Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Motivating to get out the door on a freezing morning to run outside can sometimes feel nearly impossible. Sometimes you just want to stay indoors, drinking coffee, hot chocolate, and wine all day, while lounging in pjs and binging on Netflix. I mean, if exercising outside were really good for us, then who made our beds so freaking cozy?
But next time you’re faced with the to-sleep-or-run dilemma, consider these facts about running in the cold:
- As days shorten, a lack of sunlight leaves us open to a case of the seasonal blues. A study from Duke University found regular 30-minute cardio workouts to be four times more successful at improving serotonin levels and reducing symptoms of depression than medication.
- Regular exercise lowers your chance of catching the flu by 20 to 30 percent, according to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
- All that heavy breathing in chilly temps can train your body to use oxygen more efficiently. A study from Northern Arizona University discovered three months of cold exposure increased V02 max in goats by 34 percent, indicating a similar effect may occur in humans as well.
And then try using these 13 tips to get outside, stay warm, and enjoy nature’s snowy bounty.
13 Tips for Exercising Outside in The Cold
Have an early spring goal
Sign up for a race or some type of event to keep training. Even though this is typically a slow season for most, it is definitely worth putting something on your calendar to keep you moving during these cold winter months.
Wear multiple layers
Today on my cold run (starting at 23 degrees), I wore two pairs of tights. One was an old pair of Frank Shorter compression tights that I got from a marathon expo. The other was a looser fitting but thicker tight on the outside by Skirt Sports. On the top I wore an old Nike long-sleeved thermal, a Skirt Sports long-sleeved tech shirt and a warm half-zip jacket from the same company. I was toasty the entire time.
Eat before going out
And make sure to carry some extra sustenance if you’re doing a long run. You need calories to help stay warm. On this particular morning, I had a waffle topped with peanut butter, honey and bananas. And coffee. And then more coffee. I also took along a Clifbar and a few Sports Beans.
Nothing ruins a cold run outside like stopping. If you’ve been sweating, you could become clammy, chilly and even more exhausted than you already are. The fun is over until you start moving again. So get moving.
Get used to running outside by, well, running outside
You will start to love it if you don’t already. I promise. If you’re not used to running in the cold, warm your body up beforehand inside. Maybe do a couple of jumping jacks, burpees, high-knees or butt-kicks before heading out. Beware, however, of making yourself sweaty prior to getting yourself outside. It’s a delicate balance, folks.
Use Vaseline and/or Body Glide in abundance
Do your lips, face and everything get chapped in the cold? First, make sure you’re well hydrated (read more below). Second, lather yourself freely with either petroleum jelly or body glide. You will not regret it.
Make sure you are well hydrated before, during and after a run outside in the cold. You may feel less thirsty than you would in the summer, but it’s still extremely important to maintain your general fluid and electrolyte levels in the cold. Beer does NOT count. (Well, before your run anyway…)
Wear good shoes
You don’t necessarily need the most high tech of shoes to enjoy a snowy winter run outside. If you don’t have Yaktrax or Microspikes and you’re not running in icy conditions, you can wear a good pair of trail shoes. It will be a workout, but well worth the extra energy expended to lift your legs out of the snow! For my lastest snowy run, I ran in Hoka Mafates. They were great!
If your hands tend to overheat like mine do, tuck them away in your pack, belt or in your bra. Then when you want to have a snowball fight with your running bestie, put them back on and go for the jugular. I usually wear those cheap two-dollar throwaway gloves that you get at marathon expos. I never throw them away though.
Wear a hat
I actually have converted to the buff. There are so many things you can do with them, hat notwithstanding. Keep the heat in your head.
Wrap the toebox of your shoes in duct-tape
If you’re concerned about your toes freezing, I’ve heard this is a way to help keep them warm. I personally haven’t tried it, but why not? Sounds like it might actually work. Good luck!
Actually, I swear by wool socks when I run outside. I’ve never been disappointed in the incredible body-temperature regulating properties of wool. There are some excellent companies out there making top-quality, thin wool socks specifically for runners. Swiftwicks are my faves.
When running in the cold, and especially during and after snow, stopping (for a short time only) to take pictures can be so rewarding. The exquisite color combinations of glistening white, sharp blue, and muted greens and browns make for excellent and inspirational photography. Get out there and start clicking!
Breathe in the cold air. Enjoy. REPEAT.
Brag to your friends about having spent hours outside being chased free-roaming mountain dogs in 20 degree weather. And then invite them on your next run outside in the cold. They might just be intrigued enough to join you!