Running in the Dead of Winter

I can’t even count how many times in casual conversation I hear someone say that they can’t run because it got cold outside. Many stopped back in November! Wow. I’ll totally grant that when there is snow and ice on the ground, it is probably best not to risk a run. But here in the Philadelphia area, we’ve had relatively little snow this year, and the running days have been prime until just the past few weeks. I’ve only missed two days outside so far all winter long due to some ice.

Sometimes, I get asked how I can manage to run in the cold. Perfect topic for today! I have actually found the cold weather to be ideal for running as long as you are dressed appropriately. Getting dressed for a cold-weather run is certainly a delicate balance. You need to stay warm and dry, but what you wear needs to breathe which seems counter-intuitive from traditional dressing-for-the-cold methodology. After I get my first mile under my belt, my body is usually cranking out the heat and pumping my blood so well that no matter what the temperature is outside, I am plenty warm and sweating. I find that a run in the cold is nice because I don’t have to worry as much about overheating like I do in the summer time.

It took me a while to settle on the gear that works best for me. Let me start with the gear I use:


I settled on the Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm thermals.

Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm thermal shirt

Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm thermal shirt

Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm compression pants

Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm compression pants

I like these thermals a lot, but I have to be careful when I use them because they are really warm. I typically only don these when the temperature outside is below freezing. If it’s above freezing, I get too hot in these. This set does a fantastic job at keeping my skin warm and dry. I sweat a lot when I run, but these thermals get the sweat off my skin so I don’t freeze. The pants are especially nice because they are compression pants, which means they give you a nice, tight hug all over. It’s better for me than wearing a knee brace.


I was fine with wearing my thermals and an additional layer of tech shirt and pants over top until early December. That’s when it started to get a lot colder here in the Philadelphia area. So I went shopping for a jacket to wear. I ended up choosing the Brooks Men’s Silver Bullet running jacket. I paid a little extra for it (even though I did get it on Cyber Monday with a nice discount) but I am happy that I spent the extra money because this jacket is fabulous. It is super thin, yet water resistant. It has vents in the back that help regulate my temperature while running. My favorite feature is the aluminum core. Yeah, aluminum. The metal core helps reflect my body heat back at my body and keep me warm, but the vents in the back keep me from roasting. The sleeves have thumb loops so you can hook in and keep your jacket tight under your gloves. It touts having a moisture-proof media pocket inside, but it is unfortunately too small to fit an iPhone in (shame on you, Brooks). And yes, it is electric neon yellow. Drivers would have to be blind not to see you running around in this baby. I love, love, love this jacket.

Brooks Men's Silver Bullet Running Jacket

Brooks Men’s Silver Bullet Running Jacket


Sticking with the obnoxious yellow theme, I ultimately decided on the Brooks Infiniti Beanie. It is lightweight, keeps my head warm, and matches my jacket.

Brooks Infiniti Beanie


I’m honestly not sure what type of gloves I have. I bought them from a vendor at a 5-mile race I was running in December. They are yellow, of course, and are waterproof. They keep my hands very warm, and I often take them off during my runs because my hands get too hot. But they are critical for the pre-race and warm-up phases of my run when my body is still cold.

Advice on running in the cold.

I’m no expert, but I’m a doer. I’m out there running in this stuff. Here are some things that have really worked for me, and some lessons I’ve learned the hard way:

  • Never, ever wear cotton. Cotton absorbs your sweat but does not release it like technical materials will. You’ll be miserable, wet, and cold. Not to mention chafed. Ouch!
  • Don’t wear too much. You can’t assume you’ll feel the cold the same way when you are running as you might just going out to the mailbox. Once you get your engine running, you’ll be plenty warm.
  • When the temperature really gets low, like 10 – 15 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, it is important not to have ANY exposed skin. Cover everything up with something. Wear a pair of ski goggles if you have them to keep your face and eyes covered. Get a hat that covers your lower face and neck completely. It doesn’t have to be a lot of bulky coverage. Just enough to keep that frigid air off your skin.
  • Don’t risk it if there is ice out there. Nothing will throw your training routine off like a broken leg. If it is icy outside, best to take a day off and do something else to cross-train.
  • Do not judge your ability to finish your run by your comfort level in the first mile. I’ll be straight, the first mile sucks. You’re going to be cold, your nose might run, and that little voice in your head is going to be urging you back inside. Don’t listen to it. After Mile 1, your body is going to heat up just fine, and the rest of your run you’re going to be worried you wore too much.
  • Keep the gear you wear closest to your skin the cleanest. Might sound like a simple thing, but your thermals and other gear you wear against your skin is much less effective if they are dirty. Keep ’em washed.
  • Just get out there and do it. Its too easy to just lay in bed on a cold morning, when gearing up only takes about 10 minutes and you’ll quickly find it isn’t as bad as you think.

If Mr. Desk Jockey here can get out and pound out some miles in the cold, I’m pretty sure you can, too. It really is just a matter of willpower. In my area, there have been TONS of races over the winter. I find racing a great way to keep the training up. In December, I ran a race every single weekend, all month long. And for the most part, we had really decent weather for each one. This coming Sunday, February 10th, 2013, I’ll be running my second 10K of the winter season. My write-up of the race will be my next post. Stay tuned for more!

Got something you’d like to have me write about? Let me know!



2 thoughts on “Running in the Dead of Winter

  1. Nathan Crook

    Hey Greg, definitely like the blog, and couldn’t agree more. I find winter running to be almost more enjoyable than summer running for many of the same reasons. I use the Icebreaker 200 series for my winter running. I find it’s a great multipurpose top and bottom for lots of different activities, not just running (camping/hiking/skiing, etc…), because of how breathable it is, and how I rarely get overheated, even once I come back in doors. However, I do want to add a pair of compression pants into the mix, so I might try those out. I have ended up cutting the fingers out of my running gloves for the same reason you mentioned, getting too hot, but I can’t run without them, because my hands get cold, even before my arms and legs, so I found a good weight glove (Nike, I think), cut the fingers out, and they have been perfect since. Happy Trails!

  2. Pingback: Winter Blues | Geek in Motion

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