Managing Winter Running

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

Running through the New England winter can certainly be challenging and dampen your enthusiasm for running outdoors.  Relying too much on the treadmill eliminates the muscle memory of outdoor running so it’s important to run outdoors at least twice per week.  The discipline you have for running outdoors in January-March will determine your degree of success in April.

Here are a few recommendations for managing the challenges of winter running:


• Dressing for temperatures 15-20 degrees warmer will prevent you from becoming too warm in the latter miles of the run.

• Avoid cotton entirely. Wicking material will keep you dry and reduce the likelihood of hypothermia.

• Wear a thin base layer close to your body and add layers based on the conditions.

• Most of your body heat will escape through your head, hands and feet. Fleece and wool are great choices for hats, gloves and socks.

• Zippers allow you to regulate your core temperature. Begin runs with the zippers fully closed. As body temperature rise, unzip them. Close them again in the closing miles as resources are low and the need to retain body heat is greater.

• Wear reflective material, particularly on your wrists and ankles, as the movement from these body parts is more likely to catch the attention of motorists.

• Change into warm and comfortable clothes immediately upon completing your runs.


• Trail Running shoes are a great option on snow and ice covered roads as they tend to have more traction and structure and may even have a Gore Tex lining.

• Yak Trax and similar outsole options are great for ice covered roads.

• You can also place small screws into the lugs of your outsoles where your feet strike the road. This can become problematic when you’re running on a dry surface, however. I recommend this option for the worst possible conditions.

• Placing duct tape over the front/top of your shoes will help keep your feet warm on arctic days.


• One of the more common misconceptions is that you don’t have to hydrate as much in colder temperatures. I actually stay more hydrated in the winter as the lack of humidity is problematic. It’s also far better for your skin.

• Runners tend to be less disciplined with sunscreen during the winter months. I recommend protecting your exposed skin as much as possible. Wearing proper sunglasses is equally important.

• On extremely cold and windy days apply vaseline to your face to prevent chafing.

• Begin your runs into the wind so that you will have some reserves for the closing miles of your runs.

• Avoid roads with heavy traffic when signficant snow forces you to run more in the road.

Winter running can be extremely enjoyable. Running on trails will protect you from the wind. And if you really want a challenge, try running on snowshoes as the return on the investment of time and effort is considerable. The degree of enjoyment you experience through winter running is closely tied to your attitude and approach.

Embrace the winter and realize you’ll be better prepared for the 2014 Boston Marathon because of the challenges you have overcome!

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