Cold Feet

October 26, 2012 § 54 Comments

Now that I’m convinced I’m a real runner, I figure I should take to running over the winter season. My mother normally trains through the snow, as long as it’s warmer than -15°C (5ºF), so I figure if she can do it, then why can’t I?

Monday I went for a run and it was about 0ºC (32ºF). I wore my new digs from the NWM:

NWM Gear

I also wore a light lululemon jacket, some mitts and a visor… and I FROZE.

Actually, it wasn’t so much my body that was cold, but my nose and lungs. I have no idea how I’m going to make it through this winter. Does it get better? Do your lungs get used to that piercing cool air? Does your nose develop better circulation techniques? Do you eyes stop watering? If you stick with it long enough will you actually enjoy running in the cold?

The worst part was that I found it difficult to maintain my regular pace. I ended up running about a 0:30 min/mile slower than usual and struggled to keep even that up. It was almost as though my muscles weren’t getting enough oxygen because my lungs were frozen. I know they can’t literally freeze, but it sure seems like the cold inhibits oxygen absorption, which is rather counterintuitive. Remembering the PV = nRT formula from highschool chemistry, cooler air is denser, meaning there should be MORE oxygen going into your lungs with every breath. I knew that stuff they taught us in school was useless!

And now I’m sitting in my living room running gear on, staring out at a layer of snow on the ground and -3ºC (27ºF) weather, trying to convince myself to get over my cold feet and get out there…

Anyone have any tips on how to run in the cold?


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§ 54 Responses to Cold Feet

  • I hate running in the cold….once I get out there, and peel off the 3 or 4 excess layers I have on it’s ok…it’s just getting out there….

  • Bill says:

    Hey! Thanks for stopping by my blog! The weather here is just now reaching “cold” status and my lungs are cursing the change in temp. Nonetheless, I love running in the cold. The neighborhood always seem so much quieter in the cold.

    • Andrea says:

      Good for you for getting out there! Do you find it gets easier after a few cold outdoor runs?

      • runningdaze says:

        Andrea – I can’t seem to reply at the bottom of this post. My friend got me a neck gaiter for running and I love it! Have you tried one yet? Also, congrats on your half marathon! I am so jealous you got to do that race. :)Thanks for liking my blog post!

  • trikatykid says:

    Dress in layers that can be removed as you warm up, so you’re not running with sweat on your skin. Never wear cotton when running in the winter/cold/wet. Always wear at least a light beanie, keep your neck and ears covered when it’s really cold or windy and also wear a light windbreaker because no matter how much fleece you have on, wind will freeze your bones. Keep your feet dry with waterproof or resistant shoes, and be unfashionable and wear long socks under your pants to keep your ankles warm. Preparation is key. I actually enjoy running in the cold! If you’re running hard and it’s really cold, you can wear a mask thing to keep your lungs protected from the cold air. If it’s icy – wear Yak Trax on your shoes! Love your blog!

    • Andrea says:

      Wow, thanks for the tips, Katy! Running is always seen as a no-equipement-needed sport, where it’s just you and your running shoes, but that really only holds true for half the year! Looks like I’ll need to populate my running closet a bit!

    • Ditto on the no-cotton, beanie, windbreaker and Yak Trax. Usually, when it gets down to 8-degrees or so here, I’ll wear a base layer under everything – top & bottom. I love Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent line – they have thumb holes. Then a fleece pullover top, regular running pant bottoms, beanie, running gloves, I LOVE Smartwool running socks, and if there’s a lot of wind – I’ll put a fleece scarf around my neck & tuck the ends into my pullover. I hate when cold air hits the back of my neck when my hair is sweaty. Chills me straight through. Light windbreaker if I think I’ll need it. You can always pull a layer off if you need to, but you can’t add if you don’t have it.

  • Dani Cee says:

    Love the running gear! And, I hate the cold weather, so I don’t blame you for not wanting to go out in it ….If it were me, I would say stay indoors and wear the cute gear to run on the treadmill at the gym 🙂 Stay warm!

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks, Dani! I tried running on the treadmill this weekend and HATED it. It used to be all I’d do, but the first run back indoors is always the worst – there’s nothing to keep your mind occupied! I’ll have to find a TV series to absorb for those days it’s too cold or snow-covered outside. Any suggestions?

      • Dani Cee says:

        LOL… I am like you and hate running on the treadmill, but when I lived in NYC, I had no choice. What worked for me back then was listening to fast beat tunes on my iPod, but watching music videos on MTV or VH1… it kept me pumped throughout my run, unlike when I watched TV and got so absorbed in the show my pace lagged. You might try audio books on your iPod… it doesn’t work for me, but one of my friends swears by it – she works out longer and harder because it keeps her mind occupied while on the treadmill.

