Five ways for beginners to survive winter running

sunset green mountain park lakewood colorado

I got the bright idea to run my first 5k right as winter was arriving in Denver. A few years later, I signed up for my first half marathon in April and realized I had to start training at the beginning of December. Needless to say, I’ve had a little experience with how to stay motivated once the temperature drops.

Well, let’s be honest, the motivation isn’t always there. But a few things that will at least make sure you have a not-miserable time.

1. A headlamp

Running in the dark is significantly less awful if you can see where you’re going. Headlamps are a LOT brighter than your cell phone light, allow you be hands-free, and help cars see you better. A headlamp is also really helpful if you’re running on a non-paved surface or if you, like me, have terrible sidewalks in your neighborhood.

There are running-specific headlamps, but I’m a big believer in using what you have, and I have a regular one for camping, so I use that.

2. Layers on layers on layers

A moisture-wicking base layer (aka the layer closest to your skin) is the most critical to staying warm. Especially if you overdress like me, once you’ve run enough to get sweaty, your back/torso can end up wet or damp. And wet in the winter means you are COLD on your run.

A shirt that is not cotton will go a long way in keeping your dry. Merino wool is the nicest option, but can be pricey. Synthetic fabrics like this REI version are your more affordable bet.

You’ll obviously have to layer on top of whatever you have as a base layer. Bundling up in multiple layers helps you manage your body temperature, but it’s a delicate balance that requires a little trial and error. Here are my best tips >>

3. Reflective gear

If you have a nine to five job, odds are you’re running in the dark on the weekdays. Make sure cars can see you by getting something that either glows in the dark or is reflective.

Combined with a headlamp, I wear a reflective vest and reflective anklets. Some would say this is overkill but Denver drivers are *pretty* bad, so I’m not taking any chances.

Anklets or wristbands can be the cheapest way to get something reflective, so consider starting there. If you want to get totally outfitted, try my affordable picks for gear.

4. Make it a habit

Crawling out of your warm bed at 6 a.m. is not the easiest thing to do when it’s dark and cold, but I’ve done the unthinkable and actually manage to do that (almost) every week.

How? I don’t do it every day. I keep that early morning runs easy. And I don’t always expect to feel motivated to do it. Read my other secrets to early morning running success.

5. A sense of humor

The running world is starting to catch on to the power of beginners (hello, we have to buy all the new stuff to get started) or at least recognize that we’re here. But most articles of “things you only get if you’re a runner” still don’t make sense to me, so I made my own just for beginners. 16 Beginner Runner Truths >>

beginner runner truths 2

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

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