Running in the winter is challenging, especially if you live in a climate with an extreme winter like Minnesota! I don’t love the cold, but I’ve learned to live with it. Of course, you can always hop on a treadmill and get your run in, but I’ve found getting outside in less than ideal conditions makes me a stronger runner come spring. Outdoor winter runs can also be really fun and beautiful when you learn to embrace them.
Over the years, I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks to ensure I keep my motivation all winter long!
Get the Right Gear: Proper winter running gear will make all the difference and is worth the investment. Trail running shoes will provide more grip in the snow and help your feet from getting wet. Down filled jackets and insulated mittens will keep you toasty. Wool socks will keep you warm but also wick sweat and moisture. I can run pretty comfortably down to 0 degrees with the right gear- especially when your body warms up from running. The key is to invest in the right pieces and experiment for what items work at what temperatures (you also don’t want to end up being TOO warm!).
Ease Into It: As the temps start to cool, keep with running outside so you also adapt. If you jump on the treadmill in November and then try to run outside for the first time again in January, it will probably be a hard transition. Try to keep going outdoors as the temps get colder, and it won’t seem as much of a shock when it gets really cold.
Find a Good Trail: Running outside in the winter is a LOT better when you can find cleared trails for your runs. The sidewalks and streets in my neighborhood are a mess all winter long, and make for frustrating and dangerous runs. Instead, I drive to trails that are cleared. They’re not always perfect, but it makes a huge difference to be able to run without wading through unshoveled snow every 20 feet.
Make a Habit: There have been a few winters where I just started doing the treadmill and never went outside to run, unless it was an unseasonably warm day. But it really isn’t THAT bad once you just start doing it. I try to keep a habit of doing runs outside whenever its safe and possible. Instead of waiting for perfect weather or the perfect time, I just do it anyways and never regret it.
Indoors is Okay: If its dark, snowy, or below 0, I’m still probably going to jump on the treadmill instead. I would rather do a quality indoor run than get frostbite or have a miserable run slipping around on messy sidewalks. Some days, the treadmill might be the only option or you know you’ll get a better run indoors, which is totally fine! For me, I usually end up with a 50%/50% balance of indoors and outdoors during the peak of winter.
I always try to remember that the more challenging runs will make me a better runner in the long run, and that each run is another step to my long term goals. I try to enjoy the opportunity of each run, even if its not the most ideal!