Top tips for cold weather running

Keep up summer's good intentions with our beginner's guide to dealing with winter's obstacles

by Anna Downing

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Many runners love winter running. Quiet, empty streets; cool crisp air; a feeling of blissful solitude – not to mention the fact that maintaining a base over the winter is critical to successful spring running. But if you're a fair-weather runner, grab our troubleshooting guide to running year-round.

I'm reluctant to run in the dark – what can I do?

Try to run in your lunch breaks. Otherwise, make sure you run in well-lit areas, wear reflective gear and be alert to your surroundings.

If lack of motivation is holding you back, try using a dawn simulator for morning runs such as the Lumie Bodyclock – it will ease you out of sleep and make you feel refreshed. And seeing the sun rise mid-run might be all the motivation you need to do it again.

I start my run freezing cold but then get hot and sweaty, so I find it hard to know what to wear

Rule number one: never wear cotton. It retains sweat and will make you freeze. Wear layers – one to wick sweat away, another (if it's very cold) to insulate the body, and a protective jacket.

This lot should keep you warm as you start your run, but as you warm up you might feel the need to shed layers, so wear a jacket with removable sleeves and put them in your pocket; or one that folds up small and put it in a bum bag.

Another idea is to warm up thoroughly before you head out the door – try star jumps and running on the spot, or head to the gym and start your run on a treadmill.

I have a cold – can I still run?

Yes. The only symptoms you should stay tucked up in bed with are fever, chilliness, a chesty cough and muscle aches. Just take your runs easy, and you should feel better for them.

"Exercise helps to decongest the nose," says Professor Ron Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre, Cardiff University. "It moves the white cells around in the blood, and could be more beneficial than being a couch potato."

I get a burning sensation in my chest when I run in the cold

Many runners experience this. It is caused by hard physical work in very cold air, which can trigger narrowing of the airways. Chilling of the face or nasal cavity may also play a part.

"Think of how a splash of cold water takes your breath away, and it isn't hard to believe that there is a link between skin temperature and breathing," says Dr Alex Nieper, sports physician at Pure Sports Medicine ( "Breathe in through the nose as much as possible; it warms and moistens the air."

You could also try wearing a Buff (, which will insulate your face and warm the air you breathe.

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Discuss this article

I LOVE running in this weather!! Had the bestest 5km run today, shaved 1 min off my time

But none of my non-running friends seem to agree that it being colder is so great. Pfft .

Anybody else with me? 

Posted: 28/10/2008 at 19:14

I love the cold LadyBoy All my PB's have been done this time of year.
Posted: 28/10/2008 at 19:16

Hello Ladtbee

yes, i go along with that -

i love having my hat and gloves on and really striding out, especially after dark

running in the dark makes you run faster anyway !!  

Posted: 28/10/2008 at 19:16

Yay for faster times

Although I think the weather heard me & took it to heart: it's only gone and started snowing here!!  Not sure I quite fancy a run in the snow?!?!

Posted: 28/10/2008 at 20:00

yes yes YES

Hippo weather


Posted: 28/10/2008 at 20:01

I love the sunshine.

16 - 20 degrees C is ideal for me, with little wind. All of my PB's for 1500m, 5k and 10k were achieved in June/July.

I do like running in the cold though, it just never produces as good times.
Posted: 28/10/2008 at 20:18

16-20C?!?! I roast at that temperate! Clearly you're not working hard enough Paul

Don't Hippos come from hot sunny Africa?!

Yargh, we've had about 2" of snow now. The weather's got abit carried away.

Posted: 28/10/2008 at 20:41

i much prefer the cold, especially when its crisp and sunny and cold I'm not a happy summer runner at all. (actually I'm not much of a summer runner full stop )
Posted: 28/10/2008 at 21:52

I did my 5k PB (19 mins, 32 seconds) in around 17/18 degrees C. Lovely!

I always get my highest mileage in during the summer months... plenty of time down at the beach running along the seafront.

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 00:50

Yes winter running is lovely. 

Summer running is horrible.

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 08:45

Winter running!  Right with you there.....don't go quite so red faced!       

The heat of summer just leaves me feeling URGHH!!!!   

Def. faster run times at this time of year, only started running seriously  about a year ago. 

