5 Things You Need to Do Before Running Outside in Winter

5 Things You Need to Do Before Running Outside in Winter
Presented by Spartan Training®

Winter in the Northern Hemisphere often comes with plunging temperatures, freezing rain, and snow. But the more uncomfortable the weather becomes outside, the grittier you'll get by training in it. 

Being a Spartan is a way of life, and you don’t take time off when temperatures get a little cold. It's still important, however, to thoroughly prep for cold weather running and be smart about what you wear when you’re training hard outdoors.

Related: 5 Reasons You Need to Exercise Outside This Winter

So, with that in mind, here are some top tips for what you need when you’re running or training outdoors in winter.

How to Run in the Winter

winter run

1. Make Sure You’re Motivated

Justin Jones, a Spartan SGX coach and the founder of Active Choice UK, runs a year-round outdoor bootcamp. Although he says that training outdoors in all weather is a great way to build mental and physical resilience, Jones admits that it can be difficult for some to maintain motivation through the winter. That’s why it’s important to have good reasons to get out on a run (even when you know you’ll be freezing your ass off) and rely on that "why" on those days when the weather’s almost too bad to be outdoors.

Related: The 9 Essential Pieces of Gear that EVERY Spartan Newbie Needs for their First Race

“Many people struggle to find motivation to train in the winter when it would be far easier to hibernate indoors,” Jones says. “So, book a race for early spring, and then you have a good reason to get out there. It's also a good idea to find a training partner or group to encourage each other to train and help you stay accountable.”

2. Warm Up Inside

Warming up before you leave the house will loosen your muscles and joints and help boost your body temperature so that the shock of the cold won’t feel so bad once you step outside the door.  

Related: The 10 Best Exercises for a Dynamic Warm-Up

Because the nerves drive flexibility throughout the body, Jones says it’s also important to activate the nervous system so that your body doesn’t tighten up in the cold.  

He follows through on a regular cold-weather warm-up that consists of:

  • Spiderman lunge with rotation: 2 sets of 10 on each side
  • Bird dogs: 2 sets of 10 on each side
  • Single-leg Romanian deadlifts: 2 sets of 5 on each side
  • Lateral lunge to balance: 2 sets of 5 on each side
  • 5a. Twitchy seal jacks: 2 sets of 5
  • 5b. Explosive jump: 2 times

“And if I'm going for a run, I'll do some A skip, B skip, C skip running drills for two sets of 10 each once I'm outside,” he adds. “It might look a little silly, but it's a great way to fire up your body for the run.”

3. Change Your Shoes

Megan Beck, a certified athletic trainer, obstacle specialist, and the founder of TheOCRTrainer, is based in Boston, so she knows a thing (or six) about cold weather training. 

If snow is a given for your winter run, Beck suggests adding an extra level of tread to your shoes.

Related: Race. Rinse. Repeat. The Spartan RD Pro is the Unbreakable Shoe

"If you're running on pavement, switch to your trail shoes,” she advises. “And if you're running on trails, find a solid pair of crampon cleats. This will not only save you from slipping and sliding on ice and snow, but it will provide your ankles and legs with more stability to maintain a jogging gait.”

4. Layer Up

Beck also recommends layering up for an outdoor winter run, with a few things in mind.

“Your body feel is typically 20 degrees warmer than what the temperature says,” she claims. “So don’t dress for the current weather; dress for slightly warmer. As soon as your body heats up and your blood starts pumping, you will find yourself shedding layers quickly.”

Jones agrees.

Related: The Ultimate Baselayer, Hoodie, and Jacket Guide to Crush Your Winter Workouts

“Start with a base layer and waterproof outer, then consider additional layers in between depending upon the weather and how hot you get," he says. "Remember, it's better to have a layer and not need it than to need it and not have it!” 

Hats and gloves are essential if the weather is below freezing. And in milder winter weather, Jones advises bringing them anyway, as they can be taken off quickly to cool down and put back on to warm up. 

“Also, choose clothing that can wick away sweat,” Jones urges. “Either synthetics or merino wool. No cotton! Cotton will stick to your skin as you sweat, which — besides feeling very unpleasant — can make you get cold faster.”

5. Stay Hydrated, Even if You Don't Feel Thirsty

Finally, you generally don’t feel as thirsty while running in winter, but staying hydrated is essential to ensure that your body continues to perform optimally. We might not sweat as much when we’re out braving the elements on a run, but because there’s less moisture in cold air than warm air, our lungs snatch moisture from our bodies with each breath that we take.  

Related: 10 Things You Didn't Know Hydration Could Do for Your Brain and Body

So, drink liquids before and after cold-weather training, Jones says. And if you’re planning on being out for a longer time, make sure that you’re packing a bottle.

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