How to run outside in the winter and keep your a** warm

24 Nov

Yesterday, I woke up to the glorious site of snow on my balcony! Winter is officially here! For some runners, this means they may be retreating back indoors for the season.

I know I’ve said this before, but I will do almost anything to avoid training in the gym.  Believe you me when I say that I’ve tried time and time again different ways to motivate myself to work out in one. From personal trainers, to setting SMART goals or trying out different classes, you name it; I’ve tried it, and hated it.  Sorry Tess 😉

So I’m sure this comes as no surprise when I say that I’d rather run outside in the dead of winter than drag myself to train on the gerbil wheel, I mean, treadmill.  Since I can’t ski every day in the winter, I may as well get outside and run, right?

A little more enthusiasm, please?

I know there is some controversy over whether people feel its “safe” to run outside in the winter. I always get slightly amused by these comments because really, we as Canadians do numerous activities outside in the winter months from hockey, to skiing, snowshoeing, and everything else in between.  Like any other winter sport, winter running is perfectly safe so long as you dress properly for it.  You wouldn’t ski dressed like this:


So it’s safe to say, you’re not gonna run dressed like this:


My best advice for running during those frigid winters we Canadians are so famous for is to dress in layers.

Layer 1: Baselayer

This is the layer you’re wearing right next to your skin, so you need something that’s going to wick away the moisture.  Moisture=bad because if it’s just going to sit there, you can bet it will start to get cold FAST no matter how much insulation you have on top.  I typically wear a wicking layer on my core and sometimes on my legs as well (when it’s really, really cold).

Layer 2: Insulation

You gotta keep the heat locked in.   There are many mid-layer pieces available to runners that offer many different kinds of insulation: fleece, down, primaloft, etc… My recommendation is that you stick with something that is relatively lightweight so it doesn’t feel like you have a weighted vest on.  Also, it’s best to note that many mid-layer pieces do not offer any wind-resistance so if it’s windy or snowing that day, you’re going to need layer #3:

Layer 3: Waterproof/Windproof jacket

Now that we’ve wicked away moisture, and added some heat we need to keep it in place.  A running shell that offers you water and wind protection is your final layer that will keep you warm and dry on your run. I’d also recommend some pants that are wind/waterproof as well just to be on the safe side.


You can’t forget your hands and head.  Gloves are important because not only do they keep you warm, they’ll offer your skin some protection if you take a stumble.  Watch that ice! A hat is equally important otherwise all that effort you’ve gone into securing warmth in your body will leave your head just as quickly.  If you’re worried about either one getting too hot, I’d recommend you have a jacket that has pockets so you can stow these items during your run.


I know there are many people that like to purchase shoes that have a bit of waterproofing on them for their winter runs.  Personally, I’ve never bothered because I’m not usually out for longer than an hour in the wintertime and tend to avoid deep snow. However, there are options on the market that offer a bit more traction and waterproofing for you to consider.  Oh and those YakTrax are excellent when you’re on the trails and don’t feel like eating dirt every time you hit some ice.

Well there you have it, Jess’s guide on how to run in the winter without freezing your a** off.


What are your thoughts on winter running? Do you have any tips you’d like to add?


One Response to “How to run outside in the winter and keep your a** warm”

  1. Tess and Jess November 24, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    (Tess) Do people ever wear kleates for outdoor winter runs?

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