Five Tips for Running in Winter

bundle up and get zippin’ with these tips from the owner of Eau Claire’s Blue Ox Running

Adam Condit, photos by Jason Connelly

When you wake up in the morning and take a peek at the temperature gauge, the last thing on your mind is probably, “I should go outside and willingly subject myself to these temperatures.” But, if you’re aiming to start the sport of running in the new year, here are a few tips to get outside running safely – and maybe have a little fun, too! 

1. Remember the big picture. 

Everybody runs and walks for different reasons, and wintertime can be especially edifying for mental health, fresh air, and keeping your system pumping blood. For even the more competitive runners, it can serve as a season to naturally slow down a bit, build a good base, be flexible with training and cross training, and build mental toughness. Remember: Spring always comes, and it does feel good to have some momentum in your fitness when the weather gets nice. A very wise coach always said that Wisconsin winters can be our version of “altitude training” – it naturally humbles you and slows you down a bit. But, as long as you embrace it, prepare for it, and don’t fight back, keep moving!

2. Get the right gear.

You can’t fake it in zero degree weather, but with the right gear you can be toasty warm. Winter is actually many people’s favorite time to run because they get the fresh air they’re lacking the rest of their day. The right combination of base layers, different thicknesses of tights or pants, jackets, hats, mittens, neck warmers, and yes, even wool underwear will keep you outside when you wouldn’t be otherwise. Your shoes don’t have to change in the winter although some runners do grab a pair with GoreTex and better traction for trail or winter running – or a pair of YakTrax when the roads are extra icy.

3. Hold yourself accountable.

Love running alone? No problem, but have a plan and maybe even share it with somebody else. Know when you’re less likely to stick to your plan and avoid those traps. Some examples include not being prepared with the right clothing available (laundry or gym bag always gets left in your car) or knowing when your absolute last chance to hit snooze is so that you won’t skip that day. Love (need?) to run with others? Do it! Coordinate, get to a group run (Blue Ox hosts a group on 6pm every Thursday!), and make it a priority.

4. Warm up beforehand.

The first 10 minutes of every cold run can feel ... cold. But your body warms up, and you can be toasty as can be with the right gear when you keep moving. Prevent the initial “10 minute chills” by doing some pre-run exercises and dynamic stretching in your full running gear inside. Get your toes moving, and those first miles will be more pleasant; you’ll be less stiff and ready to tackle the elements.

5. Have a plan + be flexible.

Many runners have a hard time having fun because their expectations are off from reality. Running in the winter takes a bit more preparation time for extra clothing, slower pacing with slippery roads, being out before or after daylight, and being able to move workouts and be flexible when the winter storms are at their worst. Those that survive a season of winter walking or running well are those who are realistic with what they can do with their schedule. It doesn’t have to be seven days a week; maybe shoot for three or four. This can be helpful with flexibility when the weather gets really bad. 

Adam Condit owns Blue Ox Running in downtown Eau Claire. 

Health & Fitness is sponsored by:

Mayo Clinic Health System
1221 Whipple St., Eau Claire, WI 54703

Health & Fitness is sponsored by:

Mayo Clinic Health System
1221 Whipple St., Eau Claire, WI 54703