I love running — it is my bliss! So, barring any crazy-cold days, I run outside all winter. Now, I have been running for (gulp) over 15 years. When I first started running I was too nervous to run outside in colder temperatures. I get that adapting to different temperatures can be tricky, especially for newbie runners. I have been there, done that. The lesson I learned is not to be intimidated by the cold. Take it from a veteran runner: you CAN adapt; you just need to implement a few of my tried and tested strategies for outdoor running success!
Tip 1. Don't be apprehensive about being too cold at the start of the run. You may feel cold at first, but you will warm up quickly.
Tip 2. Experiment until you find your perfect running attire!
Everyone's fall running wardrobe will vary slightly depending on their internal temperature gauge. My training partner, Tara, and I are perfect examples of this. We ran together last Sunday and I had on long pants and two layers on my upper body. She had on shorts and a tank top.
You'll figure out the wardrobe that works for you with some trial and error.
Tip 3. Invest in a few key pieces.
In general, a tuque, gloves, arm warmers, and a good running jacket are all good investments. A running jacket with removable sleeves is practical because you can wear it in the fall and winter.
Tip 4. Get a jacket with pockets.
In my opinion, the most important feature of a running jacket is pockets. Pockets allow you to take off your gloves, arm warmers, or jacket sleeves and store them once you are warmed up.
Tip 5. Don't forget to wear sunscreen and drink water.
Harmful UV rays are still out there even when the weather gets colder, and even though the cool temperatures may not make you feel as hot and sweaty, your body still needs fluids.
Quick side note: Running outdoors in the fall will make you ditch that treadmill forever. Watching the leaves change colour is beautiful and the temperature is often perfect.
Tip 1. Layer.
Some runners are willing to warm-up as they run, but I hate being cold. I need to be warm right from the get-go, so for me, layering is key. I love wearing arm warmers, leg warmers, gloves, hats, and even a balaclava. Basically anything I can take off as I warm up. For example, I usually start wearing both a hat and the hood from my running jacket. Once I warm up, I just wear the hood.
Tip 2. Wear tall socks or pants that are tight at the ankle (or both).
My biggest winter running pet peeve is when cold air causes the skin above my ankles to become cold and dry. Make sure your clothing protects your ankles.
Tip 3. Consider changing your route.
I also change my running route in the fall and winter. I do multiple small loops so I can easily get home if I want to drop layers off or pick layers up, or if I fall and want to get home ASAP. (I have become more cautious after falling on black ice last year.)
Tip 4. Be flexible.
If I want to run when it is dark or extremely cold, I allow myself to run on the treadmill. Sometimes runners adopt the mindset that treadmill running is not "real" running. The problem with that mindset is that it can become an excuse to stop moving during the winter. Sure, running on the treadmill is not the same as running outside, but some movement is always better than no movement. And since the belt forces you to run at a constant speed, you can use that to learn how to pace yourself during speed intervals.
Tip 5. Persevere.
Every runner will adapt to running in the cold differently; it took me years to perfect my rituals. If you freeze on your first cold-weather run, don't give up. Try again, take the time to figure out what works for you.
One final thought: Running is awesome exercise, but it is not the only exercise out there. Use the colder weather as incentive to try different athletic activities. Running can lead to overuse injuries, so mix it up! Try skiing, snowboarding, lifting weights, and doing yoga.