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running in the cold weather.

I got motivated from seeing the couch to 5K thread and I'd love to start running outside. Is it ok to run with a hat? Any other cold weather recommendations?

Mon. Nov 28, 10:30am

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Depends on where you're at and how cold you expect it to get. I'm from South Dakota origianlly, and the worst thing was the snow-packed, icy roads not the sub zero temps. Once you get moving and warmed up you may find your biggest problem is too many clothes. I like light gloves, and many layers. A light silky undershirt that wicks moisture away, a light fleece shirt that helps keep you snuggly and a water-resistant, tight-woven shell should suffice in most climates.

You might find that you get overheated in a hat. A fleece headband that covers your ears and forhead is a good alternative if you find that to be the case. Personally I can wear very little in the way of overclothes as long as I have a scarf - each person is a bit different, but you should have plenty of opportunity to find what works well for you :-) I might wear slightly heavier pants, but I don't really worry about keeping the legs warm like I do the upper body. Of course good shoes and socks are a must, and I have seen these elastic webs with metal coils that you can slip over your shoes for running in icy conditions that look really promising - I think that was in the Plow & Hearth catalog.

Monday, November 28, 2005, 10:49 AM

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It's definitely ok to run in a hat! You'll just have to figure out what works for you. Make sure to wear layers so you can take things off as you warm up. Do be careful on ice or in snow. Deep snow is a great workout - like running on a beach, but thin snow conceals ankle-twisters awfully well. I also like to run two or three short loops from my house when I'm trying new clothing (especially shoes!). That way, I can swing inside and make adjustments if it's really driving me crazy.

I'm from Seattle, and for me, running in a hat is perfect - I often run in shorts, a long sleeved (not cotton!) shirt, and a close-fitting fleece hat, and I'm good to 40F or so. Below that, I put on some long pants, and that's basically all I need. It never gets much below freezing, although I do wear an outer wind layer on top when it's windy. But I find a hat is essential when it's cold and raining.

I also have this thing we call a's like a hat for your neck...I never run in it, but it's fleece, and it seems like it might be easier for running than a scarf - it's just a single circle of cloth, big enough to be pulled over your head, and maybe 8" wide, so it covers your whole neck well. I think it came from LLBean maybe.

Monday, November 28, 2005, 11:26 AM

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Just be aware that you will probably be slow in the cold. When I first started running outside in winter, I got really discouraged because I was SO much slower than running in the fall. This isn't a reason to stop - just don't let yourself be discouraged by a run that normally takes 30 minutes suddenly taking 40.

Monday, November 28, 2005, 11:30 AM

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Good point. When I run outside I am usually slower. Also, I wear one of those headbands. Works well and I also use capeline. Proper gear goes a long way. I always suggest patagonia. The stuff lasts and lasts.

Monday, November 28, 2005, 11:46 AM

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Running in the cold

I'm generally agreeing with the comments I see about running in the cold. I cycle as well as run in fairly cold weather, so I've had to become fairly adept at figuring how many layers to use for every 10 degree temperature drop below about 60 degrees.

For me, anyway, wind chill becomes a factor in comfort once the temperature starts heading south. I find that keeping my face, neck and upper chest warm are my major priorities, particularly in windy conditions. The two pieces of special clothing I use for this are a balaclava helmet and a neck gaiter.

These are available from campmor ( and from Bike Nashbar (, though any distributor of cold weather athletic gear may have them as well. I have entered Nashbar's URL in the link below.



Monday, November 28, 2005, 12:57 PM

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I live in Chicago, and it gets COLD here! 30* is like a heat wave in the winter! Negative wind chills are not uncommon. Is it still safe to run here? Once, I was running late on my way to the gym, so I really ran all the way there, about 1/4 mile - I never run outside - and I swear, my lungs hurt for like 2 hours, I think from the cold air, b/c I'm not in bad cardio shape. Any thoughts?

Monday, November 28, 2005, 1:19 PM

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I'm the South Dakota poster - believe me, I understand bitter cold. I have lived through months where -14 was the HIGH... When it gets that darn cold there are additional precautions you need to take. I used to walk 2 miles to school (and then back) in every weather - no kidding and no stories about uphill both ways (it was only uphill on the way there). I just kept it up when I got to college because I didn't have a car. I started running because it was warmer than walking and a heck of a lot faster! I have a ton of stories about getting to school with clumps of ice freezing my upper and lower eyelashes together, etc.... I also learned alot about staying warm, but not too warm.

You can't suck in deep lungfulls of air like you can indoors. You either need to draw it in more slowly and steadily, or filter it through a soft, thin scarf or ski mask. Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth is the best. Your lungs can actually get frostbitten! It takes some getting used to, but your breathing will be better for it even after it gets nice outside.

It's often preferred to start off against the wind when you're fresh and return with it if at all possible. Shorten your stride a bit and drink water! you'll sweat more than you think. This is dangerous because your sweat can freeze and you will be frozen shortly thereafter. Plus your muscles will be working harder to stay warm and they need to be hydrated to do that, and the cold will stress them and they will also need more resources to recover.

Use a moisturizer, sun block and lip balm or you'll have winter-chapped skin. Wear nylons under your pants and socks and it will help considerably witout adding bulk and weight. make sure your gloves are gortex or thinsulate and consider mitten (they keep your hands warmer).

However most climates don't require precautions like that......

