4 Awesome Reasons to Run* Outside All Winter**

December 28th, 2012 | Posted by Alison Spath in Fitness

I had an appointment first thing this morning to drop our car off for its annual inspection. Our repair shop is only a mile from home, and since Zak was off today (and all week for the holidays!) I was able to leave him home with the kiddos while I drove the car to the shop. I had a neighbor offer to follow me there and drive me home, but at the last minute I decided to use the opportunity for some early morning exercise and run home instead.

I went the long way home and covered about 3 miles in 30 minutes. The northeast was pounded with snow on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, this is the first major snowfall we’ve had since last winter.  I’m only getting out to run about two days a week right now due to babies and late sunrises, but this morning I was reminded of the reasons I love to run in the winter, even when the sidewalks and streets are filled with snow.

* – these reasons aren’t necessarily specific to running – they still apply whether you like to walk, hike, skip, frolick… or whatever your preferred form of locomotion might be.

** – If your winters are warm, sunny, dry and absolutely delightful, then never mind any of this.  (And ohbytheway, you suck.)

Snow Filled Streets

MY winters often look like this.  Even though I started running in 2005, I didn’t start running all year round until 2008.  It wasn’t until after my first winter of running had drawn to a close that I saw what was so great about running through the ice and slush and slop of the cold season.

It Forces You to Slow Down

If it’s not the snow on the ground that’s slowing you down then it’s the added gear and layers that add resistance and weight that slow down your pace.  I think of easy runs as my running foundation and in my book, easy = slow.  I use to think it was pointless to sometimes throw purposeful slow runs into the mix, but I do not think that way anymore.

It’s GOOD to run slower than usual sometimes! It helps you build the mileage base if you’re new to the sport.  It gets you ready for more mileage if you want to start running further.  You’re not completely wiped out for the rest of the day from an intense work out.  High intensity work outs are great, but low intensity work outs can have their place in your workout regime too.

If you haven’t yet discovered the joy of running slow, winter running can fix this for you.   Even if you feel like you’re already a slow runner, that’s OK – use it as an excuse to run even slower.  Get out there and run so slow that you need to cup one hand over your brow to avoid making eye contact with anyone you might pass on the street.

It Feels That Much Better to Run With Your Clothes Off

With less clothes on, I mean – in the late spring, summer and early fall.  (Or at the gym on the treadmill.)  The first time you get outside after a long winter of needing to wear two pairs of pants, two tops, a hat, gloves and whatever other gear you use to cover your various body parts, you aren’t going to believe how insanely fast you feel with just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt on when the warm weather returns.

It Works Your Legs Differently

I’ve got no studies to cite or random internet articles to link to, so know this is purely conjecture – but I’m positive I’m waking up leg muscles that have been snoozing all summer when I work to maintain my balance on slick surfaces, jump up and over snow banks and/or ankle deep puddles of brown swamp water.  Winter running has cross training built right in.

You Feel Like a Bad Ass

When it’s time to get ready for a snowy run, you look outside and think “Man, this is going to suck.”  But then you get out there and do it, and soon you see that you do eventually warm up, it’s not as bad as you were expecting and in fact, it’s actually not that sucky at all!

THEN those feel good endorphins starts seeping into your brain (I feel a noticeable change in my mood at about the 30 – 35 minute mark) and not only are you thinking “this doesn’t suck!” but you are also thinking “Look at me out here!  I’m doing it!  I am a freaking ROCK STAR!  I’m kicking ass and taking names later!  All you people inside don’t know what you’re missing out here!  As a matter of fact, you SUCK!  I do not suck!”

Except no, don’t think that last part.  If you come back and tell anyone that’s what you’ve been thinking while you’ve been out there slogging through the snow, they’re just just going to think you’re a running jackass.  Then you’ll be sad and feel stupid and totally blow your runner’s high.

Alright, that’s what I’ve got.  Are you a fair weather runner or do you try to get outside for some exercise all year round?  What’s your favorite part?  Do you have a bunch of snow in your back yard right now like we do?  Is your car a month overdue for an inspection like mine was?  (Shhhh!)

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7 Responses

  • Kate says:

    I live in Syracuse and run outside all winter (hey, if we upstate-NYers can run outside in the winter, anyone can). I will admit to running on the treadmill once or twice a week for intervals, though. I also like snowshoeing when we have enough snow for it. This morning I took my 22lb daughter in the hiking backpack and my crazy border collie on leash for a 2-mile trudge through the snow…lots of fresh air for all of us!

    • Kate, I’m so glad you commented about snowshoes, my daughters just got some for Christmas and I’m tempted to spend my Christmas cash for a pair of my own! Is snowshoeing a decent workout? I’m wondering if cross country skis might be better, or if I’d be more likely to use snowshoes over x-country skis… I just ditched our gym membership for the time being (just no time to go right now!) and I’m looking for some other ways to keep exercise interesting this winter!

      • Kate says:

        If the snow is deep, it’s a heck of a workout! I usually go to a nearby golf course and sometimes I will follow in someone else’s tracks, sometimes I will blaze my own trail. I also have cross country skis though haven’t used them too much lately (I get nervous about falling with my daughter in the backpack, and it’s easier to get my dog on leash if I need to on the snowshoes) and that is also a decent workout. I’d say its pretty much a toss-up as to which one is a better workout and I find them both equally fun. I’m thinking about trying to rig up some sort of sled to put my daughter on so I can pull her behind me while I’m on skis…we’ll see if I get the ambition!

  • Devann says:

    I am a new runner (started in June) and am still working to condition my lungs to run in the cold air. I am down to 46• with a comfy run. I ran a turkey trot and it was in the 30•s and I sounded like I had pneumonia the rest of the day. Any tips? Breathing in my nose doesn’t help. How do. Keep your feet warm?


    • Hey Devann, have you tried a neck warmer to keep your nose and mouth partially covered? (A scarf could work, mine is very simple and made out of fleece, something like this.) I only wear it when it’s REALLY cold out, mostly to keep my chin and cheeks warm, but it helps warm the air I’m breathing in too. I do think you’re on the right track – it’s probably a matter of conditioning and it should get easier with time. Slower running could definitely come in handy here as well so that you’re not huffing and puffing too hard. Maybe you could keep your runs on the shorter side until it starts to feel easier?

      Way to go for sticking it with it through the colder months!

    • Heidi says:

      Put duct tape over the toes of your shoes and wear 2 pairs of socks, one wool and one synthetic

  • Devann says:

    I’m just seeing these responses! I actually have been running outside since! Even in 10• windchill! My lungs are fine now as long as I remember to use my inhaler ahead of time!

    I haven’t put anything on my face but may try that next time it’s super cold. Duct tape is a great idea! Thanks! I have done the double socks and it seems to work good!