In the cold winter months, running outside can seem like a big ordeal. Even those who run regularly might prefer the thought of relaxing in front of a good boxset with a bowl of popcorn. But did you know exercising outside during the chillier part of the year can be extremely beneficial for your health and wellbeing?

Running in the colder weather can provide an effective cardiovascular workout and a rush of endorphins. But it is essential that you take certain precautions to ensure you don’t put yourself in harm’s way when running in the winter. From wearing the right clothing to keeping warm, here are our top winter running tips to help keep you safe when running in cold weather.

What are the benefits of running in cold weather?
  • Running outdoors can help you stay active: Going to the gym is not everyone's favourite thing to do. It can be expensive, and some people may feel self-conscious if they are new to exercising. And with COVID-19 still hanging on, who knows if, or when gyms might close again. Running outside is more interesting than jogging on a treadmill, and it’s free!
  • Running increases your aerobic activity: A major benefit of running in cold weather is that you’re getting essential aerobic exercise. Adults need an average of 150 minutes of exercise a week, or 75 minutes of more vigorous exercise. A couple of runs outside can help you achieve these goals.
  • Running can kick start your metabolism: A study has shown that two-thirds of us struggle to do any physical activity during the winter months. This, coupled with eating more, can lead to us putting on a little weight. Cold weather running is one of the most effective ways to rev up your metabolism, helping you to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Running can stop you from feeling SAD: Shorter, colder days means some people can suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder, also known as SAD. Running releases powerful hormones, such as endorphins, that can help combat anxiety and depression. And cold weather running can boost your energy levels too.
How does the body adapt to cold?
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As temperatures drop, many of us will find it more difficult to get out of bed for a morning run. This is due to the body’s natural response to cold weather, which includes shivering, faster breathing, and a general desire to get to a warmer environment as quickly as possible. But it’s important to remember that your body does learn to adapt, making running in the winter a little more tolerable. Here’s how:

  • Your blood vessels change: When skin temperatures drop below 10ºC, blood vessels go through periods of dilation and constriction in order to keep warm blood close to the internal organs. During periods of dilation, the rush of blood to the skin gives your cheeks and nose the familiar red “winter glow.” After a few weeks, your body will become more efficient at moving blood around the body.
  • You’ll shiver less: When you’re cold, your body shivers — your muscles contract and relax rapidly in an attempt to generate heat. But as your body adapts to the cold weather, this shivering response is slowly dulled. As your cardiovascular system starts to move blood around more efficiently, your body will become better at maintaining a balanced temperature.
  • Your resting metabolism increases: Shivering is primarily fuelled by glucose. Regularly running in cold temperatures results in an increase in fat metabolism. Your resting metabolism also increases as your body adapts to the cold weather.
  • Your brown fat stores increase: Brown fat, unlike white fat, is metabolically active, meaning it helps maintain body temperature by burning calories. Our bodies produce more brown fat cells when we’re regularly exposed to the cold to help keep us warm. So in turn, running outside in the winter months can help burn more calories.
How to stay safe while running in cold weather
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Running outside on a crisp cold morning can feel so serene. It’s the perfect way to blow off those cobwebs and wake you up, ready for the day ahead. All you need is the right gear and frame of mind, and following these tips can help you stay safe while running in cold weather:

  • Warm up inside: Begin with some simple stretches like lunges, squats, and leg swings inside before starting to run outside in cold weather. It’s much easier to face the cold if you start off feeling warm. A 10-minute dynamic warm-up will increase your heart rate, core body temperature, and range of motion. It will also open capillaries and lubricate your joints, helping to prevent injury. Read more on how to prevent injury when running.
  • Watch out for slippery surfaces: Rain, along with freezing temperatures can make for icy paths and roads. So before you set off, check the tread on your running shoes to make sure they’re not worn down or you won’t get the traction you need. You can also buy slip-on traction devices for your shoes which can help stop you from slipping over. And make sure you have your phone with you in case you slip over and injure yourself — at least you’ll be able to phone for help should you need it. Running more slowly in cold weather can also help prevent accidents, as will taking shorter strides.
  • Be realistic: Don’t go out with the aim of running a PB. Running in cold, icy weather makes running more difficult, so it’s natural you’re going to run slower than you normally would in the summer months. Your performance in the cold can also start to decrease when temperatures drop below 40°F, as your peripheral blood vessels constrict, your joints feel more stiff, and your muscles take longer to warm up. Although once you are properly warmed up, it is easier to run fast when it’s cool than when it’s hot.
  • Wear the right gear: When running in cold weather, it’s vital you keep warm. Fingers and toes get especially cold, and one of the biggest concerns when exercising outdoors in winter is the risk of frostbite. Make sure you’re wearing gloves, and keep your feet dry by investing in a pair of running shoes with a waterproof, windproof, and breathable liner. Swap trainer socks for a woollen pair that will cover your ankles and wick moisture away. And a balaclava can help keep your ears and face warm. Read more on what to wear for winter running.
  • Layer up: Wearing several layers that you can peel away as you warm up is better than wearing thicker clothing. It’s important to be able to unzip something or take a layer off to help regulate your temperature throughout your run. Focus on wearing three light layers which will help trap warm air — a base layer made from a synthetic material such as polyester will help wick moisture away from your body. The second layer should be wool or fleece to keep you warm. And the top layer should be windproof and waterproof to protect you from the elements.
  • Stay hydrated: When you’re cold, you are less likely to feel thirsty when you lose fluids. And then once you’ve warmed up, you’ll start to feel very dehydrated if you haven’t drunk enough. It’s therefore extremely important to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your run to replenish electrolytes when running in winter. Electrolytes are vital for the healthy functioning of the human body as they regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue.
  • Whether you’re a beginner or a regular runner, good nutrition and hydration plays a vital role in stamina, speed and strength. And it can have a huge impact on your overall running ability. Take a look at A Runner’s Guide to Nutrition for helpful tips and advice.
  • Be visible: As the days are shorter in winter, chances are you’ll be running in the dark. To stay safe while out running, it’s important that you’re visible to others. You should wear reflective, fluorescent gear so drivers can see you. And wearing a headlamp will allow you to see where you’re going. Though it is advisable to run in well lit areas if you’re out early in the morning or at night.
  • Get warm after your run: When you stop running, you will start to get cold again very quickly. Sweat can make your body temperature drop dramatically, so plan to finish your run with a nice hot shower. Then put on some fresh, clean clothes and have a cuppa. You can stretch afterwards, but it's important to get warm first. And remember, if it really is too cold outside, it’s fine to skip a run — you don’t want to become ill or injure yourself in the process. You can always do an at-home workout instead.
Your essential cold-weather running gear

