Running in Cold Weather Tips: How to Run Outside in the Winter

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Not only does adding another layer keep those sensitive regions warmer than a simple pair of tights or leggings, but it also gives you the flexibility to adjust for changing conditions, like if your run starts out super cold in the morning, but heats up as the sun begins to shine. Plus, it does so without the bulk of layering on two pairs of pants.

Quinn’s favorites are from Swedish company Skhoop. Shorter versions like the synthetic Mini Skirt ($99, Skhoop) or Mini Down ($139, Backcountry) keep your sensitive regions warm while allowing plenty of freedom to move your legs.

To keep yourself as warm as can be, start with a snug-fitting, moisture-wicking base layer, which holds heat close to your body and transfers moisture away before adding the skirt or shorts.

3. Wear a jacket that’s windproof in front and breathable in back.

This combo is essential so you have protection from biting cold, but won’t overheat, Quinn says. Worthwhile options include the Saucony Women’s Vitarun Jacket ($120, Saucony) or the Brooks Nightlife Jacket ($160, Brooks), which also makes you more visible during early-morning or dusk runs.

As far as under the jacket goes, Mayer likes New Balance gear like the NB Heatgrid Hoodie, ($90, New Balance). Or, if you don’t have a wool sensitivity, look for base layers made out of merino, a softer, thinner fabric than regular wool—for instance, the Smartwool Women’s Merino 250 Base Layer Pattern 1/4 Zip in XS to XL (from $69, Amazon) or plus sizes ($115, Smartwool).

It’s tough to give a one-temperature-fits-all guide for winter-running clothing. Exactly how much you wear depends a lot on your internal thermometer and factors like your body shape and size, Craighead says. Experiment and see what works for you. If you’re a little cold at the beginning but sweating by the end of your run, you’ll know you’re doing it right, Quinn says.

4. Opt for smaller running loops.

Instead of a long out-and-back, try making smaller loops around your house or car instead. That way, if you wind up colder than you think, you’ll have an exit strategy—a place to either cut your run short or at least warm up for a while, O’Connell says. (And if you get too warm, you can drop off some of your layers, Craighead says.)

Before you head out, check the wind speed and direction using a weather app, or even just watching the way smoke and steam are blowing out of the top of buildings. If you can, run into the wind on the first part of your run, so you’ll have a tailwind on the way back. If you can’t tailor your runs that way, at least you’ll know ahead of time that conditions will be a lot colder on your return, O’Connell says.

And you probably do this already—but if you’re running by yourself, take your phone. “If you’re really in a tough spot, you can Uber up a ride and be able to get home,” Mayer said. Keep it tucked in an inner layer so it stays warm enough to function.

5. Make a standing date with a running buddy—and decide on a temperature cutoff.

When O’Connell and elite Manhattan-based obstacle course racer Faye Stenning—the other half of Grit Coaching—both lived in Canada, they paired up for cold-weather runs, a strategy that kept them safe and accountable. Find a like-minded running partner and make some simple rules—for instance, say you’ll meet every Tuesday at 6:30 a.m., unless the temperature drops below a certain point (30 degrees, 15, zero, your call!). Just be sure to check that your local weather authority hasn’t issued any outdoor weather advisories, whether for extreme temperatures or for snow or ice, which can make conditions slippery.

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