Cold Weather Running Strategies

BY Hal Higdon

Hal asked his Facebook fans what their best tips for cold weather running were. Here are the top 6 answers.

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.

Cold Weather Running Recently, I held a contest on my Facebook page asking for questions to be answered here in this Weekly Q&A. Out of nearly 400 responses, I chose three winners, this one coming from Ark Bodi.


What is the best strategy for cold-weather running?


Before discussing strategies, Ark, let me comment that cold-weather running offers certain advantages. Some of America’s fastest Olympians have come from states like Minnesota: Buddy Edelen, Ron Daws, Janis Klecker, Bob Kempainen. One reason may have been that winter forced them to “do something different.” In order to cope with cold and snow, they modified training. They ran slower. They ran longer—or at least stayed out in the cold for longer periods of time. They got tougher. Having said that, here are some cold-weather strategies:

Cover Up 

Layer with wicking clothes. Protect your hands with double-layer mittens. A wool cap will prevent from heat from escaping your body. A scarf or facemask may make breathing easier. But don’t overdress. You don’t want to finish soaked in sweat.

Choose the Right Shoes 

Heavy shoes with nubbed bottoms, or even cleats, will help you maintain balance on slick and snowy roads. When faced with a patch of ice, slow down, stop, walk carefully cross it. Olympian Janis Klecker often trained on snowshoes.

Be Visible 

This is particularly important if forced to run in the dark. Wear a reflective vest so drivers can see you. Jump into a snowdrift, if necessary, to get out of their way. Or run at noon, temperatures usually are warmer mid-day.

Conquer the Wind 

Running the first few miles into a headwind will allow you to run the last few miles with a tailwind, always much pleasanter.

Cop an Attitude 

Given my opening remarks about Minnesota Olympians, embrace the idea that running through a brutal winter makes you tougher than those wusses down south. Schedule something down south. Become a wuss. Go down south yourself. Running a race in a warmer climate may provide a mid-winter break to refresh mind and body.

Cheat a Little 

I know you hate Dreadmills, but when the wind blows too strong and the snow drifts too high, sometimes they are your only option.

Finally, despite those years when winter lasts forever, when Global Warming seems nothing more than myth, spring eventually will come to the good people who wait.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.