to monitor weather conditions like ice and snowfall as well. During snowy runs, which could quickly become icy, it's best to stick to routes that you are familiar with or have scouted out ahead of time. You would hate to get halfway through a good run and see that the sidewalk or the shoulder of the road is inaccessible because of how the path was treated (or not treated). Inadequately cleared sidewalks and shoulders could cause you to run on the road, which is unsafe—particularly in snowy or icy conditions.

If you do come across this situation, I recommend that you turn around, run back, and finish out your run on another route. It’s better to be safe and take the small inconvenience of finding a new route than risking running on the road on a snowy day. You may think you can be safe running on the road, but you cannot guarantee that drivers will be equally as careful. It is always a good idea to err on the side of caution.

In addition to choosing your route carefully, if there is snow or ice on the ground, be sure to slow your pace and run safely.

QUICK TIP: Don't skimp on water just because it is colder outside! You may not be sweating as much, but your body still requires water.


When temperatures drop it's much more enjoyable to stretch and warm up inside before going out for your run. Many runners normally stretch at their run’s starting point, but doing this in the winter will have you out in the cold longer. Stretching and warming up indoors before your run will allow you to stay warm as long as possible before going out into the cold.

If you must warm up outside, it's crucial to do dynamic warm-ups as opposed to static ones. Try doing some squats, lunges, or leg swings for example. This will get your body moving and keep you warm while you prep for your run. Truthfully, it may be a good idea to add dynamic warm-ups to your routine all year.


One aspect of the weather that is often overlooked is the wind. I recommend that you take a look at the wind speed and direction before you start your run. You should aim to run perpendicular to the wind if you can. This means that if the wind is blowing north and south, you should try to run east and west and vice versa.

If for whatever reason you cannot run perpendicular to the wind on your run, you should look to face the wind (run into it) at the start of the run when sweating is minimal. You do not want to be sweaty and have the wind blowing right into you, sending chills through your body as you run.

When heading out for your winter runs remember that it's okay to have light, easy sessions. You do not need to worry about tempo and breaking records every time you go for a run. Sometimes it's best to just get out, log some miles, and enjoy the run.

Lastly, from constantly changing temperatures to the changing road conditions, your body goes through a lot when running in the winter. Remember to listen to your body and give it extra time to rest and heal when needed.

No matter what initially inspired us to run, most of us keep running because we enjoy it. The most important thing to remember is to stay safe while you have fun.

I hope that these tips will help you during your winter training. Remember that all the hard work that you are putting in now will bring great results in the future.

Stay safe, everyone!

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