      • theblacktoe says:

        i run a lot on the treadmill and i read on my ipad. i find that, combined with loud music, makes the time go by pretty fast (though i’m only doing 3-5 miles). good luck, and i admire you for even trying to run in the cold (50s are cold here in California).

      • Andrea says:

        Read your ipad? I’ve tried to read and run (on a treadmill, of course) before, but find my eyes bounce around in my head too much to focus!

  • Val says:

    I didn’t read through all the comments for recommendations, but definitely layering. I also find a balaclava is helpful because it will warm the cold air before it goes into your lungs. Happy running!

  • Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. I found yours to be very interesting and will continue to follow yours 🙂 I’m a better runner in the cooler temps than the warmer temps. Living in AZ, the summers get brutal, so look forward to our fall and winter months 😉

  • Rachel E. says:

    Hi Andrea, thank you for visiting my blog! I love running in the colder months of the year. I trained through last winter for the NYC Half, but fortunately it was a very mild winter here in NY. I hope that we get lucky again this year. As it starts to get cooler, I will do a post on layering for runs of varying lengths. But I have to admit, my eyes do get pretty watery in the cooler temps!

  • I love running in the cold! I live in MN so in order to beat the dreadmill (when I first started running you couldn’t get me off the darn thing, now it takes a lot to get me ON it)! Just make sure you have no cotton on, you dress in layers, bright colors, traction for your shoes if it’s icy or packed with snow, and I wear an Under Armour thing that can go three ways. Over my nose and mouth, just mouth, and it can cover my whole head (under a hat or headband) if I want it too. The first few runs outside with the colder weather is always an adjustment. Your lungs will burn at first but you get used to it. It does get better!!

  • Tom Richards says:

    Others have said this already, but the biggest challenge is just getting out there in the first place. Cold air is always going to sting a bit if you’ve just left a warm room, but you get used to it. If nothing else, you might almost begin to like the shock of cool, fresh air after a while.

    Otherwise – layers…

  • runstephrun11 says:

    I hope it does get easier! My lungs were freezing this morning and it was only 10 degrees (C)! 🙂

  • Mary says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

    Cold weather running gets easier – or you just lead to tolerate it better! I’m in Ottawa, so I definitely understand the challenges of running in the cold. I echo some of the other comments above – layer up as best you can in breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics. I keep away from icy areas and always run during daylight hours. Enjoy your fall/winter running!

  • What you wear, top to bottom is really important, but how you approach your workout is the key here. You can wear layers, yes, but that is mostly going to come off as you progress through your run. I personally hate carrying extra gear with me. I would like to present to you more of an idea about how you begin your runs, do you warm up into your runs? When do you stretch, what and for how long? Cold feet suck something awful, but I think the gear you have is really important. Your approach both physical and mental going into your runs that will determine significantly impact your level of coldness during a run. Of course, if mother nature had her way, in the temps you are facing, we’d all likely freeze.

    Fun blog btw!

  • warriorofmetal says:

    this is my fourth winter as “runner” … and well … i still don’t love it 😉
    but as long as i know that there are other people around having the same problems in this season … it makes it more bearable and i find the will to go out.
    and well … the colder and uglier the run – the better the warm shower afterwards 🙂

  • NMW23 says:

    I agree with lots of other comments….layers and no cotton. I live in California now so I don’t have to deal with this anymore but I grew up in the midwest so I learned some tricks. I used to start with a tank (you know the ones with the built in bras that are supposedly to be worn solo but you really need a sports bra first?) and then layer with sleeves on top of this. It helped keep my core warm but didn’t become too much once I warmed up. Also, tall/long socks are a must for your ankles!! Look for the shirts with the tumb holes too…they help bridge the gap between your sleeves and your gloves. I’m not crazy about hats but the ear bands worked really well for me (again no cotton)….or if its super cold an ear band over the hat. It DOES get better and your lungs DO get used to it. I actually prefer running in the cold over the heat. Hang in there and before you know it winter running will be no big deal. 🙂

    • Absolutely agree with the thumbhole shirts, those are the best; I’ve found I can’t really wear gloves because my hands get super warm once I’ve been out for a while, so these are a great compromise. And also agreed with the earlier comments about windbreakers.
      Also a note, I always take a Kleenex with me, for the opening half mile before my nose realizes its efforts won’t make me turn back…

  • HJ McQuarrie says:

    Oh, this post is funny… I don’t think running in the cold ever gets any easier – we just get used to it. And no sooner have we become acclimatised than the weather starts to warm up again…

    Breathing cold air is the thing about winter running that I find hardest. It takes a while to get used to it. During the very cold weather it’s best to spend a couple of minutes jogging very slowly and just getting used to the cold air. Once I’m warmed up I can resume pace without much difficulty, so hopefully you can to.

