Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tips for the Trail: Cold Weather Running

Endurance Athlete Project member MGoBlue had the following question for the Midwest Athletes group: "This is my first winter as a "runner". Anyone have some good tips for winter running?"
Rachel Cieslewicz, an elite runner and triathlete from Salt Lake City, Utah, tackles a subject that most Americans can relate to these days - running in cold weather. Here are her tips for this week:
Running in the cold
Can't stand the thought of a treadmill workout? Do you live in the cold and don't know how to get out there? You are in luck. I am here to help you navigate through the best winter ever with world class, cold weather running tips, just for our tribe.
Cold is a relative term. Each person has varying abilities to run in the cold. Typically a person running at a moderate pace is able to generate warmth up to 20 degrees warmer than air temperature, until you add the elements. My suggestion is to adapt with shorter runs close to home until you find what works for you. More things to think about are gear, terrain, clothing, and fuel.

What to wear
I am going to use myself as an example. I am 5 feet, 6 inches tall. I have a lean build, tend to have cold extremities and hate bulky clothing. For temperatures in the 25 to 40 (Fahrenheit) range, I wear my favorite trail shoes, even on the roads because they are not netted and keep my toes warmer. In the winter, even the roads can feel like trails, as I dodge ice, slush and the occasional runaway sled from the local school's sledding hill, so a little extra traction goes a long way. Wool socks, 2XU tights, XTERRA compression shirt, microfiber hat, and gloves are the other parts of my attire for cold-day runs.
When the temperatures drop to 10 to 25 degrees, I add layers. Gore-Tex jacket, a looser pants over the 2XUs, or switch out completely for a thermal tight. For socks, I upgrade to my favorite lightweight wool ski socks and pull them as high as they'll go! I also switch out to mittens with hand warmers inside.
Single digits and sub-zero temps? Add a Balaclava to protect my face, and a lightweight wind vest stolen from my cycling gear. 2XUs and a wind-proof thermal tight. But at that point, I am questioning my sanity and typically head south!
Men or my warm-blooded female friends may opt to lighten that load. I just hope I don't run into any of you in shorts!

Consider the elements
If it is windy, use the wind vest on the outside of any of the above or get a specific wind-resistant jacket. If it is snowing lightly it is actually fun. Just make sure you wear your favorite sunglasses with rose-colored lenses to avoid being pelted in the eyeballs by snowflakes.
Now to my absolute favorite, snow trail running!  Must have gear: running snowshoes.  I use Crescent Moon out of Colorado. Atlas also makes a great set. Spikes are the other necessity. My favorites are Kahtoola MICROspikes.  Dress as above for temperature ranges but add gaiters.
Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in December at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached at  or visit her website at or follow her on
This was originally posted on Xterra Planet.


  1. Great article! Thanks for sharing. I'm really excited for our trip this weekend bc there are two great-looking options right in the Lincolnshire area. I'll take lots of pictures.

  2. love the new font.
    winter? what winter? 71 degrees. you bet cha I'm bragging.

  3. 71 degrees is way too hot for me runningwise...just saying.

    Great tips!

  4. Nice rundown.

    I hear that you are the new centerfold pinup for Patrick's Hunky Men of Triathlon calender??? Could I get an autographed copy? :)

  5. Good tips. I like the new look of your blog too.

  6. Very helpful - thanks! Many zero degree runs here in Ohio......

  7. I love winter running, for us in MS it really is the only time to run well, but it still can get into the teens and taking care to dress well, in layers, is so important. Great read Kovas! Can't wait to see you in the new calendar... 5'6" with a lean build, I'm ordering mine now!

  8. i was just reading about Rachel Cieslewicz. She's just awesome.
    love your new pic. not that i've ever really lived in anything below 70 degrees. :p

  9. The dark gray is a step up from the black!!

  10. Really good article and tips. Luckily we don't get that kind of cold here but there are a few places I can and hopefully still will run where I'll need this. Me too like the look of your blog!

  11. Well written and helpful info. :) It just rains a lot here but rarely gets below 40.

  12. Good advice!

    I must apologize Kovas... I accidentally erased your comment on the Newtons instead of publishing it :(

  13. You put so much quality effort and information here, and yet I still can't relate :-)
    Carry on .

  14. I seem to have my winter gear almost perfect now, although my arms still tend to get cold, so now wearing arm warmers, will see if this help.

    Great info, thanks

  15. Thanks Kovas, that was helpful. It might drop down into the 60's this weekend here.


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