5 Strategies For Loving Winter Running

Running started feeling a lot easier a few weeks ago. I was getting faster, no longer struggling on hills, and just straight up enjoying it, after a long period of going through the motions with my regular run habit. At first I couldn’t put my finger on what had changed, but then the lightbulb went on: It’s getting cold outside—and I thrive in the cold. 

I know that’s not the case for everyone. While I dread muggy summer weather, others don’t like breathing frigid air or trying to keep delicate digits warm as temperatures plummet. That doesn’t mean you need to stick to the treadmill until spring, though. With the right motivation, you can keep yourself running happily(ish) through the months ahead. 

Wear the right stuff.

Layers, layers, layers. Check the temperature and dress as if it’s 10-20 degrees warmer (you’ll soon be moving and warmed up). Evaluate your gear and fill in any gaps: a good hat, a shirt with thumbholes for days you don’t need gloves, gloves for medium-cold days, heavy-duty mittens and handwarmers for when it’s truly frigid.

Tights with pockets are clutch for holding keys or a phone (and keeping the battery from rapidly dying in the cold). Traction aids make icy and snowy days less treacherous. And comfy, cushy, moisture-wicking socks are worth the extra cost. Whatever it takes to get you out the door! 

Meet a friend. 

Nothing cuts the pain of a tough run in half like suffering through it along with a friend (physically distanced and masked as appropriate). A pre-planned run date will get you out the door, and the conversation will make the run fly by. Bonus points if you partner up with someone who thrives in a season you struggle through (I’m looking at you, August), so you can take turns being the cheerleader. 

Person running on a snowy trail along the Spokane River.
Winter running along the Spokane River. // Photo: Jon Jonckers

Double down on endorphins with a funny podcast. 

Silence is beautiful and music gets you going, but a podcast will distract you through the tough miles. I recommend saving your favorites for a run as extra motivation to get out there. Any favorite podcast will do, but for running I prefer funny (here’s where I recommend, for the umpteenth time, “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” the podcast that regularly leaves me literally folded over and shaking with laughter). 

Don’t quit. 

The main thing that makes winter running easier is…doing more of it. Your body will adapt to most temperatures and climates with persistence. (Feel free to remind me of this when August hits.) Tell yourself you only have to go for 10 minutes. By then you’ll likely be warmed up and willing to carry on. 

Pay attention to what’s happening now. 

Ignore your pace and think more about what you see. What time of day feels best for running in this season? Try running in the morning, the afternoon, the evening (decked out in appropriately reflective gear). Which one is your favorite?

Check out any lingering festive lights. Loop around a nearby park to see how your favorite deciduous trees are faring this barren winter. Admire the old-timey charm of kids ice skating on frozen-over ponds. There is always something to notice, admire, and wonder about—and each of our four seasons has its own gifts to give.

Originally published as “Loving Winter Running” in the January-February 2021 issue.

Person running down a snowy, slushy urban neighborhood street with a dog in harness and leash.
Urban neighborhood running. // Photo: Shallan Knowles

Sarah Hauge is a writer and editor who lives in Spokane with her husband and two children. She writes the Run Wild column in each issue of Out There. 

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