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 11:20

I love the winter running apart from when it pours down. running in the cold dry is brilliant
Posted: 29/10/2008 at 11:22

I love the cold but i love the rain too!

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 11:24

I love the cold but was a bit shocked at the ice this morning..had to abandon my run and wil have to try again later !
Posted: 29/10/2008 at 11:29

i know!! i had to go to the gym, bah. it's such a nice day too, gorgeous clear skies. would've been a cracker for running, but didn't quite fancy the black ice we have around here! weather took me far too seriously - i didn't mean I liked it THIS cold!
Posted: 29/10/2008 at 12:28

I'm not a summer runner - do prefer the cold, but today got back and didn't jump straight in the shower and as a result have had what can only be described as Severe nip pain.  Ended up standing in a hot shower using my hands to make little nip baths to make them all better
Posted: 29/10/2008 at 13:35


Yes, I'm with you. I love cold, crisp weather and struggle in any sort of heat.

In fact I thought this morning was the ideal time to start on my new "teach yourself to run in the mornings" resolution. Okay, it was 8am and not 6am, those of us that are afflicted by being crap and slothful in the mornings have to start somewhere. The clear, cold air and the crispy bits of frost on the pavement were definitely motivating. I like running in the dark too...  It's all good

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 15:46

Owwww. The torture we put ourselves through.

I may like the cold but I have to admit OJO that I like my nice warm bed a lot more in the mornings. I've been saying for years that I'll start running "in the mornings" yet I've never yet managed a pre-9am run. Ooops. 

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 18:52


Started running in August so have only run in the heat (well sort of we did not have much of a summer).  However, went running at the weekend in the rain and ran the furthest I had run 5.5 miles in 1 hour and today I decided to attempt a very steep hill.  I live in Kent so have been running hills since I began.  I then ran another two miles, again up hill.  The weather was perfect.  Cold, crisp with a slight breeze.  Felt really good.  I have relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis, so the heat always affects me.  Looking forward to the winter!!  Wendy

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 20:01


I love the cold, can't wait until it snows for that crunchiness (but not the slush afterwards)

I've fallen out with cyclists though, they seem to like either trying to ram me or blind me with badly angled lights.

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 20:04

I too am a winter running supporter - so much better getting in some good base mileage over the winter months. Cold crisp air - quiet streets, its bliss.

Its my friends and family who get on my nerves trying to put me off.

1 "its too cold out there - you'll catch your death"

2. "its too dangerous for a women to be running alone in the dark"

3 "You'll get knocked over - drivers cant see you"

4. "you cant see where you are running"

They get on my wick with it

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 20:40


I like my warm bed a lot too LadyBee, it's a bit of a needs-must thing at the moment. I have to say it was not a very impressive running performance, it was the actually getting out there that was impressive....

Well done Wendy, sounds like you're improving. 

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 20:42

Running this afternoon and it was chilly but not cold enough for tights.  Having said that, my legs didn't feel they got up to running temp and sucking down lungfulls of cold air, especially when trucks pass, is not a lot of fun.  My only real concern with the colder weather is ice on the paths, no fun and increases the chances for injuries.
Posted: 29/10/2008 at 20:46

Winters fine if you are lucky enough to get out in the daylight, but if not it means pavements and busy roads which is my idea of hell - give me the warm summer evenings and off road anytime ..although a lovely bright sunny autumn/winter day is lovely but they usually happen when im stuck indoors at work

Hopefully we might get a a full moon and some snow that would be good ! 

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 20:55


Granted there are some safety concerns to running in winter but they're nothing that decent street lighting/ a torch, reflective clothing and common sense can't fix. Unless it is icy....

Dula Heritage...that sounds very annoyin. The "but you're a woman" argument especially. My rule is that I won't run (alone) anywhere I wouldn't walk at the same time of day.

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 21:23

I'm a fairly recent returnee to running - but being up on the moors early this morning, minus one degree, sunny, only a slight breeze, just me and my dawg - well, it was great. I found the recently churned but now frozen mud to be a bit of an ankle turner, but it's a laugh running along wondering wether the frozen bog/puddle will support your weight or (frequently!) not. It was really great, and if I wasn't working tonight, I'd be up there again tomorrow early.
Posted: 29/10/2008 at 21:29

I did my first run in tights and gloves today and loved that nip in the air.  I got home and was warm as toast, but not bathed in sweat.  I am really enjoying crunching through leaves at the moment, as I had six long weeks in the gym this time last year, and basically missed autumn.

