Cool Running

Winter is coming!

As the year winds down (yes, I know we have two full months of 2017 to go!) I am already trying to convince myself to keep running throughout the winter. I made myself that promise last year, and with the brutal Chicago weather, I totally wimped out. I am one of those runners who doesn’t mind running in the heat and humidity at all. In fact, I prefer it to running in the cold. Especially the damp cold. I really hate having to wear multiple layers when I run. Once I start to sweat, I experience a bone-chilling cold that I just can’t seem to shake. Looking back at my Garmin data from 2016, I didn’t do as badly as I remember, but still, I didn’t hit my goals.

A cold finish in ChiTown

One of the best motivators to me to keep running throughout the year is to sign up for races. However, signing up for winter races in the Chicago area can be very tricky. My son and I signed up for the early-April Chi-Town Half Marathon last year thinking we would be okay. It sleeted overnight the night before the race, and we woke up to 27 degrees and a sheet of ice on the ground. My son wanted to bail all together, but I convinced him we should go and after witnessing runner after runner wiping out, we decided to hang a left and turn our half into a 10K. Wise decision, but we both decided that would be the last time we’d sign up for an early spring race in Chicago. And as for winter racing in the Windy City? Not a chance.

I have just one more race scheduled for this year–the Ragnar South Beach in Florida two weeks from now. I won’t even be able to run the annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day because I will be working. So how do I stay motivated to run throughout the winter? I do actually have a very nice treadmill, but I would much rather run outside than be stuck indoors. A quick Google search yielded  a few great tips, the best of which I found is to remember that winter running is not about speed but rather, about maintenance. Not having specific time goals will certainly help.

In their 2016 article titled 10 Tips to Make Winter Running Less Miserable, runner’s World published these great tips for how to layer for winter running:

Assume you always wear gloves or mittens and a hat.

30 degrees: 2 tops, 1 bottom. Long-sleeve base layer and a vest keep your core warm. Tights (or shorts, for polar bears).

10 to 20 degrees: 2 tops, 2 bottoms. A jacket over your base layer, and wind pants over the tights.

0 to 10 degrees: 3 tops, 2 bottoms. Two tops (fleece for the cold-prone) and a jacket. Windbrief for the fellas.

Minus 10 to 0 degrees: 3 tops, 2 bottoms, extra pair of mittens, 1 scarf wrapped around mouth or a balaclava.

Minus 20 degrees: 3 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 extra pairs of mittens, 1 balaclava, sunglasses. Or, says Arribas, “Stay inside.”

I especially love the advice to stay inside!

But seriously…how do you stay motivated to run in the dead of winter, especially in very cold climates? I’ll take any and all tips and words of wisdom!




  1. I’m not in Chicago, but I am a mere 4+hours due west…so my temps and winter conditions are very similar. I will run outside in practically any weather conditions (other than ice and a blatant blizzard) because I detest the treadmill so much. Basically, I keep most of my runs short (2-6 miles), and I do a lot of looping (I have a 2-mile loop I run frequently…that way I always have the option to quit after mile 2 or 4 if I don’t feel like doing all 6). Although I much prefer hot temps, there is nothing quite as tranquil as a quick run under a starry sky with all the snow glowing underfoot (or sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight).

  2. “Once I start to sweat, I experience a bone-chilling cold that I just can’t seem to shake.”

    SAME HERE!!! It takes me at least 40 minutes in a HOT HOT HOT shower after a cold weather run just to warm up and feel better. Ugh, I loathe winter running…

  3. The best tip I have to stay motivated is to run with friends. If I know they are waiting for me I have to go out and meet up. I also like to sign up for races to keep me out there

  4. I need a VERY motivating race in order to train seriously through the winter. The only spring marathons I’ve trained for are Bostons. I suppose if I ever get into London, I’ll be motivated for that.

  5. Yes, winter running is going to hit us hard soon enough. It’s one of my favourite times of the year to run.

  6. There’s a Turkey Trot on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Busse Woods! I’m thinking about doing the half…I’ve done it a few times before and it might be just the thing I need. Come join me!

  7. I run warm, so I might use one less layer than they say, but the coldest I’ve run probably was 17F.

  8. I’m with you, I much prefer summer running to winter running. I find it incredibly difficult to stay motivated through the winter unless I have a specific race to train for. Here’s to us both digging deep and finding the motivation that we need this coming winter!

  9. One of my ice rinks is unheated, so I get ya, or so I thought. I thought, sweaty then cold? There must be something wrong with how she’s layering or the layers themselves. But then I read that temperature chart. Less than 30 degrees? That’s serious. My advantage in the rink is that as I warm up, I can gradually remove layers and just drape them across the board. Not sure how you’d manage that running, seems you would end up with a lot of clothes tied around your waist. I think what would motivate you if I were in your shoes would be enjoying the quiet, sparkle, and crunch of the snow.

    1. Author

      That’s exactly right! No way to remove the layers unless you toss them on the side of the road! I must admit, it is very serene running in the quiet of the snow in winter.

  10. I enjoy cooler weather for running! I stay motivated by running with a group of friends!!

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