Young woman running outdoors in a city park on a cold fall-winter day (motion blurred image)

By Diana Palka

We’re at that time of year where I walk out to my car in the morning and forget about the whole “warming up” concept. I also compulsively (and unnecessarily) drip all of my faucets overnight because I am terrified of waking up to frozen and busted pipes.

Bottom line? It’s cold.

But cold weather doesn’t have to be the bane of your running existence! Follow these three quick and easy tips to make sure you’re cold weather running stays heated this winter.

Keep a log of what you wear on each run, how you felt – oh, and the temperature.

This may sound silly – but sometimes, I forget what temperatures warrant what level of layering. Sometimes the relative coldness of 44 °F scares the mess out of me and I run out the door in thermal pants, two pairs of moisture-wicking socks, insulated gloves and a hat and scarf. A mile into the run and I’m running down Sharon Road in my sports bra because I’ve completely over-compensated. Other days, my mind somehow arrives at the thought of, “22°F? That’s not bad! It’s not even in the teens,” and I’ll go out in half-tights and a single dry fit long sleeve shirt.

Jotting down what you wore, if you were hot / cold / comfortable and the temperature at the start of your run can help jog (pun obviously intended) your memory for how layered you need to be. Especially at the change of seasons, when you’re basically crying the first time it dips below 50°F, having this sort of journal can really come in handy.

Invest in some throw-away gear.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in all my running years it’s this: No system is perfect. That said – there will be days when even your trusty temperature journal fails you. Things like what you ate or how much sleep you got – even stress! – can affect your temperature and how your body adapts to extremes. On those days – the ones where you somehow manage to get hot when it’s below freezing – you’re not going to want to chuck your $30 pair of Brooks gloves somewhere along your route and hope they’re there when you run by on your way in.

The solution? Stop by your local drug store and pick up a pair of those staple $2 gloves. You may luck out and even find some cotton ear warmers, hats or scarves too. Having this in your arsenal for the days that are hard reads or on the ones where your body just totally flakes out. These will come in handy on race days too when you don’t have the time (or wherewithal) to head back to where you ditch your gear.

Don’t neglect hydration.

Believe it or not – I have more side-stitches / dehydration funk runs in the winter than I do in the summer. Why? The colder weather tricks me into thinking I’m not as thirsty and don’t need to drink as much as I do in the summer. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Just because you can’t see Santa doesn’t mean he isn’t real. Translation? Just because you don’t feel thirsty doesn’t mean you don’t need water. Set yourself a “hydration goal” for each day and take it seriously. Reward yourself for meeting it with something sweet – or even a glass of wine.

Cold weather running doesn’t have to be a drag. The key to knocking it out and taking it in stride is simply preparation. Figure out your body – decide what works for you and commit to keeping to it. Some of my fastest runs have been in the coldest and driest conditions – and I’m the type of northern transplant who totally whines when it’s below 50°F.

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Diana Palka is a Charlotte-based writer; runner; lover of grace, craft beer and the well-written. She has an unbreakable rule that there are three things in life you never buy cheap: shoes, beer and toilet paper. When not working as a Marketing / Communication consultant in Corporate America, she writes for kicks and giggles at