Running in the Cold


Last week I talked about safety when running in the dark, so this week I wanted to touch on dressing in the cold. Unfortunately for me, dark and cold seem to go hand-in-hand from early November until mid-March, so by the time I’m done this half marathon training cycle, I should be an old pro at this.

The weather in Calgary can be quite fickle, even in winter I’m never quite sure what the temperature will be like. Last week Monday-Wednesday we had temperatures nearing -30C with the windchill (that’s -22F) and this week temperatures have ranged from -9C to 4C (16F to 40F). This will continue through the winter, low lows to nice weather. Thankfully it’s almost always sunny, even when it is really cold.

I have a few rules I like to follow when attempting to run outside in the winter.

Run in cold OR dark, but not cold AND dark

Last week, since it was cold AND dark, had I been feeling well, my runs would have been on the treadmill. I don’t mind running in the chilly temps when there’s sun, but I won’t do it in the dark. This may be me being a bit of a wimp, but the sun really does make a difference in the temperatures. Minus 15C or so is my cold AND dark cutoff, so this week I have no problem running in the dark when it’s near -10C.

Layer, layer, layer

I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to cold, so sometimes I’ll over dress. I try to dress in layers such that I can open a zipper vent (can we take a moment here and celebrate the zipper vents) or easily peel off a layer. Last Sunday I headed out when it was -16C and it was -13C when I finished. The beginning of my runs is usually into the wind (I head west first) and then the wind is at my back heading home. This means I’m quite warm by the time I head home, so the ability to open a vent is super important.

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Layer one: super warm pants and tank top

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Also layer one: Warm pants and tank top. (Tucked in 1) because I’m awesome and 2) to keep the heat in

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Layer two (if needed): merino wool blend top over tank top (tucking in is optional)

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Layer two (final layer): vest with long sleeves for warmer cold weather

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Layer three (cold days): down jacket (with vents!!), toque and gloves. Sunglasses optional


I mentioned last week I recently purchased a pair of Newton BOCO AT running shoes. Oh baby. This guys are amazing in the snow. Seriously. My first run in them was on cleared pathways, but because of the blizzard the day before, I was running in snow on Sunday. I’m absolutely terrified of falling and hurting myself when running (this is likely a result of a nasty fall I had nearly 9 years ago where I broke my elbow; coordinated I am not) and these shoes made me feel really safe. They still have the Newton lugs, but they’re designed in such a way they grip into the snow to provide fantastic traction.


Stay close to home

When the temperatures are really cold, I run multiple loops close to home. When temperatures are freezing, it’s important to minimize skin exposure (frostbite sucks!) and if you fall and hurt yourself, you don’t want to have a long trek back home to get indoors, especially since your clothing is likely not enough for walking. I did run an out and back that was ~7km out (for a total of 14km) and I’m thinking that may have been a bit too far given the weather. I evaluate this on a day-to-day basis (if it’s warm out I’m comfortable venturing farther out). I also carrying my cell phone and credit card just in case I need to call a friend, or a cab, to get my butt home.

And now, something unrelated to the above, but since it started today, I wanted to mention it.



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Happy Thanksgiving to all my lovely American readers!

Tell me: what are your tips for running in the cold?

2 thoughts on “Running in the Cold

  1. Pingback: Link Love | Cowgirl Runs

  2. Pingback: Baby, It’s Cold Out Here | All You Need To Know

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