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7 tips for running in the cold

Man running across Brooklyn bridge
Man running across Brooklyn bridge
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It feels like zero degrees outside. The windchill makes it feel even colder. You have the heater on, you're bundled up and drinking hot cocoa, yet you still shiver. You walk over to the window just to take a peek at what, if anything, is going on outside. That's when you see "that person" out for a run. And you think to yourself "is 'that person' crazy?"

As it turns out, running in the cold can be very energizing and invigorating, especially to those who like outdoor activities minus the discomfort of heat. To those gutsy enough to get out there and brave the cold, here are some tips for optimum effects of running in the frigid weather.

1. Dress appropriately

You want to be warm without sweating to the point of being drenched. According to Maine Track Club president Mark Grandonico, "The rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer. You should be slightly cool when you start." Also, dressing in several thin layers of clothing helps trap warm air between each layer keeping you considerably warmer than if you were to wear one heavy layer, including socks. Avoid cotton though, because it holds moisture and will keep you wet.

2. Warm up before your run

Get your blood flowing before you hit the wintry weather, even if it's only jogging in place for a few minutes. Stretching beforehand is a personal preference, but many people DO prefer to limber up before running, especially in cold weather.

3. Wear proper footwear recommends you wear sneakers that have the least amount of mesh if you're going to be running in the snow/slush. You'll want your feet to stay as dry as possible. Incidentally, be extra cautious of the terrain you will be running on. Is it icy? Bumpy? Could there be potholes covered with snow that you don't see? That last thing you want to have happen is that you slip and fall on a patch of ice, or step into a hidden hole.

4. Go slow

You're at greater risk for a pulled muscle when running in the cold, so don't strive for a rigorous and strenuous workout. It's better to work on endurance and not speed.

5. Cool down

Don't just stop running. Do a slow cool-down jog/walk and stretch afterwards. According to, this allows the lactic acid to be flushed out into your bloodstream and eliminated from your body.

6. Change clothes

When you're done running, change out of your wet clothes and into something dry as soon as possible. You don't want to be lingering around in wet clothes in the middle of winter since it increases the risk of hypothermia.

7. Stay hydrated

Even though the cold may keep you from feeling thirsty, it's important to replenish all the fluid lost during your run.

NOTE: Make sure you get medical clearance before starting any type of running workout (especially in the cold). Cold air can trigger chest pain or asthma attacks in some people. Also get medical clearance when trying any new exercise or activity, and/or if you are starting a new workout regimen. If you feel abnormal pain or discomfort, stop and contact your health care provider.

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