    As for kit, I find that sweat makes you feel even colder, so I prefer thin layers that wick sweat straight off the skin. I live in London UK, so I’m not sure how our winters compare to yours (we have dipped to about 3 degrees celsius through December/January the last couple of winters) but I find that a tech fabric t-shirt layered with a long sleeved tech top and long tights suffice for a long run. Windproof layers are great during biting winds. Thermal socks are essential. My friends swear by gloves and hats, but I prefer to go without. I’m a maverick…

    • Ohmygoodness I don’t think I’d ever get used to running in 32-degree temperatures–let along sub-15! Love the running outfit. I’m not quite ready for winter to roll in but it was 42 degrees so it looks like cold temperatures are getting ready to rear their ugly head in cincy whether I’m ready or not!

  • D says:

    During the winter here we’ve witnessed temperatures around -15F. That being said, I never go out when it goes below zero. It isn’t safe. However, there are times where it’s still terrible for cold, but not deadly. Last winter I broke down and invested in Under Armor Cold Gear. Not a fan of the complete price [under $100], but that layer added under the hoodie, sweats, etc…makes a huge, huge difference. That’s my success for surviving.

  • Lisa says:

    I think it does get easier, even within the run. This morning my lungs and nose were freezing when I started (20* F) but after a few miles they got used to the temp. When it’s below about 0* F I usually put a scarf or face mask over my mouth & nose to help with the cold air. Good luck with winter running!

  • lslclr says:

    My breathing never feels any better/easier when I run in cold temperatures. One thing you may want to try is the scarf over your nose and mouth, that helps with the whole throat/lung burning part in the serious cold! That helped me a little when I lived in Boston.

    I couldn’t handle it, so I moved to Atlanta =) good luck!

  • domsrunning says:

    Guess it’s that time of year. Traditionally a lot of sports people change from running to cross country skying in winter. I’m not sure if that’s an alternative, but you can justify getting warmer gear and the cardio benefits are immense, (almost) better than running! 😉

    Seriously though, if you want to face the cold, there’s no other way except sucking it up and going out there to face it. You earn major points if you run in the cold.

  • Ed Mahoney says:

    You’ll absolutely adapt. It helps to run each day in a row. Don’t worry about running slower. Silver lining is being able to wear more good looking gear.

    • Andrea says:

      That’s a great attitude, Ed! I hate the idea of slowing my pace down though – I was hoping to get faster and faster as my training progresses… but I guess running through the winter is better than not running at all!

      • Ed Mahoney says:

        Exactly. I plan an event at the end of winter to motivate myself to train. The last couples of years I’ve run the Moab Half in March with a group of friends. Can’t slack too much when you have to run 13 miles.

  • tootallfritz says:

    It gets better. Until it does, dress a bit heavier. Get an under armour cold gear shirt to go under your 1/2 zip. I like the mock turtle neck ones cuz I like it to cover my neck. Normally I wear a long bra top under (so long bra top, under armor, jacket), then you can add a pair of run pants OVER the nike tights to keep your legs warmer.

    Don’t forget an ear warmer and/or hat.

    I also use a balaclava when it gets super cold but for me that’s like under 10 degrees F or if the wind is super bad. I bought this one at Dicks Sporting Goods last year:

    As for your lungs, they will develop. Your body will adapt. But my nose always runs. 😦

  • MikeW says:

    Hi Andrea, added your blog to my blogroll. Cheers!

  • gbenanzin says:

    Hi Andrea, thanks for visiting my blog.
    Running in the cold (I mean below zero C or 32 F) is quite different from our regular 50F or 60F. You need more time to adapt, more gears, maybe heavier and stiff shoes, long tights, everything give you the feeling you are climbing even if you are running on flat. Take it easy at the beginning and slowly increase the speed during the workout, keep your head, hands and feet warm (hat, double gloves if necessary), generally feet get warmer as you progress (I don’t like bulky shoes so even in the snow don’t switch from my usual all year round shoes to a pair I almost never ran in). Noose and eyes … there is nothing you could do, it’s winter and smart people stay at home! After a couple of weeks you feel more comfy outside it’s only a matter of time.
    Enjoy your cold run but watch the ice!

  • I think it does get easier with time, but I’m a big wimp about it! I run so consistently in every season but winter. I’m working on it this year 🙂 motivation to tackle the cold is what keeps me from running usually!

