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General Running • February 2, 2015

The Secret of Winter Running

The Secret of Winter Running

Guest post by Joshua Niforatos from Vagabond Running

I am often asked why I run outside in -13 degree weather, or in hurricane-like conditions. To this question I give my stereotypic answer, “Why not?” Only to get the stereotypic response: “That’s crazy! How do you do that!?”

It’s your lucky day because I’m going to share my secret. I have a funny feeling, however, that most of you already know my secret.

Let’s begin with the first couple weeks of running outside in 2015.

The first two weeks of January in Cleveland were terribly cold, and it has remained fairly cold since then. I managed to log about 25-30 miles per week outdoors in temperatures ranging from –1F to -15F with the wind chill. Of course, this is not a lot of miles, but running in these temps is both mentally and physically exhausting. And I’m a busy medical student, so I’m happy when I get in any miles during the week.

With Winter Storm Juno hitting the East Coast, I imagine it will be incredible difficult for runners to log miles in terrible conditions, both during the storm and after. It will take a while for the snow to melt. And as the snow begins to slowly melt, it will keep freezing over every night.

Perhaps not too surprising, we already see photos on Facebook, or updates on Strava and DailyMile, of people logging miles outside in the cold, in the snow, and in the dark.

Almost engrained into the DNA of runners is a somewhat impulsive predisposition and obsessiveness.

You know the type that I’m talking about – that Facebook friend who always posts all of his or her workouts, pre- and post-run meals, and who sacrifices developing friendships and hanging out with non-runners.

And you know what, it’s OK that we are somewhat impulsive and obsessive when it comes to running (assuming it’s not an underlying psychiatric disorder or something). Why? Because we’re passionate about what we love to do.

This passion is what gets us out the door when others are making excuses why they cannot train in the cold. It is this passion that results in PRs at various distances in early and late Spring races. And it is this passion that prevents the Facebook, Twitter, DailyMile, and Strava excuses for why you didn’t race the way you boasted you would earlier in the year.

How to get out the door during the cruel winter months to prevent excuses during the spring? Here is my secret on how to get miles in during inclement, terrible weather:

Just get out the freaking door and run. Don’t think about it. Layer up – wind pants, two pairs of gloves, a sweater, a jacket, a hat, a scarf, maybe two pairs of socks. Nothing fancy. It’s all you need. Don’t even stretch if those extra few minutes will allow the poison of excuses to creep into your mind. And most importantly: walk out the door with the realization that this run most likely won’t be an enjoyable run, and you will probably be cold and a little bit miserable the entire time. Just be realistic about the situation, and you’ll soon realize how much easier it is to accept it.

You might have been expecting running gear recommendations—and appropriate gear makes running in the cold possible—but running gear will only get you out the door so many times. Running in inclement, terrible weather is a mental battle. It is the same mental battle that starts eating at you during the middle/end of a race to walk or to slow down. If you can start winning these little mental battles now during the winter, imagine how much stronger you will be when race day roles around in the spring.


Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Bryan says:

    One nice side of living in the sub-freezing dry snow-less wasteland that is Cincinnati, Ohio?

    I still don’t need socks to run. Ever.

  2. Michael says:

    Bleh. Just to to Lifetime…

    And it’s “…when race day ROLLS around…”

    But seriously, props to you for going out there. It was really starting to piss me off.

  3. Michael says:

    oops…GO to Lifetime. Guess I need to proofread better myself.

  4. Michael says:

    “Mental battles”. I love the focus on overcoming them, because train hard, but the mental battles will not be eliminated over the course of say a marathon, and mindset and practiced stubbornness can make the difference

  5. Alison Conor says:

    It’s always the “mental battles”. Even thinking about running or jogging or doing daily exercises at the start.. Our lazy minds are our worst enemies. Haha! And yeah, I did expect running gear recommendations, but I just loved how it ended into winning against these mental battles. Great read! 🙂

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