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No off-season: Running through the winter

When the seasons change, many runners retire inside to hibernate for the colder climate. However, with the right mindset, the right gear and the right advice, you can come out on top this winter, and get a head start on those who opted for the off-season.


Running in winter can be hard. When the weather’s less than ideal, layering-up and heading out of the warmth can be the last thing anyone wants to do. But the next time you are thinking about whether to run because it’s too cold, remind yourself of this:


Every run you do in winter is worth two summer runs.


That’s because not only are you getting the benefit of heading out on a training session, but likely somewhere someone you may be up against in a race decided the weather today wasn’t right for them, putting you one step ahead.


Another of the most common reasons people don’t run in winter is because they think being cold on the run will make them fall sick. Research shows the opposite is true. Keeping active through the winter months helps stave off illness. What can lead to you falling ill is not dressing right for the weather, which is where having the right gear is so important for properly running in winter.


The right gear

Most running gear gives an indication of what it can be used for. Some have temperature gauges, others fancy-made up names, but, when it comes to the cold, there are only three main categories of gear to go for:


Wind resistant

As the name says, wind resistant running materials provide a layer of protection from chill. This is especially handy in open, wide areas when winter running.


Rain resistant

The name again says it all. Rain resistant is often waterproof in the key areas that need protection when on the run. Often, rain resistance is only from water coming from above, to save weight and still provide breathability.


Snow resistant

This gear tends to contain some kinds of thermal or insulated layers that generally are also both wind and rain resistant. This kind of gear is for the most dedicated winter runner who won’t let anything stand in their way of heading out doors for a run.


Layering up for the weather

Most commonly, running in winter needs some degree (pun intended) of layering. Depending on the temperature and how hot you become when you run, a common layering system comprises of thermal or compression base layer, mid-layer of lighter materials (standard long-shirt running tees and pants) and thicker, adjustable outer covering (such as zip-up running jacket with a hood). The key is adaptability, as often the temperature can change up and down when winter running, so being able to change with it is what layering is all about.


The shoes to choose in winter

Just like with the gear, your running shoes need to be resilient to the weather and adhere to all the same conditions. The most important feature is being waterproof for winter, as running through rain and snow can quickly weigh down a shoe and chill you from your feet up. Grip is the other main thing to look for in winter running shoes, to keep you in control when the weather loses it.

The Cloudventure Waterproof
Waterproof trail running shoe.
See more.


Running in the rain

This is where grip comes in to its own for running. As water creates a layer between your footfall and the road, slipping is common in the rain (nothing new there). Recently, many professional triathletes have been opting for trail running shoes when conditions are wet on the track. The extra grip and control they get from these shoes are worth the extra weight or bulk that a trail shoe may have over a traditional road running shoe – something to consider if slipping on a track doesn’t appeal to you.


Running in the snow

When it comes to snow running, expect it to be slow. Funnily enough, running in snow in the same ways as running along the beach have been shown to be some of the best running exercises to do to increase overall running performance. This is because of the extra 20% needed to take off from a slightly sunken starting position, with your ankles needing to dig a little deeper than normal to find and hold that ideal take off position. So, if weak ankles or injuries are common for you, winter running might actually be one of the best choices for you to make to gain that little extra strength.

How to fall over

No runner likes to admit it but as the ground gets slippery, falling becomes a very real part of the experience (though always embarrassing: nothing we can do to help with that). We quickly wanted to touch on how best to fall so as not to hurt yourself. If you do find you’re slipping and a fall can’t be stopped, try and land on your rump as if sitting. Likely nothing bad will happen to you if you land like this as you have the body’s best cushioning working in favor, so once you’re right, pick yourself up and keep going – red face and all.


What to do after a winter run

Congratulations! You did the hard part in getting out there, now there’s just a few things to do differently to when you run in normal weather. The first is strip off any wet clothes, as this can lead to your body temperature dropping significantly after the run. Strip off, have a warm shower if feeling cold or as needed, then go back and clean shoes and your running gear and dry it in a warm place, or put it in the wash.


If your usual post-run recovery involves a protein shake, swap out the cold water (or milk) for warm. Warm fluid is actually absorbed by the body faster than cold, and has the double effect of helping you feel back to normal internally from any cold you sustained on the run. It’s also commonly recommended over winter you boost your vitamin C and iron, such as by drinking orange juice or citrus fruits (vitamin C) and red meat, beans or eggs (iron), as this helps further ward off any potential sicknesses you may have picked up out there.


The other way to run in winter: The gym (or the pool)

If cold weather is just too much for you, but you want to maintain your levels of running fitness, treadmill running in winter is something you can do to stay and maintain your training, If you have access to a heated pool, aqua running (running against the resistance of the water) is another way to add in a varied training routine that can be valuable for you if the “hamster-wheel” of treadmill running daily in winter becomes too much for you and you’re looking to mix things up.


All said and done, winter should be no excuse to get there and running. All the benefits of summer running with the extra reasons of it boosting immunity and battling against sour winter moods are enough to add on a few layers of protection and head out there against Mother Nature. You’ll be thankful you did when spring and summer roll around and other runners are starting to fight back to where they were fitness wise months ago, but you’re ready to run PB’s thanks to having kept going all through the season.


To end, we’ve gathered a few of the most common questions people have about running in winter to further give you the right incentives and facts when facing winter running.




Is it better/worse to run in cold weather?

With the right gear, running in cold weather is the same as running in any other weather. The only complication is that breathing can be affected by the cold, dry air so is the temperature outside is below 4 degrees Celsius, best to cover your mouth with a mask or scarf to create a barrier for warm air. 


Do you burn more calories in the cold?

You burn slightly more calories in the cold, however not much. This is through shivering, which occurs when parts of you may not be sufficiently protected from the cold, but again, it is only a tiny difference to how many calories you would burn on the run usually.


What to do if it turns too cold while running?

If you are trapped out in the cold, the most important things to do is find somewhere away from the wind and not to get wet. From there, if you run in dangerous climates, always take your phone with you so you can call for help, or at least, let someone else know where you’re headed before you head out into extreme weather.


How cold is too cold to run in?

This depends on the person, but with the right gear, any temperature can be right for a run!


Do I need as much water when I’m running in the cold?

A little-known fact is that when you’re running in the cold, the air is dry around you (despite all the liquid in snow). To prevent breathing problems, you should drink more water in the cold than you think to keep your airways and mouth moist.

The Cloudflyer Waterproof
Go the distance even in a downpour with this waterproof lightweight support shoe.