running in winter

Running in Munich

Earlier this week I mentioned running in winter and a reader asked to know more about the gear or clothing required for that. So I’m taking a break from my regularly schedule bike-centric postings to interrupt with thoughts on running outside in the winter. Because I love running. And I simply do not enjoy it as much on a treadmill as I do outside.

Running outside year round is easy and enjoyable if you have the appropriate clothing. Just like with cycling, a certain amount of accessories (fenders, a basket, a chainguard) can make your experience much more enjoyable. When it comes to running, those winter must-haves (for me) are a good running jacket, a pair or two of running tights, and good gloves, socks, and a hat.

Winter Running with my Dog

I basically wear the same thing all winter long; a variety of base layers with my trusty running jacket on top. This running jacket is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It’s an Under Armour running jacket intended for  as low as 30 F and meant to be wind and water resistant. It not only keeps the wind and water out, it also does well in much lower temperatures than advertised given a few warm baselayers underneath. I’ve worn it in as low as -10 to -15F temperatures and I was fine. The best part is that it’s so light and slim fitting that I never feel bulky or bogged down while running with it on. (I don’t have a preferred brand for those base layers, I just grab whatever is on sale at REI)

Another worthwhile investment is a pair or two of running tights. They’re much warmer than cotton yoga pants or workout pants as they are insulating and meant to fit closely to your skin, not allowing any air to blow up your pant leg. (I used to layer a pair of running shorts over my tights because that’s what other runners in the Midwest seemed to be doing, but once I got to Germany, I got a lot of funny looks and soon ditched the shorts).

My other winter favorite: my Nike running hat. It’s fleecy and warm and it has a ponytail opening in the back that allows me to pull my braid through, keeping a snug fit for the hat on my head.

Other must-haves: a warm pair (or two) of gloves and wool socks! My favorites are from SmartWool. I always ask for them as gifts because they can be a bit pricey but are very much worth the money. They are thin (non-bulky in your running shoe) and they wick away moisture keeping your feet dry and warm. I would recommend these for anyone cycling through the winter as well. (Mine will be performing double duty this year).

Cycling, running, or walking throughout the winter just takes a bit of figuring out what to wear. I may sound like a broken record, but I’ll say it again: there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. And it’s a shame to spend the months of November through March indoors and miss so much of what winter has to offer when all it takes is a bit of bundling up. By running through the winter, I got to enjoy beautiful scenery in the Midwest such as this…

Midwest Winter

Midwest Winter

Midwest Winter

And in Germany, I got to enjoy these sights on my winter runs…

Running in Munich

Running in Munich

Running in Munich

Running in Munich

Running in Munich

Running in Munich

Running in Munich

Winter running is also very conducive to taking photos along your route because you’ll be wearing a running jacket with pockets! Just slip your point-and-shoot into your pocket and pull it out along the route. All the photos in this post were taken ‘on the run’.

And remember that it gets darker much earlier in the winter, so stick to well lit paths or running trails or opt for a headband light that helps keep you visible if needed. I didn’t wear a light in Germany because the city was usually lit up and full of pedestrians and other runners, but I do wear one on occasion here in the Midwest. I also add a flashing neon collar to my dog’s regular collar to make her more visible to others. And on long runs, I love to listen to the Run Run Live podcast. (I subscribe on iTunes). Chris, too,  runs year round with his dog, Buddy, and he motivates me to keep going no matter what. He also features great interviews and product reviews that help keep a runner informed and entertained. Just FIY.

Midwest Winter

Running in Munich

Running in Munich

I haven’t needed to use YakTrax but I’ve read that other runners swear by them. In the winter, I just tend to run slower and with more awareness of my footing and, yes,  I have taken a spill or two on ice each year. I look for steets and trails that have been cleared or for big fluffy snow that isn’t slippery. Running through a few inches of snow is akin to running on sand – a killer workout and surprisingly fun. It’s reminiscent of being a child and wading through knee high snow to make a snowman or to drag a toboggan up a desired hill. Definitely puts a smile on your face!

If you run or cycle though the winter and have something you just swear by using, please share your tips and advice in the comments section!

Happy running!

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{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
This entry was posted in Product Reviews, Running, Travel, Winter Running. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to running in winter

  1. Paula says:

    Great post and lovely pictures. You are so correct about wearing the proper gear running or cycling. I started my Thanksgiving morning running in the rain 30′s F. It wasn’t so bad. By the way, I found your blog through Let’s Go Ride a Bike. – P

  2. Hooray! Thank you for writing this post. It’s great to hear of products that other runners love. And you know I love your dorky “on the run” photo taking! Makes me think I should do the summer equivalent post on mine. :)

  3. Beautiful scenery. I don’t run, but I used to briskly walk in the winter for exercise before I started cycling.

  4. Franca says:

    These are gorgeous photos, can’t belive they were taken while running!

