Tag Archives: cold weather running

Chilling Out, But Still Running


Winter has Michigan firmly in its grip. The snow is falling, the wind is blowing, and we have below-zero wind chills. So my non-runner friends have begun asking (with tone assuming Yes), “So you’re done running for the winter,” and “I suppose you’re doing your running inside now?”


First Snow Run 2015-2016

I admit it’s harder to get motivated to run outside than in the non-winter months. Here I rely upon sheer habit, and having others to run with. So far it’s worked, even with my new 6:00 a.m. midweek run. The only thing crazier than my friend Hirak and I running together last Wednesday in the frigid dark was that we saw a few people running solo. Sorry, but that’s just dumb – slip and sprain your ankle at that hour, and you could be a statue by the time the ambulance arrives.

I run year-round but I consider this the “off season” when it comes to racing. This means the workouts at Body Specs are pretty brutal, but they’re meant to build strength for the spring and summer. So I cut back a bit on distances and don’t race as much.

It's as much fun as it looks.

Yes, that’s a tension strap around my shoulders. It’s as much fun as it looks.

I did sneak in the Holiday Hustle 5K on December 10. Since I was also managing our Zero Waste team for the race, I was there from setup through teardown. So my afternoon went something like this:

– Freeze my tail off for four hours
– Get warm for 20 minutes running the 5K
– Freeze my tail off for two more hours.

I think he brought the weather with him.

I think he brought the weather with him.

So you might think I would be looking forward to a nice warm interlude until the Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K in late January. Do a little training on the treadmill, or just curl up by the fireplace with hot chocolate for a few weeks. Seems only fair.

So what did I do?

Signed up for a 50K trail ultra. On January 7. In Michigan.

And I’m looking forward to it.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI (photo from their page).

To the inevitable question I can offer two reasons: because 2017 is my “off the wall” year for athletic events (more to follow there) and because I’ve never done a winter ultra before. So why not?

And you know what? Yesterday morning’s run with the PR Run Club started out pretty chilly and bleak, but we had a good turnout anyway. And halfway through, the sun came out in a bright blue sky, and the snow around us lit up in brilliant white. And boy, did hot coffee taste good afterward.

That’s why I run outside in the winter.

I really must run!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

Go gotta have fun!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

How to Gear up for Winter Running

IT’S BEEN A BIT NIPPY OUTSIDE, as those of you in the Midwest may have noticed, and at under 30 degrees, my running gloves just cannot keep my hands warm. I have Brooks mittens that do the job, but I could not find them. My daughter, who also runs, dug around in her car and came up with – one of them. As a logician might say, that is necessary but not sufficient. But the Saturday morning temperature at group run was 10 degrees, so I took it along.

No time to waste - no way I want to miss out on any pie!

No time to waste – no way I want to miss out on any pie!

I wore the mitten on my left hand, with a double glove on my right. After one mile my left hand was comfortable enough, while the fingers on my right were nearly numb. Clearly better protection was needed, so it was off to Running Fit (running, naturally) to buy a new pair of mittens. At the store, someone was asking the clerk what one wears for a winter run. Unlike for summer running, answering that question is not so easy.

There’s a surprisingly large number of cold-weather clothing options these days, and like with running shoes, much depends on the particular runner. How quickly do you warm up? Are you acclimated to the cold? How far are you running? How fast will you be going? Even at the same temperature and wind conditions, people choose very different outfits. However, the basic principle is the same: dress in layers.

Winter Outfit - LighterFor example, here is what I wore today, an easy pace with the temperature around 30 degrees and not much wind. The blue shirt was next to my skin, what runners call the “base layer”, with the long sleeve on top of it. No special needs here, just two regular running shirts. Then the blue windbreaker (see below) as the jacket. Wind briefs and tights for the lower body, medium socks, hat, and gloves made up the rest. In this outfit I was actually a bit too warm and unzipped the jacket for the second half of the run.

Winter Outfit - HeavierBy contrast, this outfit was what I wore yesterday morning. Still two layers, but the base layer was long sleeve and the top shirt is a “thermal” – thicker, with a tighter weave. On top was the yellow jacket, which has an extra lining to keep out more wind and rain. (It’s also a good all-season cycling jacket.) This combination works down into the single digits for me. In fact, the red shirt is so warm that many runners in our group don’t use a jacket with it. The headgear is a balaclava, which can be worn in many configurations from hat-like to covering the entire face. Also note the thicker socks.

Cat neck wrap is an optional accessory.

Jacket choices. (Cat neck wrap is an optional accessory.)

If it’s really cold, I can double up on the tights and use the hooded red jacket, which is specifically designed for winter running. It’s surprisingly light and comfortable for how warm it keeps me – so warm, in fact, that I have to use it carefully to avoid sweating too heavily.

Everything, including the wind briefs, is a synthetic material designed to wick moisture away from the skin. As we say in the running world, “Cotton is rotten” because it retains moisture. Thus you can get soaked on the inside from sweating, which in cold weather is potentially dangerous. So if you want to try winter running, that’s great, but please don’t do it in sweatshirt and jeans. Spend a few bucks and get the right gear. It makes a huge difference.

Ah, you say, but isn’t there one piece of critical gear missing? Quite so – I haven’t mentioned the shoes. In general, I like to wear lightweight shoes most of the year. For the cold and snow, however, I use something a bit sturdier. I recently bought two new pairs, one of which has an unusual feature I’m still trying to figure out if I like. More to come.