Why do I Run in the Cold?

January 3, 2013

People often ask me, “Do you run outside in the winter too?”

My reply is always, “Yep!”

“How do you do that?” they exclaim.

My answer: “I. DO. NOT. KNOW!”


If you know me, I HATE the cold. Hate it with a passion. As a kid growing up in Minnesota, I wanted to move to Florida, but I was too in love and moved even further north to Alaska. It is funny because Minnesota is that state that most people in the United States think is synonymous with cold and winter, but I managed to find a colder place.

(On a side note: it is also interesting to think about my perceptions of Alaska growing up. Yeah, I knew it was there, but I didn’t think much about it because it was so far away and it wasn’t like anyone really lived there, right?)

Anyway, moving beyond my dislike for the cold, let’s talk about why I’m not sure I continue to run in the cold.

First of all, when I dress in layers, it never helps me stay warm. One recent Saturday I wore three pairs of pants. Three. Now one would think this would be more than sufficient, but oh no, my thighs were still bright red when I got back after a mere 3 miles. Plus, it is really difficult to bend my legs while wearing that many layers.


I also mentioned in a previous post how my stomach gets so cold. From what I understand, fat is not a good insulator for itself. It protects the muscle and tissue below it, but it isn’t able to insulate its self. (Someone can correct me if I am wrong.) This makes sense because when I look at my stomach after I am done running, the only area that is red it my little bit of pudge (fat) on my belly.

Oh, and P.S. I’ve had SO many  people up here tell me to gain some weight so I will be warmer. Sorry, people that’s not going to happen.


But all-in-all, the 30-45 minutes of torture I endure running in the cold is worth feeling really good the remainder of the day.

I also wanted to share this chart with you that I first discovered on the blog Sweat Once a Day. It shows how your pace changes with the temperature—hot or cold. This chart shows that 53* F is the optimal temperature for running and from there your pace slows down as the temperature increases or decreases.

I think my ideal temperature for running is more like 60+ degrees.



What is the hottest and/or coldest weather you have ever run it?

I ran in -40*F (with windchill) once time in college. (Heidi, do you remember that?) I’m not sure what the hottest temperature I’ve ever run in. . . . .90*F??

What is your ideal temperature and weather conditions to run in?

    1. My coldest run was -49F (no wind thankfully). My warmest was 97F. I think my ideal temperature is about 45-55F, but I sweat really heavily, so that’s probably why cooler is better for me. 🙂

      I ran in temperatures that cold because those frosty eyebrows/lashes/hair (like in your photo above) are just too darn cool.

      1. Oh, yeah. You crazy Fairbanks-lady!! Ha! I definitely don’t sweat that much, which probably makes a difference.

      1. Oh, and I don’t know if -49*F–just outright temperature, or -49*F due to a windchill would be worse.

    1. I’ve loved running in Anchorage this winter! I hate, hate, HATE the heat so would rather run in -15 any day than the humid 80+ temps I had to deal with when I lived on the East Coast. I get so hot when running, though, that I don’t have to wear that many layers. As long as I don’t have to hang out in the cold for a while after I finish running (sweat + cold = ahhh!), I seem to be fine. And it makes a scalding hot shower feel so rewarding!

    1. I’m from and live in NC. My hottest is 99. The heat index was worse. My coldest is only 25 or something like that. I like running in cold weather. By cold I mean 30s, preferably without wind. LOL

    1. I have run in -15 temps maybe colder…I did a tri when i first moved up here in -8 yikes! growing up in WI and being a runner that also doesn’t like running in the cold 🙁 winter always showed up and I needed to run outside- there is something about nature and running that soothes my soul 😉 When I was 29 I finally made my wish of moving somewhere new and warm so i could train year round for triathlons! little did I know we would end up in one of the hottest and most humid of places…Ocean Springs, MS! I remember my first run on the boardwalk over looking the Gulf of Mexico at 9 pm in August with temps at 90 and humidity of what had to be close to 100% holy crap it was insane! I ran for 30 min which felt like hours and like I was going to start in fire lol…I rushed in the door filled the bath tub with ice and gladly jumped in I would repeat that ritual many times! I lived there for three years. I did lots of running races, triathlons and bike racing in the heat and the crazy thing is you can not cool off by wearing less layers…heat vs. cold training its crazy either way but i think these extreme temps create mentally stronger athletes! The hottest temp was a training day in july at noon (crazy but i was preparing for a big race in the heat of MS so i had to be ready to race in HOT conditions. it was over 100 with humidity in 90%+ range!!! the workout was a brick (bike + run that was short lived complete with nausea, dizziness etc…but I won the race the next day so it was worth it 😉 So my advice…celebrate whatever weather conditions you encounter they build character and make for great stories 😉 Run on my friends!!!

      1. Maybe we could compromise and pick some place halfway in the middle. 😉 I agree these experiences do make for good stories.

    1. I also live in Anchorage, run all year round (like a fool). My thighs used to freeze but I’ve been wearing an insulated running skirt and it really helps. I got mine on eBay but I think Skinny Raven has them, too. They’re pricey but totally worth it. Mine comes to mid-thigh and is really comfy; I don’t notice I have it on except I’m not as cold.

      My big problem is fueling on long runs. I’m training for a Feb. marathon and have done many of my over-17 milers on the treadmill so I that I could drink and take in gels. Waterbottle kept freezing up outside, even when I tried to insulate it with handwarmers. Kind of a bummer. At least the weather is warmer now. Almost feels like spring, which is pathetic since it’s only 38 degrees.

      My coldest run was -17 with a -33 windchill. Warmest was 90 something in Hawaii. Loved it! I also prefer warmer temps but it’s so darned beautiful up here in the summer that I can’t leave.

      1. I’m assuming you are talking about the Skhoop skirts? Do you have the mini or something a little longer?

        Ha! Isn’t it funny how relative everything is?

    1. First I need to tell you you have inspired me to get my butt out the door once the cold weather hit. I said, “If she can do it in Alaska, I can do it here in CT!” Anyway, what do you use for traction for snow/ice. I live on the SW coast of CT so it will snow but then warm up enough to melt things but then then it makes ice. I haven’t run outside in about a week because of it since I can only run when it is dark outside. Any suggestions? Thanks!

      1. I would suggest having two pairs of shoes. One with studs in (screws screwed into the bottom of your shoes) and one without. That way as things melt/refreeze you have shoes for both situations. YakTraxs are also pretty good for snow but not so great for ice.

    1. i don’t exactly know my hottest & coldest temps, but coldest would have to be around 0 or slightly negative with windchill. that’s not too often though. but it does get hot & humid in the midwest during the summer, so then i try to run early early in the morning (60-70s) but have had to run in hotter temps (80-90s, with heat index) before. i’d pick about 50s & sunny ideally though!

    1. I ran in Tampa, FL in late July were it was sitting in the high 90s if not 100. It was my fastest run of the year to boot. I will do anything to save money on getting my oil change. I left my coupon at home and ran 3.7 miles round trip to pick it up. =)

    1. Love the chart! I am a huge baby about running in cold weather, but I’m getting better about it. I love sweltering along between 80 and 90 degrees if I can’t have my optimal 70 degrees.

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