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Smart Running Strategies for When It’s Cold and/or Wet Outside

The weather can be unpredictable, which can make keeping your running program on track a challenge. Planning ahead can make all the difference; here are a few guidelines before stepping out for a run. 

Warming up and cooling down: It’s especially important to treat your muscles gently in cold weather, so don’t skip the warm-up and cool-down. Do some dynamic stretches before the run, and foam roll with static stretching after the run. Do not start off running at your race pace—start slow and gradually build your speed and intensity.

Wardrobe: Assemble your layers! The outermost layer should be wind-resistant and waterproof. It’s helpful to have zippers in your underarm area, and on the front and sides of your torso, so you can get some air and circulation when you need it. Wool socks will help keep your feet warm. Color is key, too—wear bright tones so that drivers can see you, and stay aware of traffic. Keep your extremities and your ears well covered. When your run is over, don’t walk around out in the cold in your sweaty clothes; get inside and get changed. If you aren’t going straight home, plan ahead to have a change of clothes somewhere nearby, such as in your car or in a backpack.  

Rethink your route: You never know when the weather may change. Create a run with shorter loops closer to home, and/or plan your run so that you’ll be near a place to duck inside if you need to do that.

Be wind wise: If the wind is strong, steer clear of waterfront runs where it’ll be even stronger. Try to run into the wind on the first leg of your route, so that when you’re feeling cold and tired on your way back home, the wind is at your back. 

Cold- and wet-weather kicks: There are certainly athletic shoes on the market that are made to protect your feet in cold and/or wet weather, but if you don’t have the funds right now or your favorite pair happen to be mesh, you can make them weather appropriate by applying duct tape over the mesh. Set these aside as your sneakers to wear in the snow or rain.

Know when it’s too cold to go: Your safety is the most important thing. If there’s a risk of frostbite or hypothermia, move your program indoors for the day.

Content adapted from this post on the HSS Playbook.


Andrea Minsky

Andrea Minsky is a doctor of physical therapy at the Hospital for Special Surgery at Goldman Sachs. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and her doctorate in physical therapy from Rutgers University. Andrea is currently pursuing her Doctor of Science in Rehabilitation Science from Texas Tech University. She has certifications as a USA Triathlon Coach and in Active Release Technique (ART). Her interests lie in orthopedic and sports-related musculoskeletal conditions. She believes in injury prevention and strives to keep her patients active and safe.

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