  5. SM says:

    Beautiful photos S. I run as well. It’s funny, I always take my camera with me when I bike, but not when I run. You got the right idea.

  6. Niklas says:

    Good post here. When I lived in Colorado and New Jersey I ran throughout the winter regardless of the weather. It’s actually surprising how little clothing you need to run in cold weather. As long as the extremities are covered you only need a couple layers.

  7. Julie says:

    I’m not a dedicated runner, but I do have a Nike fleece-y jacket that has arms so long that it has built-in mittens for you to tuck your hands into, so you don’t need gloves.

    And when I have run outside in freezing temps – I did it in the morning after waking up all hot. Laying out my outfit in advance on the night before also helps.

  8. It’s like you read my mind (again!)! I was just thinking about this today as I was headed out for a run in the crisp but not freezing November air…. I generally use the same philosophy (lots of baselayers under the same jacket), but would add a couple of things to your list: (1) a pair of fleece-lined-neoprene tights for the really, really cold days — while I had to repair mine after I tore them falling on the ice during Snowmageddon, they’ve been great for that little bit of extra warmth on my legs when it’s really counted, and (2) a pair of gore-tex trail shoes. I run in my regular running shoes most of the year, but on cold or particularly wet and slushy days, trail shoes have helped keep my feet warm and dry and give me a bit of extra traction.

    Wishing you and T. the happiest of Thanksgiving and many wonderful winter runs this year!

  9. maria says:

    I love winter running. My gear is pretty generic but all revolves around a base layer of silk longies. I put over those whatever is fitting for the temp. I think the hardest part of winter running is not overdressing since you quickly heat up as you get going.

  10. simplybike says:

    Thanks for all the extra tips, everyone! It’s great to hear from so many fellow runners :)

    • Merey says:

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  11. Karen says:

    I also run and much prefer to be outdoors than on the treadmill. Running here is much harder than it was in the midwest as the elevation is higher so I get winded pretty easily. As with biking in the winter, I’ve learned not to over dress. Usually good winter running tights and a short sleeved tee under a fleese pullover will suffice. I have to have really warm gloves because to tend to loose circulation in my finger tips. Even in the cold, I also still bring a water bottle. I haven’t considered bringing my camera though. I’ll have to give that a try. Today however we still have snow at 8000 ft so we’re going skiing.

  12. RB says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I look forward to using all your (and commenters’) tips through my first winter of outdoor running :)

  13. Monique says:

    To be honest: I have the same question, but then on cycling. Now the snow is coming, I am a little afraid to go on my bike. Also because I am seven months pregnant.

    Any suggestions or tips to bike in the snow?

    • Simply Bike says:

      Monique – this will be my first winter cycling so I’m still figuring it out as I go. The one big thing you can do is get studded tires for your bike. I’m sure they make a huge difference in gripping the ground, I saw them at the bike shop and they’re hard-core. I can’t use them because my vintage bikes have wheels that are incompatible in size with the studded tires made today. So it depends on what you ride.

      Good for you for cycling and staying fit through your pregnancy! But definitely be careful if it gets icey or snowey and harder to keep your balance. Keep me posted on what you do!

  14. seejenbike says:

    Good post! I doubted being able to run year long, but now I prefer running in the colder months; it’s easier to warm your body up than it is to cool it down. I’ve also been looking for a lighted collar for my dogs, thanks for the link!

    • Simply Bike says:

      You’re welcome! We actually got our dog collar free from a race, but it looks just like the ones I linked to and works really well. Perhaps try looking on Amazon as well? (For a bit of a price comparison).

  15. Martha says:

    Good post. I just bought a pair of running tights and they are working great! I love cold weather running with my puppy too.

  16. I must admit that I tend to take it inside to the treadmill and do more weightlifting and other cross training in the winter. I’ve taken a couple of bad spills running on icy and snowy walks and have pretty much decided that the chance of breaking something doesn’t seem to be worth it for me. I am thinking about getting some YakTrax, though, and giving it another shot with those.

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  20. matflec says:

    This video of Tony Krupicka from Running Times got me thinking about running in winter — http://bit.ly/gk6rJ7

    So, I did a wordpress search on winter running and came across your post. Thanks for sharing the insights & the great pics.

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