5 Reasons to Run Outside in the Cold

A woman walks on a pathway at dusk.

Cold temperatures, dreary skies and muddy conditions can make winter running seem dreadful. Gone are the days of shorts, T shirts and sunshine.

Despite the challenges that come with winter running, many runners still prefer to run outdoors rather than put in miles on a treadmill. But getting started on a cold, dark day can be the hardest part. What can motivate you to run outside this time of year? Here are five reasons to run outside in the cold.

1. Your friends

Three runners smile as they run together down a city pathway.

It’s easy to procrastinate (or skip) a solo run. But if you made a plan to run with friends, you’re less likely to bail. Conversation makes the miles fly by, and studies show that having a companion by your side increases your motivation to workout for a longer period of time.

From a safety standpoint, as the COVID pandemic continues, running is one of the safest and most comfortable outdoor activities to do with others in cold weather since you warm up as you go. It’s a perfect way to connect in person without the need for screens or tech.

2. Your comfy winter gear

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “There is no bad weather, just bad gear.” If you have the right winter running clothes to keep you warm, you can run comfortably in freezing temperatures, and do it with style. The magical thing about running in the cold is how easily your body adapts as long as you have warm gear to hang onto heat you produce as it breathes and wicks away your sweat.

Breathable synthetic or wool gear (like these Fleet Feet favorites) will regulate your temperature best. Avoid cotton, since it holds moisture, and leaves you damp and cold. After about 10 minutes of running, expect your body to feel 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the temperature outside. Remember, if you aren’t a little chilly at the start of a winter run, you may be dressed too warmly. Check out our winter weather dressing tips here.

A smiling woman runs with her dog on a leash on the sidewalk

3. Your dog

If you have a furry friend in need of exercise, you already know what a big motivator it can be (and if not, maybe your dog needs more exercise). A regular outdoor date with your doggy gets you out the door and expends energy to keep her from eating your shoes.

Plus, it’s a great way to strengthen the bond that you share and explore your neighborhood or a favorite trail. If getting out the door is the hardest part, your dog will get you there and then help you to appreciate every squirrel and interesting smell along the way.

4. That amazing post-run feeling

Running is a perfect mood booster, which you may need even more during a dark and gloomy season. While you may not be brimming with motivation before the sun rises, you will likely feel better as a result of your run. When you run, your body releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and endocannabinoids. As a result, your mood improves and you become more resilient to stress.

When the rest of your household is bundled up in their fleece pajamas, you can come back from your run dripping with mud and melted snow like the champion you are. You conquered the elements and now you’ll conquer the rest of your day.

A woman runs down a city street.

5. It’s fun!

With the right preparation and perspective, winter running isn’t just tolerable; it can be fun!

This is the time of year to tromp through the snow, and to get the best trail views now that the leaves have fallen. Find something new and exciting to explore, get the gear you need to stay comfortable, meet a friend and keep at it!

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