This weekend was cold here in DC. Really cold. Wind chills set us at around 16 degrees and the wind itself blew at around 33 mph. It was uncomfortable, bone-chilling, sweat freezing cold. And yet Sunday was the day I had set aside for my weekly long run, so bundled up and full of dread, out the door I went.
I’ve done a lot of cold weather running in my life. It’s not always fun, but it certainly doesn’t have to be awful. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years to make those frigid miles a bit more tolerable.
- Wear sunscreen: I realize cold and sunscreen aren’t always natural partners, but the sun shines just as bright on those cold days as it does when you’re sweltering in the summer. Don’t be fooled by the temperature and stay smart about your skin.
- Body Glide and Lip Balm: Chafing happens in the cold, too, and it’s just as nasty. Don’t be afraid to use this in a few areas before you get outside and start sweating. A little lip balm (no, not lip gloss) before you head out is a good idea to keep those chapped lips at bay.
- Warm up: Starting out on cold, tight muscles is a recipe for…well…cold, tight muscles. Get your legs ready to tackle the elements and the workout by doing a few active stretches before you head out the door. Here’s a great list from Runner’s World to give you a few ideas.
For the Run:
- Wear headgear: Whether you prefer ear-warmers or hats, put something over those ears. When the temperatures are low and the wind gets blowing, it’s a miserable feeling to have frozen ears. Having something on your head will help keep them warm, trap a little bit of the heat radiating from your body, and keep you happy.
- Tuck your shirt into your tights: Wearing running tights when it’s cold out should be a no-brainer. But tucking your base layer shirt into your tights is a little trick I learned that actually works. You won’t look like Steve Urkle and your core will stay nice and toasty. Try it – you can thank me later.
- Invest in a pair of warm socks: I never wanted to buy wool socks because I thought it would be a recipe for hot, sweaty feet. Not exactly what you want on a long run. But running shoes have lots of ventilation and, in cold weather, can make your feet extremely cold. I purchased a pair of these wool socks and they are hands-down my go-to pair for extra cold days.
- Mittens not gloves: Mittens keep your fingers together and help trap in heat. It’s as simple as that. There are quite a few pairs of running mittens out there to choose from. This pair is neat because it has both glove and mitten options thanks to a convertible flap.
- Neck warmer: I purchased a neck warmer made out of sweat-whicking material a few years ago and it has been a life saver on extra cold days. It keeps my neck warm – which helps me breathe – and keeps the cold air from pouring into my shirt. I can also pull it up over my nose and ears if it’s really nasty outside.
- Quick change: Changing out of sweaty running clothes as soon possible is non-negotiable. If I’m running with a group and away from home, I bring an extra sports bra and warm shirt at least. My running friends can attest to the fact that I will change at any time, anywhere, to get cold, sweaty clothes off of me. This will keep your body from getting chilled to the core and help stave off the sniffles.
- Stretch: While you may not feel warm, your muscles do and need a little love. Take the time to treat them right by working through a few key stretches, preferably within 15-20 minutes of finishing your run.
- Hydrate: Drinking water in the cold isn’t always second nature, but as with any workout, hydrating after is key to recovery. Room temperature H2O may be more tolerable, but try to get your hands on whatever you can.
- Hot Shower: Any list of cold running tips would be incomplete without a shout out to the very best part: the post-run hot shower. This only comes after you stretch and hydrate, though. Do it right!