Healthy Habits, Self-care, Self-Management

How to Start Running In Winter: A Beginner’s Guide

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Are you thinking about giving up your daily jog because winter is coming? Do you think you don’t have what it takes to start running outside in winter? Well, I hope my experience helps changing your mind.

After years of fearing it, I realized that running in the cold is no different from running in any other type of weather. If anything, it’s even… better!

Running has transformed my life. Not only did it have a tremendous impact on my physical health, but also on my mental health. Running in winter as been especially effective in helping me manage my behavior and regulate my emotions. It’s also great for improving your focus. It has now become an integral part of my self-care routine.

Running in winter is easier than you think. Sure, the conditions on the ground (snow, ice, mud) may not be ideal from time to time, but it happens less often than you think. To be honest, you only have to watch out for icy patches. And anything above 2 or 3 inches of snow can be harder on your ankles and knees.

Beyond that, running in winter is actually pretty awesome.

Related post: Running Outside In Winter: What It Feels Like to Run in Cold Weather

I was very surprised to find out that I prefer running during colder months than during summer. Not only is it way more fun, but in the summer months, especially in July and August, boy do I suffer! The heat and humidity are intense, I have trouble breathing and my head hurts. But the worst part is, I have to drink so much water that I can’t hold my pee long enough to complete my run! And yet I’m still dehydrated… It’s a very unpleasant experience.

So, I’m glad I decided to try running all year long because now I can’t imagine not running in the snow or the cold.

Jogger in winter storm

Want to start running in winter but don’t think you can do it? Here are a few tips to help you make the jump.

1. Go for a run first thing in the morning

When it comes to running outside in winter, the key for success is to not give importance to all the excuses your mind will come up with. And your mind will start coming up with excuses as soon as you open your eyes.

It’s better to do the things that scare you or intimidate you the most first thing in the morning, not long (if not right after) you wake up.

Running in winter helps you both practise and improve your self-management skills.

This ensures that you don’t give yourself time to dwell on it too much or give it too much importance. And you can get that thing out of the way and be free to enjoy the rest of your day.

Tackling your most challenging task first thing in the morning liberates your mind and rids you of that constant nagging feeling that you carry around because you know you wil eventually have to do this or that later.

Not only that, but you get a sense of accomplishment and pride that gives you the confidence to take on other challenges later.

Remember: the fear of something is often worst than the thing itself.

You’re building a new habit

Doing hard things first thing in the morning is especially helpful when trying to create a new habit.

That’s because, if it’s a new habit, it is not yet natural or easy for you to do (no duh!); as such, it probably requires tremendous effort from you, and most likely takes a toll on your willpower.

Waiting until ‘later’ to do it just diminishes your chances of actually doing it, which in turn makes you feel lousy.

So wake up 45 minutes earlier, run, and go about your day.

2. Get up, get dressed, get out

Don’t allow yourself to fall in the trap of excuses. They will inevitably come, it’s a fact. But you choose to listen to them or not.

Sometimes, all the time actually, my brain starts listing all the reasons why this is a bad idea to go for a run exactly one second after I I wake up: it’s too cold, too late, too early, too dark, I’m too tired, too hungry, too this or too that.


99% of times where I thought I was not in the best shape and thought I’d have a shitty run, it ended up being some of my best runs.

I’ve noticed that the more I keep doing it and going for my daily jog it anyway, the less I hear these excuses now. I mean, they are still there, all the freakin time. I just don’t hear them anymore because I know it’s bullsh*t.

Very rarely do I have a good reason not to run. After about 6 months of falling in the trap one too many times, I know now when to not listen to my excuses, which is most of the time.

Don’t waste time. Get up, get dressed, get out. The excuses will be there but don’t give them attention. They don’t matter.

3. Don’t look out the window before you leave the house for your run

winter view

Chances are, it’s dark outside. Maybe it’s even raining a little, or snowing. Your bed was probably very warm and what you see on the other side of your window is probably not inviting.

It actually is (inviting), but when you are leaving a warm and comfy bed to go straight out in the cold early in the morning, it appears like it’s not. Especially when you are not used to it.

Looking out the window before a run gives my brain an extra opportunity to try and deter me from going out. Thoughts like “Ouh it’s all wet out; look how grey it is; I want my bed!!” start racing in my mind, and managing these thoughts takes a lot of energy.

The funny part is, if I step outside without preconceptions, I don’t find it so gloomy. It’s as if my brain didn’t have time to make up scenarios (and opinions) about what was coming. I just discover it when I get there and that’s just what it is. No judgement.

Related post: How to stop hating winter and always being so miserable in the cold?

Don’t look out the window and lose yourself in fear and anticipation. Keep your energy and willpower for the run.

4. Check the weather the night before, not 5 minutes before

Because you will need to decide whether you should wear an extra layer or if you need your balaclava for your run, it’s best to check the weather night before rather than while lying comfortably in a warm bed.

Again, don’t dwell on it or overthink it. It doesn’t matter if it will snow or rain. Just check the temperature, pick your gear, and close the page.

If you start checking your weather app while in bed, it will scare you, create opportunities for your mind to make up more excuses, and will discourage you.  

5. You don’t need fancy winter running gear

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t dress appropriately; you should. But I used to think that people who ran in cold weather owned all sorts of fancy, expensive gear designed specifically for winter jogging.

Well… They don’t.

In any case, I don’t and I see a lot of people wearing all sorts of ‘casual’ clothes when jogging.

One of the reasons why I took up running is because I didn’t have much money to spend on equipment, new clothes, memberships, etc. I needed to work out, to be outside, and I needed something cheap. Now.

So I started first with walking. Then running.

When October hit, I simply added my good-old Columbia rain jacket on top of a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt (always with a tank top under), and put on the same old pair of leggings I’ve owned since 2010 (no joke). And of course, a beanie.

When it got colder, I added a light merino wool turtleneck on top of that t-shirt, and I was good to go. I’ve been dressing that way throughout January and February; that’s January and February in Canada.

Oh, and there are no ‘special snow-repelling, ice-gripping’, running winter shoes. All the runners in my neighborhood, including myself, wear the same running shoes they wear throughout summer.

I run with my same old cheap Adidas for kids (they are so comfortable and they were on sale!), and they work great!

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t buy technical gear. I’m just saying that if money is tight, you can probably manage with what you already have and some creativity.

I only bought a balaclava to protect my cheeks better, and warmer gloves for the real cold temperatures like -15˚C/5˚F and below.

Overall, I spent less than $20 on ‘special’ gear for running in winter.

Even if it feels cold when you first step outside, as soon as you start running, your body will warm up quickly enough so really, don’t sweat it (pun intended).

6. Eat adequately the day before

I am not a personal trainer or a nutritionist so I will not try to give advice on nutrition here. 

But what I will say is that I have noticed that some foods give me more energy than others and what I’ve eaten the day before directly affects my ‘performance’ when running.

When you start working out, it is obviously important to be mindful of your needs and to feed yourself properly, both in terms of quality and quantity.

I recommend you consult a specialist, start learning on the topic of nutrition and fitness, and most importantly start paying attention to the signals your body sends you.

Are you ready to take on the challenge? You can do it, and trust me it is way easier than you think. Just try it and leave me a comment below to let me know how it went.

*Please note that there are no affiliate links here. The products I refer to or recommend, are simply ones I truly adore and use!

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About Steph

I am a personal growth/self-management enthusiast. I was able to completely transform my life using everything I share here. I hope this blog helps you transform yours as well.
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