Winter Running Tips
I get asked all the time what I do about running in the wintertime. Here in Pennsylvania, it definitely plunges below freezing for several weeks of the year, so this is a topic I know a little something about. I hate running on a treadmill so I run outside in almost any weather. Today I’m teaming up with Nordstrom to share my best winter running tips including the gear you’ll want to have if you’re trying to stay active in a colder climate. Whether it’s running, walking, biking, or hiking, these tips all apply.
Rule #1 for cold weather running is to have proper gear. It is absolutely miserable to run in the cold when you don’t have the right gear.
Once I made a few key investments in cold weather running gear, my entire outlook on winter running changed. Now I actually look forward to running in the cold. It’s invigorating, and I always run faster than I do in the heat. But before I had the right gear, I would avoid running in the cold at any cost, and we all know that to be successful with any exercise regimen, you have to remove all excuses. So my first tip is definitely to invest in a few key pieces of good winter running apparel.
You may not think about Nordstrom when you think about activewear, but they actually have a huge activewear department with lots of great name brands, and of course you get the benefit of their free shipping and free returns up to 6 months after the purchase date. Their Zella activewear line is one of my favorites for stylish, quality activewear at a moderate price point.
Cold weather running gear is definitely more expensive than warm weather gear, but the good news is, you don’t need as much of it. In the summertime, I like to have multiples of everything because it gets so disgusting and full of sweat that I have to wash everything I wear every time I run. That means having enough shirts and shorts that I don’t run out. Back to removing all excuses — if you don’t have anything clean to wear, you might use that as an excuse. (Although I have been known to pull stinky running clothes out of the dirty clothes hamper in a pinch. Ew!)
In the wintertime, I can re-wear my most expensive pieces (namely the outerwear) several times before washing, so I only need 1 or 2 running jackets. They also last for many years. This Zelfusion Reflective Quilted Jacket by Zella is the newest addition to my winter running wardrobe. This is the perfect example of a versatile winter running jacket. And best of all, it’s not just good for running! It’s cute and flattering enough to wear to your kids’ ball games when it’s cold out, walk the dog, go hiking, or any active outdoor activity in cold weather.
This jacket is packed with features that make it perfect for cold weather running. First of all, it has reflective details for visibility in low light or at night. I try not to run in the dark, but this time of year, when it’s dark so late in the mornings and so early at night, sometimes it can’t be avoided, so I like this feature. (Zella makes reflective running pants too, by the way!)
The sleeves are nice and long with thumbholes so they stay in place and keep your hands warm, and there is a super high, plush-lined collar to keep your neck warm. Plus there are pockets on the sides if you want to stash a key or a tissue or even your hat and gloves once you get warmed up.
The front and back of the jacket have quilted panels that are figure-flattering, but they’re not just for looks. These panels also help block the wind, which is always an issue during cold weather running. Then the sides are breathable where you tend to sweat, and trust me, you will eventually work up a sweat, even if it’s only 20 degrees outside.
The inside of the jacket is lined with fleece so it feels super soft against your skin. In fact, I’m wearing it right now sitting at my desk with a tank top underneath, and softness of the fleece against my arms and neck feels so cozy. (I threw it on this morning to go to my workout appointment, and I haven’t taken it off yet!)
That reminds me, another great use for this jacket is to throw it on over your workout clothes when going to the gym. Not that you need a special jacket for going to the gym, but if you’re getting one for cold weather activities, it can do double duty!
When it’s not terribly cold out, I’ll wear a tank top or short sleeve shirt under this jacket and leave the neck unzipped. It lays nicely either way. When it gets colder, I’ll layer a long-sleeve top underneath for extra warmth. Definitely look for moisture-wicking fabrics to wear next to your skin. This is true for running any time of year, but especially in the winter, because once you stop running and your body temperature comes back down to normal, sweaty clothes will make you cold.
This Rock Your Core Tee by Climawear is less than $50 and perfect for layering under jackets or for wearing alone when the weather is conducive. I like to wear long-sleeve base layers with a crewneck rather than the scoop neck or v-neck because it adds an extra layer of warmth to the chest area.
Now let’s discuss these pants. These are the Mindful High Waist Midi Crop Leggings, and they come in grey and black. I’m obsessed with Zella’s high waist leggings. They come up nice and high to smooth your tummy and hold everything in, and they don’t slide down when you run.
Plus these particular pants have shimmering panels and cooling mesh insets on the side. Again, the idea here is for the panels on the front to help block the wind, and the mesh insets on the side allow your body heat to escape once you get warmed up.
I also love these En Pointe High Waist Crop Leggings in the Blue Shatter Print. Wouldn’t they be amazing with this jacket? They’re designed for milder weather with the mesh insets behind the knees — perfect for transition season. And for a plain black pair, you can’t go wrong with the Zella Live In High Waist Leggings.