If you want to run outside in the cold winter months, it’s important to dress appropriately in order to stay warm and injury-free. Remember, you’ll still sweat, even in cold temperatures, so keep this in mind when getting dressed — that’s when those layers will come in handy.

Here are our suggestions for your basic winter running wardrobe:

Running Shoes
Trail Running Shoeslink

Ensure you’re wearing running shoes that fit correctly. If you wear thicker socks in the winter, make sure you take this into account too. And your shoes will need to have enough traction to help grip the road as you run.

Trail running shoes like the Evadict MT2 are sturdy and super-grippy, perfect for tackling uneven terrain and slippery surfaces.

Discover more products by Evadict, Decathlon’s own trail running brand.

Running Baselayers
Running Baselayerlink
  • Thermal base layer: Wool or a technical fabric like polyester should be your number one choice for a long-sleeve base layer to keep your body warm as you run. Just avoid cotton as it’ll stay wet next to your skin if you start to sweat.

The Kiprun skincare long-sleeved running t-shirt will keep you warm and comfortable when running in cold weather. It’s breathable, and seamless too for greater comfort.

Discover more products by Kiprun, one of Decathlon’s own road running brands.

  • Mid-layer/running fleece: Your second layer goes on after your base layer and helps to keep you warm. Wool and fleece materials are both good options. And zips are handy so you can regulate your temperature as you run.

See Decathlon’s full range of running tops.

Waterproof & Windproof Jackets
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Waterproof Jacketlink
  • Waterproof jacket: A good windproof and waterproof jacket is a winter-running essential, as it will help protect you from the elements. The Kiprun waterproof warm running windbreaker will keep you dry when running in wet weather. It’s breathable, and has built-in mittens and thumb holes for keeping hands warm. The yellow colour allows you to stand out in the dark, and you can attach a red flashing light on the arm too for extra visibility.
  • Running tights or trousers: Keep warm in a pair of fleece-lined running leggings with reflective detail for staying visible at night. Hugging the skin allows for moisture control to keep you comfortable as you pick up the pace. Or layer a pair of running tights under some loose-fitting breathable trousers. Secure your essentials with zip pockets and find your perfect fit with elasticated waistbands.
Cold Weather Running Accessories
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Tactile Running Gloveslink
  • Gloves: Your hands and feet are especially sensitive to the cold, and at risk of frostbite. Don’t forget to wear running gloves to keep your fingers warm. Or for double protection, wear a pair of thin gloves to wick moisture away, then put a warmer pair of gloves on top. These Kalenji tactile running gloves are warm and super lightweight, and you can use your smartphone while you're wearing them too.
  • Hats: A lightweight hat or beanie that covers your ears is a must-have for cold weather running. Choose a breathable hat that wicks moisture away so you can keep warm and dry on your runs. Shop Decathlon’s range of men’s and women’s running beanies.
  • Socks: Swap cotton socks for wool or synthetic materials that wick away perspiration and keep your feet warm and dry. The Run 900 strap thick running socks have a second layer that exerts the right level of compression which provides greater stability for your ankle. They have also been designed to protect your feet from blisters when you’re out running.
How can I motivate myself to run in cold weather?
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It can sometimes be tough to find the enthusiasm to go running, especially when it’s cold and dark outside. But there are some things you can do to help you stay motivated through the winter months:

  • Don’t overthink it: It’s important to go prepared, but try not to overthink your run. Spending time thinking about it is a sure-fire way of putting yourself off going completely. Just get up, get dressed, and off you go! (after your warm-up of course).
  • Set goals: Winter is a great time to set long-term fitness goals for spring to stay motivated and power you through the harsher weather.
  • Run with others: Running with a group of friends or joining a running club will help get you through the winter months. Having a good group to work with is a great way to have fun and stay motivated.
  • Reward yourself: It can be tough to get yourself out of bed to go for an early morning run, but promise yourself a treat for when you get home, like a nice hot bath or your favourite snack.
  • Get kitted out: Having the right clothing will help keep you warm and dry, so running in the cold will not seem quite so daunting — layers and warm gloves are essential. You’ll also feel more confident in great kit!

Our in-house running brands Kalenji, Kiprun and Evadict have designed products to help you hit the ground running, building on an extensive collection of footwear, clothing and accessories. Whether you’re road running, jogging, trail running or on an athletics track, we’ll provide all the necessary gear, from shoes, socks and t-shirts, to leggings and water bottles. Discover our RUNNING SHOP.