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How to love winter running: why hitting the trails in colder weather doesn't have to be a chore

Woman running in snow
(Image credit: Getty)

When it comes to winter running, you might be wondering where your enthusiasm has gone. It can be tough to drag yourself from a warm bed on a dark, frosty morning to log your miles on the trails. But it will be worth it – without fail, it always is. 

Here we explain how to love winter running – and rediscover your winter running mojo:

Layer up

As the Norwegians say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Nowhere is that more applicable than with winter running. Under- or over-dressing can make or break your enjoyment, so practice a good layering system.

Most of your focus should go to keeping your core warm. Invest in a good base layer or two (you’ll need to rotate them). Merino wool is one of the best fabrics to go for in this regard, because it naturally wicks moisture away from the body, keeps you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot, and has anti-bacterial qualities that mean it won’t start to stink after a few runs. There are plenty of good synthetics that will do the trick, too, but these are far less environmentally friendly. 

On top of the base, include a nice outer shell to guard against the elements, add a hat or ear warmer, some gloves, and a decent quality pair of tights to the mix. A pair of light wool socks are smart as well, keeping your feet warm and dry. 

Chase the sun (if you can)

At the moment, with many people working remotely from home, you might have a more flexible schedule. If that is the case, organise your runs for lunch time, when the sun is highest and warmest. Not only will it feel good, but it will help chase away any winter blues you might be experiencing due to the shorter days and lack of light.

Running in winter

Most of your focus should go to keeping your core warm (Image credit: Getty)

Gear up

If you’re heading out pre-dawn or in the evening, don’t forget to light up in a different way, with a head lamp (check out our guide to the best head lamps you can buy) and reflective gear. Seeing and being seen should be your twin goals at this time of year.

Invest in a good, lightweight headlamp that has been designed with night runners specifically in mind, so the weight is well distributed, the beam options include flood and spot, and the angle of the lamp is adjustable. 

If you run somewhere that sees a good deal of ice or snow, another gear essential is a pair of traction devices. Slip them right over your shoes and head out without fear of slipping and sliding.

Enjoy the break from the heat

You may think you don’t enjoy running in the cold, but take a minute to rewind to the hot, humid days of summer. Winter running is so much better, it really is. Your pace might feel easier, you won’t need to seek out the shadiest routes, and you’ll finish energised, rather than drained. 

The trails will inevitably be a bit quieter too, and it’s always nice to be out among nature on your own. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for the different wildlife that emerge at this time of year, such as the hauntingly beautiful hoots of owls. Full moon runs in winter can be spectacular, and when you get home, award yourself with a warming treat like a hot chocolate as a recovery brew.

Still a sceptic? Give it a couple of consistent weeks – we’re pretty sure you’ll make it a habit.

Amanda Loudin

A US-based freelancer with a penchant for dirt, when she's not writing about the outdoors, Amanda is in it, running trails with two-legged and four-legged friends alike. You can find her work in the Washington Post, Outside magazine, REI's Co-op blog and many other outlets. Visit Amanda's website to read some of her latest pieces.