Winter Long Runs: How to Have a Great Run in the Cold

The best tips to have your best winter long run

The average temperature in NJ in January is a frigid 31 degrees. With temperatures that cold who the heck would want to go outside and do any kind of running? I’ve run in NJ winters for 19 years and I don’t think it gets any easier. Each January and February I always question my sanity: “why do I keep doing this to myself?” is probably the biggest and most often heard question that comes out of my mouth.

Winter Long Runs

Since I’m going to be running a March marathon, the majority (all of it) will be run in the coldest months of the year. It’s something that I’m not really looking forward to, but I’m also a realist and know that this is the best chance I’ll ever have to actually run 26.2 miles.

Most, if not all, of my long runs will be done outside and so I’ll need a solid game plan in place if I want these runs to be most enjoyable. Sure, I have access to a treadmill at my gym, but I’m certain that cold and windy miles will be 10x better than treadmill miles! My goal is to make this both a really good learning experience, but also a very positive one. Because of that, I’m going to make a list of all the ways I can make running outside in the winter and hope that I come back to this when I’m struggling to get out for my weekly long run.

7 Tips to Have Productive Long Runs in the Winter

Meet a friend for the majority of the run.

We have to know that someone holding us accountable is one of the best ways to get motivated and get out the door when you’d rather not. RunningUnlimited agrees by saying, “a running group means there are more people who are counting on you to show up, and who you would let down if you do not go for a run with them.” More than anything, having someone you wouldn’t want to let down will help get you out the door.

Do my active warm-up drills inside before the run.

Getting your blood circulating while you still have the chance to be warm is a big key to making the transition to the outside cold a little easier. Feeling looser and more limber will also allow that first mile to be more than a shuffle and you’ll find your pace easier to maintain because you’ve warmed up properly.

The best strategies and tips to get out the door for winter running
7 tips to have successful winter long runs

Put my running clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes prior to running.

I read that even a quick 5 minutes on a low setting can warm up your clothes just enough to take the sting and bite out of a sub-30-degree day. When your running clothes are just a bit warm, it makes running in the cold bearable. The other piece of gear that I’ve found really useful during the winter? A gaiter. I wrap it around my neck and when I turn to run in the wind I pull it up over my nose so the wind and cold don’t steal my breath.

Check the forecast and pick the best possible day to go long.

If a Sunday looks snowy, wet, or downright dreadful, it might be a good idea to move the run to Saturday or Monday. As a coach, I think it’s important for runners to be flexible and also have the self-awareness that if a run is way more enjoyable it’s more likely to get done in its entirety.

Split a really long run into 2 medium runs (Example: Friday night, Saturday morning).

Winter Long Runs

This isn’t ideal, but I’m not against it at all. When I have a 20 miler and the weekend is just downright awful, I might do a Friday night 12-mile run and an early Saturday 8 miler. Yes, it’s not a 20-mile run, but in terms of time on your feet, it’s something that can be done if it has to be done.

Treadmill, Outside, Treadmill

I really like this idea of getting in the slower running inside on the treadmill, moving outside for the actual workout (remembering to change into dry and warmer clothes), doing the speedier workout outside, and finishing the run with a cool-down back on the treadmill.

Schedule & Track

When time is blocked out in a calendar it’s harder to ignore it. A training log is so important to track your mileage and workouts. When you see progress in the form of weekly mileage or faster times, it’s a huge mental boost. That mental boost is just what you might be looking for to get you out into the cold.

I know that once the week gets going, I often forget where I ran, how far I ran, or whether I had a good run or not. I find that writing in my training log every day helps me remember =what I did each day.


My winter goal every year is to log happy and healthy miles. This year, specifically, I will be training for my first marathon and it’s super important for me to be happy during training. Yes, training for a marathon isn’t fun – tired legs, skipping out on late nights, but I truly like running and so this isn’t something that I’m regretting one bit.

7 of the best tips to running in the cold, hard winter
7 of the best tips to running in the cold, hard winter

Spring races happen and therefore, so do long runs. Despite it being really cold in NJ in the winter, I’ll need to find the motivation, energy, and willpower to train in the cold. With some extra planning on my part, I’ll still be able to get outside for my longer runs and workouts.

I want to run a good first marathon, so being as prepared as I can be is paramount. The longer runs and some workouts need to be done outside so I acclimate my body to the rigors of running a marathon. I’ll spend time planning and preparing so that I can have a good run even though the outside temps will be really brutal. If I can use some of the 7 tactics above, I’ll get my longer runs and workouts done while staying positive, happy, and most importantly, getting fitter.

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9 thoughts on “Winter Long Runs: How to Have a Great Run in the Cold

  1. These are really great tips! I actually enjoy running in the winter so for me it’s all about having the right gear to stay warm on my run.


  2. deborahbrooks14 January 2, 2019 — 8:21 AM

    Putting your clothes in the dryer for 5 min is genius idea! I actually prefer winter running to the heat and humidity of summer. Happy training!


  3. Debbie Woodruff January 2, 2019 — 9:01 AM

    I’ve never heard the dryer tip before! It’s a great idea! I don’t usually deal with such extreme cold that I would need to move indoors (though it is 40° right now). My challenge is the summer heat ( which is one of the reasons I stopped training for fall marathons!).


  4. Yes, I heard about it a while back and then it popped into my stream of thoughts as I was writing. I like winter running because I don’t have to get out super early (like for summer running), but boy do I NOT like being cold!!


  5. Yeah, it’s a cool little tip I heard somewhere back in the day. I HATE being that cold – I mean it only lasts a few minutes until I warm up, but still… Happy training to you too and happy new year!


  6. You like running in the winter?! I must have missed that boat! Give me shorts and t-shirt running weather any day! Happy new year and good luck with training!


  7. Janelle @ Run With No Regrets January 2, 2019 — 3:52 PM

    Great tips! I’ve never tried the clothes in the dryer hack, but I do my warmups indoors before heading outside. Normally I enjoy cold weather running but because of my injury-induced hiatus, it’s been a little tougher for me to get motivated to go out there!


  8. I run outside, year-round. And, I’m in Iowa, so my weather is probably comparable to what you have. That said, I have only ever done early summer (4) or fall (4) marathons. I totally hate the treadmill, so there’s no way I’d be able to do anything longer than 5-6 miles on that device LOL, and anything longer than 7-8 miles in the dead of winter does not appeal to me…even if it’s for a good cause. That said, I haven’t really found any spring marathons that have fit my schedule…we’ve had numerous spring activities and obligations with our kids forever.


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