Other pieces of cold weather running year you may want to have that I didn’t picture here are an ear warmer, a hat, gloves, and warm socks. I always wear good moisture-wicking socks such as these Thorlo Experia. (These make a great Christmas present for your runner friends!) If it’s super cold out, you can wear a higher sock so your ankles don’t get cold, although I haven’t invested in any as of yet.
Your body heat escapes through your head, so a hat is key. I admit, I am really bad about wearing a hat, but I have one that I wear on the coldest of days — like when it’s in the 20s. What I prefer to wear is an ear warmer, and this I start wearing as soon as it gets nippy out because it seems like it’s always windy here, and the cold wind bothers my ears. I also like to have a neck gaiter even with a high neck jacket because you can pull it up over your nose and mouth on extremely cold days. Here in Pennsylvania, I’ve never needed a ski mask, but if you live in areas that get into single digit temperatures, you may want to pick one up.
And finally, gloves. I am miserable when I misjudge the weather and go without gloves. When in doubt, wear them. In fact, that goes for all of the above. You can always remove it and stash it in a pocket if you get overheated, but it’s always best to be prepared.
Before we move on to other winter weather running tips, I know I’ll get asked, so I’ll go ahead and share my favorite running bra. This isn’t winter gear, of course. A good running bra is essential all year round. My absolute favorite is this Underwire Sports Bra by Chantelle Intimates. It isn’t cheap, but it does go on sale from time to time. It’s made for women with larger cup sizes, and it comes up to a 5D, plus it comes in smaller band sizes as well.
It’s very supportive and also gives you a nice shape. I also like that it has the J-hook in the back so you can make it into a racerback bra for additional support. I always hook the J-hook when I run, no matter if I’m wearing a racerback top or not. I have the grey color, and it’s actually really pretty with the pink contrast stitching.
And also, shoes. The Saucony Guide 9 is what I run in, and I love how perfectly they match this jacket! I have seen the advice to wear running shoes with less mesh when it is super cold. These shoes do have a lot of mesh, which is great for keeping my feet cool in warm weather, but in the winter, they do get cold. I haven’t wanted to invest in another pair of shoes, so I just wear these, and sometimes I double layer my socks.
Okay, now that we’ve covered gear, here are some more winter weather running tips:
#2: Spend extra time warming up inside. In the warmer months, I often just walk out the door and start running slowly as a warmup. In the winter, the cold can hit you like a brick when you walk out the door, so I like to spend a few minutes warming up inside to get my heart pumping. It makes it a lot easier to take off the second you get the pavement.
I will sometimes run up and down my stairs a few times, or I’ll walk around the house alternating high kicks and butt kicks. I have no idea what the proper terms are, but you get the gist. I don’t do much static stretching pre-run. I save that for my cool down, when my muscles are warmed up and more pliable, but I do like to do some dynamic stretching before I set out. You can also roll your legs for 5 minutes with a foam roller to get your muscles warmed up.
#3. When in doubt, layer up! You don’t want to overheat when you’re running, so layers are your best friend in cold weather. It’s helpful to have 2 or even 3 layers (depending on the temperature) so you can adjust once your body temperature starts rising. In extremely cold weather, you could layer on a windbreaker or heavier coat on over top of your running jacket. If you get hot, you can always tie it around your waist. Sometimes I even stay close to home (or to my car at a trail) until I’m warmed up, then I can ditch the top layer in a safe place and keep running.
#4. Change out of your running clothes as soon as you’re done. Your core body temperature drops as soon as you stop running and can easily give you the chills if you linger in your sweaty running clothes. It’s also a good idea to drink something hot to warm you up from the inside out. I usually have two cups of coffee every morning, but when I run, I like to have one before I run and save my second for after my run. Of course, hot tea, hot apple cider, or hot cocoa will all do the trick.
#5. Don’t forget to hydrate. It is so easy to forget to drink water during the winter, but it is every bit as important as it is during the summer or more so. The cold air outside and dry heat inside our homes is dehydrating, so make it a point to get enough fluids. Hot water is a good option too!
#6. Start your run into the wind so the wind is at your back on your way home. This helps you avoid getting chilled by the wind when you’re sweaty during the 2nd half of your run.
#7. Run during the warmest time of day. In the summer, I get up at the crack o’ dawn to get outside and run before it gets too hot. In the winter, I do the opposite. I wait until the sun is high and the temperatures have climbed up out of the single digits, at least! I’m happiest when I run in the morning and get it out of the way, but when it’s really cold, I often wait until later. Not only do you get the benefit of the warmer temperatures, but you get some much-needed vitamin D that we often lack this time of year.
Zelfusion Reflective Quilted Jacket // Zella Mindful High Waist Midi Crop Leggings // base layer options here, here, and here // Saucony Guide 9 Running Sneakers // Chantelle Intimates Underwire Sports Bra
I hope these tips were helpful! I know a lot of it seems obvious, but it always takes me a while to get acclimated to winter running, and it’s easy to forget from year to year what works. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.
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