How to Make Yourself Run When It's Cold

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The arctic blast that hit Chattanooga in mid-November took many locals by surprise. One afternoon it was 65 degrees, perfect shorts weather, the next, it was a balmy 27 degrees – a bit too cold for skin exposure and just chilly enough to make you reconsider that morning run. Still, the trees and their changing leaves are lovely, and the sun is out, so don't let a little chilly weather keep you from enjoying your regular outdoor run.

We’ve put together a handy list of tips and tricks to get you motivated for a cold-weather run, from helping you get out the door to staying warm, even when the mercury dips.

1. Go with a group

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One possibility is to go with the Chattanooga Trail Runners . Check out their site and then sign up to get information about all the runs they go on together. You’ll get a notice whenever a run is scheduled, and you can schedule runs as well. There’s a standing Wednesday evening run with a moving start location and other runs get added daily.

Another option is to meet up with one of Fast Break Athletics' group runs. There are a variety of them throughout the week. Monday is speed work, Thursday night is a trail run at Stringer’s, and on Sunday morning, there’s a long trail run that meets at various places.

The Chattanooga Track Club also offers scheduled runs on nearly every day of the week, and sometimes several run options are available for specific days. Currently, you can choose from organized runs on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The runs are on the road and range from easy beginner routes, to intense track workouts, to high mileage weekend runs, and all paces are welcome.

2. Set a goal

Maybe your goal is a race in the winter or spring. Maybe it’s avoiding the holiday weight gain, or maybe you want to get in great shape for the new year. Maybe you just feel better when you’re moving and you want to enjoy running year-round, even when it's chilly. Having a goal to work toward will be a great motivator to lace up your sneakers and head out into the cold temperatures.

3. Wear the right clothes

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Running – or doing anything, really – in cold temperatures can become downright miserable if you don’t have the right clothing. But you have to choose wisely to make sure you don’t overheat, either. Zach Winchester, co-owner of Fast Break, recommends dressing as though the weather is 20-30 degrees warmer than what the thermostat says. If you dress for the actual temperature, you’ll end up having to remove clothing or get overheated.

In addition, with all the great technical clothing on the market, it can be hard to figure out what you really need. A few general guidelines: Materials such as wool, polypropylene, capilene, and some wool/synthetic blends help wick moisture away from your body, helping keep you warm and dry. Plus, wearing thin layers helps trap warm air between each layer, keeping you warmer than one heavy layer, and you can remove a layer if you get too warm. (This strategy works with socks as well). A waterproof windbreaker or shell offers protection from wind and rain, making a huge difference in how much you enjoy your day in the woods.

More specifics on what you should be wearing:

Hat:  Some people prefer a hat that fully covers their head because it allows them to wear fewer layers, yet stay warm. If a hat makes you too warm, keep your ears warm with a headband or ear warmer. If you don’t already know what works best for you, experiment on a shorter run.

Gloves: Some people struggle with keeping their hands warm when the weather turns nippy. Try lightweight wool glove liners alone or with a nylon over mitten, or use heavy wool gloves with the over mitten if it is especially cold out. This approach gives you the benefit of having finger mobility if you need to unzip a fanny pack pocket for snacks or zip up a jacket. Some gloves also come with nylon on the backs to help break the wind. Don’t forget to try on whatever pair you choose ahead of time to make sure you get the right size.

Tights or pants: Tights come in a variety of fabric weights, blends, and “tightnesses”; some, like the gloves mentioned above, come with nylon over the front of the thighs to help break the wind. Tights with nylon wind pants can be a nice option for additional warmth.

Shirt: Layering is a great idea. Try a wool- short or long-sleeve shirt and add a ¼-long sleeve pullover or a technical T as an extra layer.

Jacket: A windbreaker or lightweight fleece can make a huge difference in keeping you warm. Gore-Tex is ideal because it releases moisture from the body while keeping out moisture from the outside elements. Nylon is a less expensive option and does a good job too, especially blocking wind. For extra warmth on your torso, try wool or fleece.

Socks : A winter staple in cold climates, wool socks come in a variety of heights so you can keep your ankles warm if you like. Try a synthetic or blend next to your skin and wool on top, or go with a thin or thick wool. Warm feet are happy feet, even if they get wet.

Shoes : Shoes can make or break your day in the woods. First of all, make sure your pair fits properly. Some people prefer lightweight shoes that drain if they get wet, while others love a Gore-tex shoe for winter. Chances are you’ll encounter rain and snow in the winter so a good tread can be a huge help in navigating rocks and slick areas.

Another must-have, especially for early morning or evening treks? Something reflective. Your chances of running in the half light are much greater during the winter months, and it's important for your safety that cars can see you.

Again, don't let the chilly temps stop you. Grab the appropriate gear and hit some Chattanooga trails... It'll be a nice head start for next year's resolutions.

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