Sub Zero Running

Embrace Cold Weather Running

Keep Training Even When The Temperatures Are Dropping

February 15, 2021 / Jacqueline Reneaud / 5 Comments

Last week, the Midwest saw several days of below-zero temperatures, prompting many runners to head for the treadmill. But some runners, like myself, cannot stand running on the treadmill. Therefore, outside I go, no matter the weather.

In fact, running in the snow can be one of the most bliss-filled experiences. There’s just something about running in freshly fallen snow, sparkling in the winter sun (or glow of a headlamp). Every fall, I look forward to crunching through the snow and cold temps. However, when the temperature drops, it can feel impossible to get out the door for a run. 

To conquer winter running, I like to create a plan of attack each week. I look to see if there are any snowstorms coming and try to plan my mileage around when I think the snowplows will be out. Winter running is a lot of guessing and trial and error, but you’ll eventually get into the swing of things. I also make sure that I plan my runs for the warmest part of the day. However, I’ve recently become a morning runner, so that isn’t always possible. If you’re a morning runner, keep a few things in mind:

Layer up! 

My go-to layers are a pair of thermal leggings, a wool base layer, a ¾ zip jacket, with a waterproof windbreaker, followed by a vest on especially cold days. I tuck my leggings into my socks and pull a buff over my face to try to cover up as much skin as possible.

Wool Everything

Wool is my new best friend. 

It’s breathable and temperature controlled, yet traps in the heat keeping me warm on those especially cold days. The fabric is anti-microbial AKA non-stink and wicks away sweat. I recently started wearing wool socks and my feet never get cold or wet anymore. (Bonus: wool is great in the summer too!)

Be Seen

Do not run in the dark without wearing some sort of reflective gear!

I wear a headlamp that also has a red light to catch drivers’ attention. I also wear a reflective headband, gloves, and vest. When in doubt, always assume that the car does not see you and will not stop.

Get Moving!

Once you get outside, get moving right away! Don’t stand around waiting for your GPS watch to connect — If you drive to a location to get your run started, boot up your watch in the car. Running from home? Turn on your watch and set it outside while you warm-up. If you stand around waiting for a connection, you’ll realize how cold it actually is.

Having the right gear is crucial to successful winter running. If you’re finding that even with the right gear, you’re struggling to get out the door, try mixing things up.

  • If you run the same route every day, try a new route or try running your usual route backwards.
  • On the weekends, drive to a nearby town and explore new trail or route.
  • Find an accountability partner in-person (if it’s safe to do so) or virtually. Instagram is a great place to find accountabila-buddies. I love sharing my running on social media, it helps hold me accountable!
  • Make a plan and stick to it. Schedule out your week on Sundays and make sure you stick to that plan like you would a work meeting.
  • If you’re a morning runner, set out all of your layers the night before. This saves time and also ensures that you have every layer and gear that you need! Also, keep your shoes inside so that your feet are toasty warm when you start out for your run.

Lastly, don’t stress about it– be flexible and patient with yourself. The cold temperatures and running through fluffy snow will slow you down, so don’t worry about your pace. If you are doing speed workouts, adjust your paces accordingly and make sure you are properly warmed up. It’s okay to miss a run when conditions are dangerous and move things around as needed. In the end, winter running can be challenging, but getting out the door in below zero windchill and snow will make you feel like a superhuman! There’s truly no other weather that I’d rather run in.

Jacqueline Reneaud

Jackie is a Detroit Free Press Marathon Ambassador, with plans to run the full marathon this fall. Jackie grew up in a family of runners and ran her first race when she was just one-year-old. She spent five years running cross country and track for Northwood University in Midland, Michigan. After graduating, she immediately began training for her first marathon and fell in love with it. You can follow along with Jackie’s training on Instagram @jackierunsalatte or on her blog

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5 thoughts on “Embrace Cold Weather Running”

  1. Do you typically wear your regular running shoes or trail shoes or something else for snowy runs? It seems like my trail running shoes would grip better in the snow but then you never can be sure how much of the way will be shoveled and I’m under the impression that running on regular road/sidewalk is otherwise bad for the lugs?

  2. I enjoyed reading your post ! I am now 72 years old And fortunate enough to be running in Florida ! When I was in Michigan Working I ran with a good friend every morning . Many mornings the weather was below 0 like you said ! But we still ran and had a great time!

  3. I couldn’t agree more! Winter is actually my favorite season to run. There is something magical about leaving your footprints in the freshly fallen snow. #puremichigan

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