Cold Weather Running

A Runner’s Guide to Surviving Cold Weather Running 

Training for the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon is in full swing, which means you’re probably facing some harsh weather as we enter some of the coldest months of the year. We’ve rounded up tips for running in the winter from our physical therapy and running experts. 

What temperature is too cold to run?

While some runners love to run in the cold, and others refuse to, what temperature is too cold to run? “Always consider the windchill. There’s a big difference between running on a day that’s 10 degrees and sunny with little wind and a day that’s 10 degrees and overcast with 20 mph winds. While you can expect that you’ll run at a slower pace when it’s cold because your blood is prioritizing blood flow to your organs, there are some health concerns that come into play in really cold weather. Sub-zero temperatures can pose risks like hypothermia and frostbite,” said Jeff Swartz, Mercy Health physical therapist and running expert. 

“Consider the risk versus reward. What are the risks of running outside in extremely cold temperatures? What are the rewards? If the risks outweigh the benefits, then it’s probably best to complete a workout indoors,” he said.

Gear up!

Wearing the right running gear is something that seems simple. But there are a lot of considerations to make when you’re running in cold-weather temperatures, like layering. 

“Layering is important because you can dress for warmth at the beginning of your run when you’re cold but allows you to remove layers later in your run when your temperature is rising. Avoid cotton and pick a moisture-wicking fabric as the base layer. Moisture-wicking fabric moves the sweat away from your skin so you’re not cold and make sure your layers are easy to take off and tie around your waist,” Jeff Swartz, Mercy Health physical therapist and running expert said. 

Don’t forget a hat and gloves! As with your layers, you want to find a hat with moisture-wicking fabric to keep your head dry during your run. The type of glove you wear is up to you – just keep your hands and fingers covered to stay comfortable during your run. 

Stay safe in the dark 

“With the shortened hours of daylight, odds are you’ll be running in the dark. Make sure you stay visible by wearing bright colors or reflective gear. You can even grab a headlamp to wear while you’re running in the dark not only to alert drivers that you’re running but also to avoid any obstacles like a bump on the sidewalk.

Run slower

The chance of running on ice or snow increases as temperatures drop. Be sure you’re running safely to avoid slipping on ice and spending the rest of the winter rehabbing your injury. “Winter is the perfect time to build your base running at an easy pace. If you’re training for a winter or spring race, make sure you’re doing so safely by running on days where conditions are good or hitting the treadmill,” says Jeff. 

Adjust your mindset 

“Running in the winter is typically more difficult because your body is working harder to regulate its temperature. Your body will acclimate to the colder temperature, but it takes time. Most people are not setting PRs in the winter, it’s a time to maintain your fitness and run easy to build your base. Use the winter as an opportunity to run easy and give your body a break so you can come back even stronger in the spring,” says Jeff. 

Stay safe when running in the winter! Especially those currently preparing for the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon. If you’ve been training but have yet to sign up, there is still time to register.

Mercy Health’s orthopedic and sports medicine team of physicians and running medicine specialists are here to help! They are available to assist you during your training and proudly provide medical aid to runners on-site during marathon race weekend.

Learn more about the orthopedic and sports medicine services we offer.