Tips for Running During the Winter

Running of the Reindeer in Anchorage, Alaska
Participants brave the cold during the annual Running of the Reindeer event in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, March 2, 2013. (Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson/U.S. Army photo)

Usually, after 8-9 months of challenging running and calisthenics-based workouts (see Solstice Plan), I am ready for a few months of non-impact aerobics of indoor swimming and biking for cardiovascular workout options. However, I have tested out some gear during the 30-degree days of the past month and feel like pushing it a little during the winter.

During the holiday season of festive foods, endless football and huge meals, even the most avid exerciser can gain a few pounds. Here are some tips to continue pushing yourself through the winter "hibernation." 

Pace yourself

Build up to exercising in the cold. It is more difficult to do any cardiovascular activity when you are used to 60-70 degrees one day and try to run or walk in 20-30 degrees the next. So, over the course of 4-6 weeks, do workouts outside as the weather changes.

For instance, starting in October or November, you probably were seeing 40- to 50-degree weather, depending on your location. By December or / January, if you continued to exercise outside, you might have gotten used to 30- to 40-degree weather.

As with anything, pace yourself and do not expect to go from 70 degrees one day and enjoy a 30-degree workout the next. It is always colder in the early morning or at night, so try to get some cardio during the "heat" of the day in the early afternoon if it fits your schedule.


If you are going to run year-round, you need a good pair of shoes. In fact, you should be on your third or fourth pair of shoes in 12 months of running regularly. I have found a winter running shoe made by UK Gear ( called PT-03.

When I received these in the mail, I was shocked that a pair of shoes could be inside a box that is so light. These are built for injury-prone runners with decades of research on British military members. In fact, I am not even wearing my orthotic inserts as they are designed to help a variety of overuse injuries caused by over-pronation or supination, for example. I found a large variety on at good prices and free shipping.

Also, did I mention the winter running shoe is also waterproof? That helped sell me on getting them. There is nothing worse than starting out a cold run with cold or wet feet. 

Hands and head

You have to keep your hands and head warm if you want to stay warm. On Ibex Wear (, I found some great gloves as well as a hood to wear to cover my head and face, if needed. Another option for those who have a tough time breathing in the cold is to try a mask using BreathXchange technology. I have not tried these, but a few of my running buddies swear by them for being able to better handle the cold air in and out of the nose, mouth and throat.

Other cold-weather tips

If you work out outdoors in freezing weather, be careful with ice and snow if you are walking fast or running. Pay attention to wind-chill warnings and double-check to have no exposed skin. Too many injuries occur just from carelessness in the ice and snow.

Lastly, know when to go indoors and warm up. Avoid numbness in your hands and feet, slurred speech and uncontrollable shaking or shivering. This could be the start of frostbite or hypothermia, which is deadly if not observed properly.

Stay safe and stay fit during the cold. Good luck and feel free to email me.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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