Running outside in the winter can be daunting if you haven’t done it before, but I highly encourage you to give it a try if the weather isn’t too cold. It is a great way to get out during a season where you are usually stuck inside, and the cold air can be refreshing if you are wearing the right gear. Luckily we’ve had a pretty mild winter this year in NYC, so I’ve embraced winter running again. Here are a few tips I picked up during the past three years when I trained outside during winter (in all temperatures).
Take a look at the wind speed before you go out and make sure to incorporate that into the “real feel” temperature. A windy day in winter can be a game-changer taking the feel down 10 degrees even if the temperature is relatively high and it seems sunny. A good rule of thumb is you should walk out in your running gear and feel slightly cold. If you feel comfortable you will overheat when you begin your run. If there is ice, snow, or the streets are not clear: proceed with caution and consider taking it indoors.
Keep in mind everybody is different and what might work for one person won’t work for everyone. My body runs cold and I prefer layers when most people wouldn’t. These are some general recommendations for what to wear based on the temperature:
- 50+ degrees: This is the home run of winter running temperatures. Go outside and take advantage of it. Depending if your body runs hot or cold, you can opt for shorts or capris. Long sleeve breathable shirt is recommended. If windy or your body runs cold, you can consider a light jacket or vest.
- 40-49 degrees: If your body runs cold, consider leggings, otherwise most will be fine with shorts/capris. If the temperature is at the lower end of this range, wear a windbreaker and a breathable layer under (short sleeve or a light long sleeve if your body runs cold). Particularly if it’s windy, wear something to protect your ears (such as a light headband). If it is in the lower end of this range, take gloves such as these (no need to be fancy, just thin running gloves should do for most winter running).
- 30-40 degrees: Consider a windbreaker with a thicker base layer, or a heavier winter running jacket. I purchased this tech base layer (also available for men) through amazon that I’ve found works great for winter running or winter sports. Include a headband and running gloves as your extremities will feel cold and you will lose heat through them quickly, and make sure your neck is protected with either a jacket or neck warmer.
- Below 30 degrees: Depending on the wind chill, this can still be enjoyable running weather if you are feeling like a run (or if it is in your training plan to get the miles in and you’d rather do it outside). Wear a thick base layer with a neck warmer, lined headband, and gloves. You can purchase a neck warmer that can also be reused for other activities like winter sports – I have a similar one to this that I use for running and snowboarding. I also recommend winter lined fleece running leggings which are thicker than normal. I have a similar pair like these polartec tights from Athleta and love them.
No matter what you decide to wear, always make sure it’s breathable, especially if it is a base layer. If not the sweat will stick to your skin and no one wants that when the temperatures drop.
Plan Your Route Ahead of Time
One of my least favorite parts about winter running is the minute you stop or walk, the chill begins to set in and you realize how much you’ve been sweating. Plan your route so your cool off is done near to your house or apartment.
If you need the motivation, sign up for a race
Staying in shape and healthy is many people’s new year’s resolutions but it can be difficult to have the motivation when it is dark and cold. Signing up for a race will help keep you motivated no matter the weather. If you are in the tri-state area NYRR has an impressive roster of winter racing including the popular NYC Half Marathon in mid-March.
Hydrate and Bring Water With You
Even though it’s colder and you feel like you’re sweating less and are less thirsty, hydration and electrolytes are still important. Unfortunately in a lot of areas (like NYC) the fountains are shut off in the winter to avoid freezing. Make sure to bring a water bottle or hydration belt so you don’t have to rely on fountains.
Other favorite items for winter running:
Please note that as an Amazon Associate I earn a commission from qualifying purchases – there is no difference in price to you if you decide to purchase, but it will help me support this site.
I should probably become a spokesperson for FlipBelt and have referred everyone I know to them. Even though you have a jacket and pockets in winter, I still use my FlipBelt because it holds my phone and other belongings with no jiggle or discomfort when I run. I prefer the zipper version so I don’t have to worry about my valuables, although it is a little more expensive than the original.
I also use FlipBelt’s water bottles, which I use any time my run is over an hour outside in the winter. I prefer the smaller 6oz version because it’s easy to slip in and out, and can easily fit two in the belt.
I still use sunglasses when it’s a sunny winter day – some people are into them and some aren’t. I personally love running with sunglasses and have gone through at least 3 pairs. These from Rivbos are my favorite – they are polarized, sturdy, comfortable, and don’t wobble. I had a false alarm when I threw them into the bottom of a bag prior to a race and one of the arms popped out, however, it could easily pop back in, so I can attest to its durability.