To be honest one of the (many) things I really love about running is the different seasons.  I don't like running when it is very hot/humid, but I love the long summer evenings, the crunchy leaves, the rain, the crisp frosts, the sunshine, the stars.  I love the smells of flowers in the summer evenings, dampness in the autumn, and just feeling the different air temperatures.....  I ran in a thunder strorm once and that was great (but a bit scary).  I have run when  it was dark and snowing, and loved looking at the snow flakes swirling down in the light of the street lights.  I had a great run once when I saw a stunning double rainbow.......
I HATE the gym!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted: 29/10/2008 at 22:02

Ladybee - I wish I could run in the morning but I just can't get my body going. I so wish I could but I can't
Posted: 29/10/2008 at 22:14

Just toooo cold today for my poor nose
Posted: 31/10/2008 at 10:40

Big yay to cold but sunny, big NO to cold & wet... 

Cant wait to try out all my new long sleeved tops & fab running jacket, have only been managing to get to the gym just lately so no need for layering...  But this sunday could be MY day...

Posted: 31/10/2008 at 10:55

Orion R Beanie wrote (see)
Just toooo cold today for my poor nose

Wish I just had a sore nose.

Yesterday I annihilated my nipples in the freezing rain, I thought they were better today so I went out again...  someone remind me again why god put nipples on men?

Posted: 31/10/2008 at 12:01

No such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.
Posted: 04/11/2008 at 21:33

Wet feet I have yet to avoid by wearing the right clothes
Posted: 04/11/2008 at 22:50

I prefer to run in the cold weather because it means I don't get loads of sweat running in to my eyes.
Posted: 05/11/2008 at 09:29

Yesterday - my first 'off road' run in ages - loved it. Finally dry enough (after the wet summer) to run in the woods.

The evenings are really drawing in now, so it's going to be running in the dark from now on (apart from the sunday am run). I agree with Dual Heritage - my other half thinks the dark, temperatures below 10 degrees, a slight breeze or drizzle are reasons not to run - nevermind he spent 15 years playing rugby in all sorts of weather!

Back on subject - prefer running in Sept / Oct and early spring - love temperatures between 12 - 15 degrees. If it's too cold it takes ages to warm up, and any warmer than say 17 degrees and I find it a bit too hot to run fast / for too long.

That said, my best run this year was last Easter when there was light snow in parts of uk - ran along Hastings prom just as the sun was starting to set and the snow flakes were falling.

Posted: 05/11/2008 at 09:42

Much prefer winter running and as many have said seem to run much faster on the dark cold winter nights ...don't go along with this theory that winter running is good base training for good summer times ...seems to be the other way round for me ...struggle through the hot summer runs so that I feel the benefit on the cold winter runs.
Posted: 05/11/2008 at 10:40

I love winter running and fleece-lined tights and gloves make morning runs at 5.45 so much more bearable.

On the running safety for women, if I am running alone, I always take some sort of ID with me in case I am injured or in an accident.  I also wear a hi-viz vest and have a light on the back of my rucksack for running in the early mornings/evenings as I had a few close shaves last year with cyclists on the pavements of London which can also be used as cycle lanes. 

Posted: 05/11/2008 at 13:32

Not to mention at least a tenner for a taxi home
Posted: 05/11/2008 at 13:39

Runner-bean, I couldn't have put it better myself. One of my favourite things about running is the chance to get outside and really appreciate my surroundings and the changing seasons.

I also like running in cold weather. If it's warm in summer I find that I just get too hot and bothered, whereas I'm always lovely and toasty when I go out in my gloves when it's cold. At this time of year there are some lovely sights too; the colours of the leaves on the trees at the moment are stunning.

Posted: 06/11/2008 at 17:15

Actually the only bad weather for running is when you can't stay on your feet. As long as there is variety I am happy.
Posted: 07/11/2008 at 10:14

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