Winter running: 10 essential tips

Staying motivated to run in cold weather isn’t easy. Get practical tips from a mom who discovered her passion for running (in any weather) at 39 years old.

Woman running in multilayers

Should you stop running in the winter? “No way! There’s nothing better than hearing snow crackle under your shoes.” Says Murielle, a big fan of winter running and our training leader at Decathlon. Discover her tips for learning how to love running in cold weather.

Woman running on a bridge with multilayered clothing

1. WARM UP INSIDE

Do some jumping jacks, lunges, or high knees to increase your body temperature. Once you step outside, you’ll feel warmer, and your first few strides will be that much easier.

2. LAYER UP

The first layer should help wick sweat away, so stay away from cotton. Next, put on an insulating layer and a waterproof windbreaker in case of difficult weather. Wearing several layers will help you regulate your temperature as you go.

“Keep in mind that you’ll feel 10 degrees warmer after a few minutes of running. Ideally, you should be shivering a little at the start. If you’re too comfortable, you’re probably overdressed. That means you’ll sweat a lot and all that humidity will make you cold very fast,” explains Murielle.

A racing glove to protect from the cold

3. PROTECT YOUR EXTREMITIES

Make sure to cover your head, neck, hands, and feet—the cold affects your extremities first. In fact, 70% of heat loss occurs through these areas.

“You can really ruin your run by not protecting your extremities,” adds Murielle. “Personally, I always wear a hat (light or extra warm depending on the temperature), a neck warmer, and convertible gloves with a pocket that folds over the fingers.”

If the cold air gives you trouble, try breathing through a neck warmer.

4. WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES
It’s important to keep your feet dry, prevent snow from getting into your shoes, and have a good grip on slippery ground. We recommend sizing up to avoid any compression that could cool you down even more.
Murielle’s choice? “I run with Kalenji XT7 trail running shoes. They have a really good grip, even on snow and ice. Watch out for black ice! When it’s super cold, I also wear ski socks. Even if they get wet, they never feel cold.”

Man running near the house

5. START WITH SHORT LOOPS

“If you’re new to winter running, I recommend doing short loops of one kilometre or less in your neighbourhood. This is a good way to test your limits safely rather than going too far from home and getting caught out in the cold.”

It’s also perfect for testing out winter running outfits and finding what works for you!

6. HYDRATE LIKE A PRO
You won’t feel as thirsty running in cold weather, but it’s still important to hydrate. Stash a small water bottle in an inner pocket (so it doesn’t freeze), and drink a few sips during and after your run.
“The same goes for food. Eat something like fruit paste bars, and keep them in an inner pocket,” advises Murielle.

 A man with a face full of snow protected by ski goggles

7. MAKE SURE TO STAY VISIBLE

Running in winter often means running in the dark. Having the right gear to stay visible and see where you’re going is a must! Reflective bands are great, but your best bet is a headlamp or a chest light.

8. PROTECT YOUR EYES

Try Murielle’s technique: “In the winter, I always wear sunglasses. Snow reflects light, and it can hurt my eyes even when it’s cloudy. I also wear ski goggles when there’s a snowfall. They don’t fog up and my eyes stay warm… It’s perfect!“ 

Stretching after the stroke to avoid the shock of temperature transitions

9. START RUNNING AGAINST THE WIND

Because your body temperature rises when you are pushed by the wind, it’s better to complete the second half of your run with the wind on your back. You will stay warm longer. Plus, if you’re tired, you’ll appreciate the little boost from the wind on your way back.

10. TAKE TRANSITIONS SERIOUSLY

After an intense workout in the cold, it’s best to gradually transition to rest mode.

“Depending on the weather, I prefer to finish my run with a slow jog or a walk to lower my heart rate and avoid asthma before immediately stepping into a warm house. To help me release tension and avoid heat shock from a hot shower, I finish my training with a runner-specific yoga session.”



Now, it’s up to you to test these tips and techniques. To keep you motivated, here’s a final piece of advice from Murielle.

 Murielle Chauviteeau running during winter

What are your best tips for staying motivated?

“First, I stay organized! My workouts are scheduled in my calendar; it’s time I set aside for myself. The night before, I make sure my workout clothes are layed out so I can be ready to go as soon as I wake up. That’s right, I run at dawn! When I’m getting ready for my run, it’s cold and dark, but I don’t think about it. I just go outside! Once I’m out the door, there’s no turning back. Even in the worst weather, I have not once regretted going out for a run. Each run brings a healthy dose of endorphins and dopamine. If I’m stressed or anxious, I go for a run! It always clears my mind of everything.”

- Murielle Chauviteau, Training leader at Decathlon Canada