Baby, It’s Cold Outside (aka How to Survive Winter Running)

Well, it seems to be that time of year. Snow. Ice. Wind. Cold. You know – WINTER. In my opinion, it should be a 4-letter word. But whether you loathe it or love it, I’m sure we can all agree that it changes things for those of us out on the roads.

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Don’t throw things at me for this truly anti-Canadian confession, but I am just not a fan of winter. And I am especially not a fan of winter now that I am a runner! I can no longer hole up, stay warm and wait for it to be over. I now have to embrace it, get out there and spend lots of quality time in the bitter invigorating temps.

Last weekend, Alana came to town to join me on my regular Sunday run. Once in a while, when one of us is looking for a little added motivation, this seems like a great quick fix. We run the same trail at our own paces, starting and finishing together, and then reward ourselves with lunch and shopping for some running-related necessities. (Okay, maybe they are not always necessities. Semantics.)

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Sunday was a day that was almost too cold to be out for a run. And it takes a lot for me to say that. While I don’t love winter running, it is rarely the cold that gets to me – it is the snow and ice, the wind and the darker evenings. But on this day? WOWZA! It was -20 degrees Celsius with the wind. I mean, that is stupid cold. I am talking so cold that my hands froze in my gloves and went numb. When my iPod decided to jump off my race belt at the 3K mark, I could not move my fingers to reattach it. I decided to run for 1 more kilometre and then turn back if things still felt this dangerously dire. Luckily, I did warm up and eventually got some feeling back in my digits. But I had to wonder if I had lost my ever-lovin’ mind out there on that trail.

This is my 3rd winter of running and I’ve learned some things about dressing the part and making it work (surviving, if not exactly thriving), but this was hands-down the coldest run I have ever done. I never did hit that point of shedding a layer or two, but I did squeak out a 10-miler while Alana finished her 10K. When all was said and done, we looked at each other and didn’t even need to exchange words: this time, we needed  to go shopping!

So what do you need to survive winter running?

Hat and Scarf: This combo is not just for your kids on their way to school anymore! Mommy needs a set too. I have a warm hat and neck warmer from Lululemon that I love, and that is exactly what Alana was on the hunt for after our run. I sometimes layer the hat over my running hat so that I still have a brim to offer some protection from the sun. On days that are not quite this ridiculously cold, you can remove the extra layer once you warm up and still have some coverage. Plus it is obviously a killer look…right?

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Gloves and Mitts: Where I hit an epic fail in this weather was with my gloves. They are thin running gloves and, although I’ve survived 2 winters with them, they were just not even close to being enough on this particular day. A stop at the Running Room helped me to prepare for the next brutally cold day. They recommended that I buy a mitten shell to wear over the gloves. Giddy up. Haven’t tried them yet, but it makes sense to layer on the hands like I am layering everywhere else.

Yak Trax: If you are running in snow and ice, and don’t want to wipe out, you may want to try some shoe covers like Yak Trax. These fit over your shoes and offer extra gripping protection so you can get through the snow and make it over any icy patches in one piece. It doesn’t actually feel much different to run with them on your shoes once you get used to them. They definitely made it much more manageable to run outside last winter when the snow just kept coming down.

winter shoes

Base Layers and Outer Layers: I tend to wear a tank top as well as a long-sleeved base layer. You can top it off with your choice – a warm pull-over or a running jacket. If you go with the running jacket, you may need to add another layer underneath as jacket shells are great against the wind, but don’t offer a lot of warmth.

Pants or Tights: Or both! You will want some warmer running pants to get you through the winter. Even if you normally run in tights, it might be a good idea to investigate some pants for colder days. I have a few pairs (also from Lululemon) that really work for me. The ones I go to on the coldest days are cinched at the bottom so there is no opportunity for the cold air to bite at your ankles.

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Lights: It gets dark early and stays dark later so, if you run in the evening or early in the morning, you need to make yourself seen. I have both a Saucony LED light-up jacket and Knuckle Lights to ensure I am clearly visible. The Knuckle Lights are great because you can point them wherever you need more light, which helps as you move on and off sidewalks or through any bumpy, uneven areas. As a bonus, you can shine the light at your Garmin to see how much longer you have to tough it out!

Hopefully this helps to get you prepped for the cold – if you can’t avoid it, you might as well embrace it by dressing the part. And let’s face it, there are loads of great spring races that necessitate staying on the road through the darker, colder months. If you are really lucky, you might get a respite by choosing a destination race somewhere warm! Especially after this weekend’s run, we are desperately looking forward to running in California in January which is just more motivation to suck it up and get the runs in despite the falling temps. Soon enough we’ll be rewarded with pixie dust as we earn our wings at the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon!

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Happy running, everyone – stay warm, stay strong!

Tell Us: What are your “must have” items for winter running?

~Princess Jodi

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3 thoughts on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside (aka How to Survive Winter Running)

  1. Lights – I forgot to put one in my bag the other day and had to cut my run short after work so that I could get back before dark. So important! I wish that it would snow where I live now (I lived in Minnesota for a long time and miss the snow!)

  2. I hear ya about the winter. Every year it’s the same thing for me. The season changes (overnight it seems), and I’m shocked. “How’d it get THIS cold?” I envy your courage. I sold out and bought a treadmill a couple of years ago. I know it’s boring, but I’d rather be warm. <<<Not an outdoor winter enthusiast!

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