Running in the crisp, cold, clear winter air is exhilerating! But make sure you respect old man winter or you'll be miserable afterwards.....

Monday, November 28, 2005, 5:04 PM

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A lot of helpful comments so far. I just wanted to add that as a new runner (7 months) with mild asthma that is induced by cold and allergies (mold), I have found it necessary to turn to the treadmill once it got below 40 F or so. My body is willing, but the lungs just won't stand it. They hurt, and I am coughing phlegm for a while after I'm done. I've considered trying to find a breathable fabric (turle fur?) that I can pull up around my nose and mouth to warm the air a bit before pulling it in, but am skeptical. Normally I am able to breath in through my nose, but once the asthma attack starts and I'm short of O2, it's almost automatic to open the mouth and breath harder to try to compensate. Besides, I breathe as controlled as possible through my nose at the beginning of the workout and it isn't enough to prevent the attack. If anyone has any feedback about the breathable scarf idea and/or specific suggestions for brands, styles, etc., I'd love to hear it!

Monday, November 28, 2005, 7:06 PM

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running in the cold

I say for all your running questions go to The info is great. There are sections on clothing, trainig and my personal favorite - beginners. You will find any and all information you need about running. I myself JUST started a running program. I decided to start on the treadmill, but soon I will be outside in the cold and loving it!


Monday, November 28, 2005, 7:24 PM

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I find running in the cold much easier than running in the heat. Great thread.

Monday, October 16, 2006, 9:30 AM

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Hey South Dakota poster - where were you from??? I am currently in SD and am gearing up for another cold winter. I stick to my treadmill and weights. :)

Monday, October 16, 2006, 4:56 PM

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A lot of great posts. I love running in the cold!

I agree with the post about the ear/headband. I always felt too hot in a hat after a mile or so.

Run a route that brings you back so you can pick up any discarded clothing articles until you find what works at what temp...

Monday, October 16, 2006, 9:11 PM

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Just went for my first run since early July- it is so much more pleasant to run in the cold.

Friday, October 27, 2006, 3:14 PM

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Someone mentioned a ski mask - I second that. I actually bought a weird neoprene wrap thing last year that goes around the lower half of the face only and is ventilated with holes at the nose and mouth. It really helps to prevent breathing in that cold, dry air.

Friday, October 27, 2006, 6:15 PM

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Can I just say, you guys amaze me! I live in San Diego, with perfect weather, and I manage to find excuses not to run. Good for you!!!

Saturday, October 28, 2006, 10:09 AM

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I'd also say that everything I've seen here is great advice. I'd like to add one thing and throw in some strong support for something already mentioned and often, I think, neglected:
(but let me first say that my definitiion of "winter" is anywhere from 30 above to 20 below)

First, if you haven't run in the cold much before, it will take a while to figure out how much clothing you really do need. I always try to start my runs out feeling just a tad bit cold, as this lets me get comfortable as my body heats up. So when you are new to running outdoors you will often end up too hot or too cold but over time you'll figure it out and get relativley accurate about what kind / how much clothing you might need.

And I'd also like to push for those new to running in the winter to purchase proper outdoor winter running clothes. When you're running in true winter temperatures you need better protection than cotton sweatpants, a few old race t-shirts and a sweatshirt. Clothes from Patagonia, North Face, Nike, etc. can be expensive but there are also cheapter alternatives at Target or even these same brands on sale at local outdoor or athletic stores. And even though they're expensive, with proper care they will last for a very long time. I ran for my college in Minnesota and the clothes we had made all the difference. We ran in insane temperatures that would not have been possible without the right protection from the elements. The wrong clothing i's not comfortable and it's not very safe, either. Cotton sweatpants, no matter how great on the couch, are not made for legitimatley cold winter running.

Thursday, November 02, 2006, 5:08 PM

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I miss the cold!!!

I used to love running in temps below 0. I wore a ski mask, running pants, and a long sleeve top plus a jacket (and mittens, of course!). I always sucked on a cough drop (still do-year round; it's just a part of my routine), and when I'd get back, I drink warm water.
Definitely wear sunscreen, and I also would put vaseline on my face to protect it. Now that I live in Portland OR, I generally wear shorts year round-it rarely gets below 30...

Thursday, November 02, 2006, 7:30 PM

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I'm looking forward to the cold this winter, I hate running in the hot sticky summer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 10:56 AM

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wow, someone dug up this oldie....

kind of serendipitous though, as i just went to the nike outlet this weekend and stocked up on running pants and dri-fit long sleeve tops. i saw at dick's sporting goods this weekend that under armor makes fleece hoodies now too. they're thick and snuggly but still made of under armor fabric so they wick the sweat away from you and still keep you warm. i think i'm going to pick one of those up for the really cold days.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007, 3:07 PM

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If you don't mind me there a particular reason you don't wear a cotton shirt while running?
I'm new to running, and any advice you could give me would be amazing. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010, 12:35 PM

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Cotton is nice for running in hot weather if you don't have chafing problems. I run in the desert in the summer, and although a lot of people prefer synthetics I take a thin cotton T-shirt and soak it before I put it on! Evaporation will keep you cool.

This is, however, a thread about running in winter, and the same properties that make cotton great for summer (it doesn't insulate well or at all) make it awful for really cold weather. For cold weather you need a combination of fabric layers that will keep heat in and and wick as much moisture as possible from your skin.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010, 1:12 PM

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