Conquer The Cold So You Can Conquer The Land

You did it. You spent time researching the perfect spring race. You looked for a great course, fantastic crowd support, and “must have” swag. You found it, you put your name in some boxes online, and you clicked “Register Me.” Excitement and nerves flush over you. You grab your journals and start getting your training plan laid out. Then you realize, “oh no, I have to train through winter!”

This was me last year. This is also me this year, and if you’re anywhere in the northern part of the country, this is probably you.  I signed up for my first full marathon last year, (Cleveland!), but was not prepared for those double digit long runs in the cold. I am not much of a treadmill runner – I don’t have the mental stamina to conquer that machine so kudos to you if you have that! – which meant I would wind up running my first ever 18-miler in sub 20 degree weather.

So, how do you get through it? There are a lot of articles online with recommendations on apparel, tips, and other training advice for surviving (and enjoying) winter weather running. Here are just a few of mine:

Apparel – Apparel is crucial. You want to stay warm but not overheat. I made the mistake of overdressing and then overheating too many times to count, and let’s face it, sometimes I still do. We want to be warm, right? What we forget is that our body heats up about 10 degrees or more while we are running. These are the few pieces of running apparel that I find to be essential during winter training:

Leggings/Joggers. Get yourself a pair of quality leggings/joggers. I tend to be more skeptical on paying a lot for clothing, but last year I bit that bullet and bought a pair of fleece-lined lululemon leggings. Best clothing decision I’ve ever made (I went back and got a second pair). These leggings kept my legs warm which allowed me to really work during my workouts without fear of cold muscles tensing up. Whatever brand you prefer, invest in at least one pair of quality warm running bottoms (not sure where to start? Head to your local running store!). 

Gloves. I hate frozen hands. If my fingertips were cold, I felt like the rest of me would NEVER get warm. I have a pair of running gloves (those fun ones with the fleece on the thumb for when your nose gets runny) that work well. On even colder days, I would layer up with a cheap pair of cotton gloves over top of those and just take them off when my hands got warm a few miles in.

Buff/hat/ear warmer. The only thing I dislike more than cold hands is cold ears. There are a lot of options out there for keeping your head warm. You can get a hat (ones with pony tail holes for the women). If you like seeing the snowflakes in your hair and scalp, then try an ear warmer. But whatever you do, I would recommend getting something to keep your head warm. I also prefer a buff to cover my neck and chin on those super cold days.

And just a few other tips-

  • Make sure you find a place to run that is safe. Not worrying about ice on your running path eases your mind and really allows you to put the effort into your workout.
  • Pack dry clothing. If you are not finishing your run at home, it is helpful to change out of your wet and sweaty clothing quickly. I even got some cheap leg warmers off Amazon that I put on with my new clothing to help my legs from tightening up too quickly.
  • Consider having warm water in an insulated thermos ready to go. It will keep your body from going straight into shivering mode.
  • Enjoy yourself. Remember to be thankful that your strong body is allowing you to be out running! You will see some beautiful scenes during your snow covered runs. You’ll be cold, but remember to enjoy the moment and how much of a “crazy runner” you are. Own it!

Good luck training this winter/spring, and hope to see you at the Finish Line in Cleveland!


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