Good point. But especially with help of modern gear, it’s really pretty easy to stay comfortable on a run no matter what the weather’s doing.
Remember that your body generates a fantastic amount of heat when you run, especially when you’re running hard. You’ll probably find that you actually perform better than in hot weather, because you’re not forced to use energy to cool yourself. When you’re hot, your body has to shunt a substantial supply of blood to the skin for cooling. That blood is no longer available to your legs, so you’ll work harder or you’ll be slower.
In the winter, that extra heat you generate won’t slow you down. It will actually keep you warm. This is why even in frigid temperatures, you won’t need nearly as much insulation as you do when walking or standing around.
What you’ll absolutely need is coverage, to protect your skin from the cold air, especially at your extremities. Your face and fingers may require the most attention. If you have circulatory conditions, your toes may need some extra help as well.
- A thin, synthetic moisture-wicking base layer next to your skin. This will include tights, a performance-fabric long-sleeved shirt, a hat, thin gloves, and socks (probably a bit thicker and taller than your warm weather socks).
- Wind protection. At the minimum, this this will be close-fitting, wind-proof, water-resistant, breathable jacket. In colder conditions you may also want wind pants or warmup pants.
- Insulation and additional coverage. In very cold conditions, you may need a bit more insulation. You’ll never need anything like a down jacket or a heavy Nordic sweater, but you may appreciate an additional layer thin layer, like a fleece or wool shirt over your undershirt, and possibly wool or fleece tights under your wind pants. For colder and windier conditions, you may want a slightly heavier hat, possibly one made with wind-blocking fleecer, and similarly heavier gloves. When it gets extremely cold, you may need face and neck protection. Consider a neck gaiter, a thin balaclava, or even a partial face mask.
- Other considerations. Make sure your shoes aren’t too tight. If they’re snug in the toes, they’ll constrict your circulation, and any benefit you thought you’d get from warmer socks will be gone. Make sure you’ve got wiggle-room.
Don’t forget to hydrate just because it’s cold. You won’t need as much water as you did in the summer, but you’re still going to sweat, and you lose more water to the cold dry air than you may be aware of.
Give yourself more time to warm up. Warmup is important to get your joints properly lubricated —especially your knees. Give yourself plenty of time to run gently on moderate terrain before really push or charge up and down steep hills.
Don’t worry about the sensation that your lungs are freezing. They’re not! This is just an impression we get before we’ve become accustomed to breathing cold air. You’re doing no harm, and the sensation will diminish.
Don’t worry about catching a cold. Researches have never found any links between being active in cold weather and being susceptible to viruses. This is an old myth that won’t die. If anything, running will make your immune system stronger, as long as you don’t overtrain.
One legitimate warning: watch out for Ice! Icy roads and paths are a true hazard. You’ll have a bit more grip if you wear shoes that are meant specifically for winter conditions, or if you go with trail running shoes. That said, nothing short of spikes or studs will give you strong traction when the ground is iced over. In these conditions, it may be safer to train indoors, on a treadmill or cardio machine of your choice.
Otherwise, no more excuses! Gear up and get out.