Survival Guide to Winter Running

Speaking solely as a runner, winter is definitely not one of my favorite seasons. It gets dark earlier, which means I have less time in the day to run when the sun is out. Snow and ice start to cover my normal running routes, which means I can’t always run where I want. AND, the temperature drops, making me have to bundle up to try and stay warm. Here are a few pictures from my run yesterday. Yes, that is ice on the path…



All of these factors combine to make me less motivated to be active and I know I am not alone in this. Plenty of my running friends also complain about the difficulties of winter running. Here are a few techniques that I use to keep myself moving during the winter months.

Tip # 1 – Dress Warmly

            Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather, but we CAN control what we wear. Even if it is freezing outside, it can still be a manageable temperature to run in depending on the clothes we have on.

            Have lots of different types of layers. My dresser is full of ¾ length tights for when it is a little warmer outside, normal spandex running tights, running tights lined with fleece for when it is extra chilly, and jackets of varying degrees of insulation.

However, I would say the most important piece of clothing is a hat. Most of our body heat escapes through our heads, so wearing a hat can majorly affect how hot or cold we are.


Tip #2 – Hand Warmers!

Hand warmers and toe warmers are my lifesavers when it comes to running outside. I have Raynaud’s, which basically means that my fingers and toes get really cold really easily. My hands will turn a nasty white/yellowish color and become numb to the touch. All in all, not very fun.

Hand warmers and toe warmers warm up fairly quickly and can stay warm for hours. Most of the time my gloves are warm enough for me, but if they get wet or if I’m not constantly moving my hands get cold fairly quickly.

Tip #3 – Gym Membership

Let’s face it – when there is a foot of snow on the ground and the roads aren’t plowed, it is really hard to run. No, I’m not saying that it is impossible. I’m just saying that this poses a challenge when trying to get a workout in.

Having a membership to a gym gives us an easier way to work out. The new environment can even motivate us to do more than we would have otherwise. Almost all gyms have treadmills and some even have indoor tracks. Plus, they have other equipment and even fun classes that can help us stay in shape, which brings me to my next topic.

Notice anything wrong with this photo? 

Tip #4 – Cross-train

There are very few races in the winter (at least in Vermont). This means that for most of us, winter is not a high-intensity training period. Many runners are taking some time off or starting to base-build for a race in the spring.

Therefore, winter could be the perfect time to try out something new. Cross-training can provide many benefits, including;

  • A mental and physical break from running
  • Strengthening muscles that might not normally get worked
  • Maintaining endurance
  • Injury prevention

There are sooooo many different ways to cross-train and each activity has its own unique benefits. However, the #1 rule to cross training is to have fun with it! Choose an activity that you enjoy. With so many different options, it is nearly impossible to not find something that you like at least a little. Below is a handful of different ways to cross-train;

  • Biking – stationary or on the roads
  • Elliptical – mimics running motion and can work out your arms as well
  • Spinning – try a class maybe?
  • Zumba –the new dancing craze!
  • Aqua jogging – uses many of the same muscles that running does without the pounding
  • Swimming – yay! No pounding again! Plus, works your upper body.


Tip #5 – Embrace winter

Instead of focusing on how the winter impacts your normal running routine, focus on the positives! For instance, winter brings snow, and snow brings snow activities. Once again, cross training!

  • Ice skating
  • Skiing – Nordic or downhill. Nordic skiing mimics running pretty well while giving an upper body workout as well as no pounding
  • snowboarding
  • sledding – can surprisingly be a pretty good workout. Walking up hills is hard!
  • Snowshoeing

Tip #6 – Goals

No matter how big or small, goals help keep us motivated and that is a good thing. Write your goals down, post them on a wall, and keep track of your progress.

Like I said earlier, there are not many races in the winter. So, many runners are focusing on training for a race in the spring. Having a race in mind helps to keep us motivated. Even better, sign up for one! This little effort gives enough incentive to help get us out the door on a cold morning.

I’ve got my eyes set on the Maine Coast Marathon on May 11th. This will be my first full marathon and I am so excited!

What do you think? Do you have any techniques that you use to keep yourself motivated in the winter?


7 thoughts on “Survival Guide to Winter Running

    • yeah, I love everything about Vermont…. except the weather. It definitely doesn’t make for the best running conditions. Although this ice storm is out of the ordinary.

  1. Pingback: Running in an Icy Wonderland | Joy Runner

    • I hear you. I’m not a fan of the cold and dark combo either, but unfortunately I’m not very good at waking up early to get a run in early either. lol! Hopefully I’ll get better at that… Thanks for commenting!

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