  • I am a huge fan of winter running and actually run the most from September to April and take it easy in the summer. I find that proper clothing really is key. A wind and waterproof coat that is breathable, proper pants etc. I also have a trick that I geting everything on and completely ready and I actually step out the door running for at least 400m. If I have to start my garmin or adjust I do it after the little run warm up because when I was stepping out and walking I was more apt to stop, fiddle, think I was cold, try to quit. I also find finding a fun winter race to do is a very good motivator. I usually do one around Christmas?New Years and also one February or March to keep me focused!

  • I have a tip. Don’t run when it’s that cold! That’s really cold!! I have my rule in the winter. I don’t go out to run until it’s 50+ degree’s. That’s cold for me and when I get home to shower I don’t even feel the water on my legs because they are so cold. If it’s too cold, I take my running on the dreadmill!!! Yuck! But hey, at least I’m running. Looks like you’ve got good advice. Maybe move to Cali!! *wink*

  • livedreamrun says:

    In above 30F, I always go decked out in Nike Stay Warm gear or UA Coldgear and a fleece headband/ear cover. Below 30F, the same, but at least two layers for tops and bottoms, and I wrap a scarf around the bottom half of my face so my nose and mouth are covered. By the time the air hits my lungs, it’s no longer painfully cold. I love cold weather running, and my key is warming up indoors so that I can start moving immediately outside. Standing around hurts too much.

  • I feel your pain! Living in central PA our winters are brutal and often find myself running in snow knee deep. Yes, it does get easier the more you stay with it. There are mornings when I look at my watch and think “really, 20 slower?!” but your body will adjust. The main thing is you’re getting yourself out and running in any weather- that in itself is an accomplishment. Just think, you might be running 30 second slower because it’s cold, but you’re lapping everyone back in bed 🙂

  • joemacgown says:

    I am originally from Maine, but have lived in Mississippi for so long I don’t really know what cold weather is any more. I don’t really like to run when it is under 30°F, although I find it easier in the afternoon than the morning! Good luck with everything and stay warm!

  • atalanta3 says:

    Love this post – I hate running in the cold (but I hated not running more, so I had to take the pain, lol.

    No – the eyes never stop watering; my ears were always the worst so I had my Ronhill beanie wrenched down over them; GLOVES!!!; and as has already been said, layers are key- running vest/singlet, Hi Viz long sleeve running T, Hi Viz running jacket (for those dark mornings and evenings). You can zip those right up to your nose and then you’ll breathe warmer air.

    Think of it as a shopping/fashion opportunity 🙂 I did! And have fun.

  • I’m just starting to run in the cold, too, though it’s only hovering around freezing right now in Montreal. I’m curious how it will go for both of us!

  • I hear you Andrea and am trying to figure out the same thing as well. I’m a Florida girl and have never needed to worry about snow before. I just bought a long sleeved shirt from Under Armour that has a really long neck piece that you can pull up over your nose and mouth, so that may be the way to go. I’ll let you know…

    • Andrea says:

      Totally! Let me know if you like it! I almost bought one yesterday, but figured I should so some more research on which are the best ones. I want my face to be warm, but I also want to be able to breathe!

  • I have this exact same experience with running in the cold, and all the same questions. From reading the comments, it seems a balaclava is the thing to use. I have tried very think ones in the past, but I found it hard to breathe. I recently saw a nice thin one at Sports Authority, so I might just have to pick one up. Another problem I have is my glasses fogging up… might just have to run a little blurry-visioned. Great blog!

  • Sarah Jordan says:

    Thanks for checking out my blog. I’m learning a lot of running tips from these comments and your blog.

  • I love cold weather running. It does get better! I recently tried running Skirts Sub-Zero tights (wrote a review on my blog) and loved them! For the past few winters I’ve worn Lululemon’s Brisk Neck-Warmer and I swear it helps with keeping my nose warm and limits that heavy, burning feeling of cold air in the lungs!

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks for the tips! I’ll totally be making a trip to lululemon this weekend! I worked at lululemon while in college for a few months and accumulated so much stuff that I haven’t shopped there in forever. This is a good excuse 🙂

  • activerunner says:

    hey! like your blog!! I agree that running in the cold isn’t my favorite, but I do it… when i feel extra motivated that is. part of the problem when running in the cold is that runners breathe through the mouth. You’re supposed to breath through the nose. The nose warms and humidifies incoming air more effectively than the mouth does so this can help with that. I always breathe through my nose and have very little problems with my lungs hurting in cold weather. I wear a mask over my face as well like the others said. If you haven’t been breathing through your nose while running it may take a while to get used too. Keep running out there. It will get better as you continue running. Just don’t slip! 🙂

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