Running in Winter
To keep you as miserable, cold, and demoralized as possible while winter running, here are a few tips. (Photo: Brendan Leonard)

Winter Running Tips for Masochists

Helpful advice, like "break your fall with your elbows, tailbone, kneecaps, or face"

Running in Winter

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Winter is the prime season for lots of fun activities: skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, ice skating, curling, and sledding among them. But you’d rather not have fun. You’d rather keep running through the worst weather of the year—getting wet, getting cold, having your extremities go numb from cold and then electric with shooting pains when rewarmed, snot freezing inside your nose, breathing heavily in air so frigid you wonder if you’re doing permanent damage to your respiratory system, in constant fear of ripping knee ligaments from a hard slip on some ice. No one but you knows why you do it, but that’s OK, you fucking weirdo. To keep you running through the dark, cold, miserable, lonely, demoralizing, uncomfortable, and hopeless season that is winter, and to keep you as miserable, cold, and demoralized as possible while doing it, here are a few tips:

  1. First of all, stick with running, outdoors, even though you’ve heard of many reasonable cold-weather alternatives, such as nordic skiing, snowshoeing, spin classes, treadmills, and staying under a blanket eating pizza rolls.
  2. Do not wear gloves or mittens, or even long sleeves, unless the air temperature is in the single digits.
  3. When wearing gloves, wear only very thin gloves. As you head out the door, say to yourself, “These should be fine,” even though in your heart you know they are not sufficient at all.
  4. Avoid daylight as much as possible. Procrastinate taking your weekend runs so that they happen not in the middle of the day, when the temperature is warmest, but in the cold, lonely, hopeless dark of night.
  5. Wear cotton for all your layers but especially the ones next to your skin, to maximize retention of sweat moisture, which will then freeze. Overdressing in too many layers will enable you to sweat more, ensuring a good sweat-freeze cycle a few minutes into your run.
  6. Buy some MicroSpikes. Wear them when you do not need them (i.e., you see snow on the ground, but your running route is 95 percent snow-free, so you just end up grinding down your metal traction devices on pavement or asphalt, and sort of cringing the entire time, and only occasionally making contact with a small patch of snow or ice that you probably could have stepped around, but what the hell, you’re wearing MicroSpikes).
  7. When conditions are actually sketchy enough to justify such traction devices—lots of ice and snow everywhere, and ice covered by snow—do not wear those MicroSpikes. Talk yourself out of it, proclaim as you leave the house, “It doesn’t look too bad out there,” and then confidently stride away, making sharp turns whenever possible.
  8. If you slip on ice and start to fall, try to break your fall with your elbows, tailbone, kneecaps, or, if you’re really going for it, your face. 
  9. Carry a leaky water bottle with you at all times to keep one or both of your hands soaking wet as you run.
  10. When it snows, find a running route where you can maximize postholing. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a trailhead where everyone else is wearing snowshoes—that’s a good sign that the snow is so deep and soft that it’s impossible to enjoy it without flotation and that it will be prime for miles of shin-deep postholing, or, if it’s your lucky day, crotch-deep.
  11. If possible, find a route that parallels streets where large puddles of dirty slush form, so you can maximize your exposure to sudden cold, wet, nasty showers of melted precipitation mixed with runoff when cars drive through them and send the crud flying.
  12. On that route with all the street puddles, time your runs with the city-transit schedule so you’ll be hit in the face by splashes from buses. Run with your mouth open.
  13. When you reach a point when you feel it’s just too horrible—when you’re exhausted from postholing, soaked from a city bus splashing you with brown slush—and you’re so cold that you’re seriously thinking about peeing your pants just for a few seconds of fleeting warmth: Cry. Don’t stop running, but go ahead and cry. It’s OK. Let those tears flow until they freeze to your cheeks as you plod along, only to be melted by more tears. And then tell yourself: I am crying because I just love running in the winter so much.

Brendan Leonard’s new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems: More Funny Shit in the Woods from, is out now.

Lead Photo: Brendan Leonard

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