Here’s some cold weather running tips

I want a spaniel in a sapphire sweater now.

I would love to tell you all that I wake up every single day motivated to run and run all the miles through Hades or high water. However, that hasn’t been true for the past few weeks. If it’s not one thing to deflate the motivation, it really is another.

Last Wednesday I made myself run two miles on the treadmill, which felt exhilarating and a little uncomfortable since I hadn’t ran in so long. The runner’s high still found its way back and I was feeling proud of myself once I was walking back to my apartment.

Then my mom called with some news about my grandfather. Back in July of 2018, he underwent testing that confirmed he had cancer. Thankfully his doctor caught it early and was aggressive in treating it – outpatient surgery, about a month of chemotherapy and follow up appointments to confirm the cancer was gone. Every three months he has preventative procedures to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back, and so far it had not.

Unfortunately, the cancer came back and he’s undergoing an outpatient procedure on December 17th – the day after my birthday and a week and a day before Christmas. He’s nervous and worried about the what ifs, while the rest of our family is also worrying about him and how he’s going to be feeling around the holidays.

The next three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – were sleepy days. It’s pretty normal for me to battle the sleepies once the weather starts to turn and the days get shorter. I actually surprised myself by sleeping in until 8 a.m. on Saturday. I could have sworn I set my alarm clock the night before, but according to my cat Marina and her velociraptor opera performance, I did not and I overslept pretty badly.

Although I did feel pretty good all day Saturday though. I’m going to designate that Tip #1take advantage of cold, dark days to rest and catch up on sleep. Bodies need sleep to function well in daily life and athletic training, and winter is the time of year the world slows down naturally. There’s no point fighting nature.

But come Saturday night, I knew I needed to get my butt in gear. I laid out my running clothes for the next morning, which was the first time I got out a few of my winter items. In hindsight I probably should have dug out my gloves sooner. The water bottles were filled up and my Garmin watch charging on my laptop.

Tip #2always have your running clothes, shoes and accessories ready to go. This is true for any time of day, such as a lunch time run or running immediately after work. But for morning runners – or those trying to get into the habit of running first thing in the morning – the temptation to skip any running is at its strongest. You’re tired, you haven’t had your coffee (depending on how coffee affects your system, it might be a better idea to wait until after the run to have it) and it’s dark and cold outside. That’s why you have to keep your clothes, shoes and any outer layers laid out and ready to go so you can’t let yourself off the hook with excuses.

I figured since I ran those two miles last Wednesday, I should run eight miles. This was a jump from where I started, but I have a thing with needing to run in five or tens. So if I ran three miles on Monday and three on Wednesday, then by Friday, Saturday or Sunday I would need to run four miles to get that number equal to 10 miles for the week.

Running two miles on Wednesday meant I needed to run eight to get to the magic 10 number. Or I could run three miles and call it a day with five total, but I like to overshoot things. Keeps life spicy and interesting, you see.

Going along with accessories is Tip #3 – make sure your phone, watch or whatever GPS you’re using is protected in the cold. I prefer my watch, but on mornings where it’s not loaded up and I don’t want to wait, I use the Strava app on my phone to keep track of my miles. I learned during the 2017 Indy Monumental the cold weather can cause phones to freeze up and shut down. Depending on how you like to carry your phone (if you do), I recommend sticking the phone in a plastic bag first, followed by whatever pouch or pocket you’re carrying it in as extra protection against the cold. And make sure it’s fully charged before you go out in case of an emergency. You can’t be too prepared.

Sunday (yesterday) morning

I set my alarm for 5:30. This wasn’t so much for the run but to get Marina fed before waking up the rest of the complex with her hillbilly battle cry. She got to eat on time and take advantage of Mommy snuggles while I tried some Starbucks hot chocolate.

Swiss Miss is better, in case anyone was wondering.

Eventually I got out of my place about 9:30. I was fine with that since my weather app said it was going to be 28 and overcast, so I took the first part of my morning to get my kitchen cleaned. Then I got on my face creams with SPF, got changed and went out.

That’s Tip #4 – wear moisturizer and especially SPF in cold weather. SPF is important no matter what time of year to prevent sun damage, skin cancer and premature aging. Moisturizer under it – basically two moisturizers – can keep the dryness and cold winter air from chapping lips and noses. I love CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for how thick and non-comedogenic it is, a perfect mix between hydrating and protective. You can find this at any drugstore or big box store.

The last time I ran outside was Nov. 10th, and I went into yesterday’s run expecting it to be difficult. I started running and to my surprise, I actually felt really good. I felt strong and wasn’t cold like I thought I would be, since it was only around 30 degrees and I chose not to wear my puffer vest.

Speaking of puffer vest, that’s going to lead into Tip #5: head, ears, chest and hands. The general rule is that when you’re running in cold weather, you’re going to want to keep the areas furthest from your heart the most warm. Beanie caps or thick winter hats can help keep your head warm and comfortable on a run. Ears can get frostbitten in cold temperatures, and if you’re like me there’s something about cold air blowing in there that causes ear aches and migraines, so it’s best to wear an earband.

Depending on where you’re running – if the sun is out and there’s no shady/overcast areas – you might not need it, but a puffer vest can make all the difference on a cold windy day to keep your chest warm without feeling stifling. Body temperatures jump up about 20 degrees while running, so if you’re running outside in 25 degrees it could feel like it’s 45. A coat or full jacket might feel like too many layers, but the puffer vest will keep warm without feeling bulky and uncomfortable.

Gloves are important for the obvious reasons – preventing frostbite and windburn.

Now I’m going back to yesterday after the run. I didn’t complete eight miles, instead stopping at four so I could get inside, get brunch and get a warm shower. Even though I made myself stop, the runner’s high had swung in and I didn’t feel like it. I felt joyful and bliss while running, which I didn’t even feel back in November, and that was an otherwise good run. I felt like I could go on forever.

My mojo was back and as I was running, I remembered why I started. Running is a love, and it’s my love. It’s my reminder to myself that all is right in the world even when it doesn’t seem right. I was glowing and grinning that morning.

Seven hours later I was having a time sitting down and wondered if 5:30 p.m. was too early to go to bed. Sam confirmed that it is indeed too early and we watched some Netflix instead.

I originally planned on this post offering five tips, but then I realized there’s a bonus tip that I didn’t learn until I was running and feeling the perfectly chilly wind kiss my face. That Bonus Tip is: don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing it.

The upcoming winter months can be a pretty serious (and honestly kinda dreary) time for runners, from first-timers sticking to their new year’s resolutions or seasoned runners beginning a new cycle of full or half training. But first and foremost, running has to be fun and spark joy within you. So bundle up and don’t forget to smile, even if nobody else can see it under your gaiter.

Yours in cool running,


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