10 Secrets for Happy Winter Running


I’m still a new runner—and I use the word runner loosely, since I still can’t run up all the hills around my house. But if I don’t get at least a weekly run, I feel myself start to get crusty and cranky, and return to a state of being where I was not happy one bit with myself. And so I gear up and go out, even if it is in the single digits, and even if there is 15 inches of snow on the ground. Sometimes, a girl has just got to run. And here are my tips for keeping myself happy while running; maybe they can keep you happy, too.

1. Merino wool—Here’s a story for you. When my dad died 20 years ago, he didn’t leave behind much in the realm of material things. But I did take his woolen cycling leggings. I have worn them every winter for all those years whenever I go out in the snow or ride or ski or anything. I think of them as my magic pants, because no matter how fat or thin I’ve been (mostly fat), they fit. It’s as if he’s there, saying, “You go, girl!” (And then, also, “Oh yeah, sorry for everything else.”) So I’m a big fan of wool clothing for winter sports. And now there are some amazingly soft merino wool leggings available. Depending on the weather, I wear them alone or under other pants. Love them! There are also wool running shirts that are warm and comfy for sweating in the cold.

2. Cashmere—I have a few practical and machine-washable cashmere sweaters from L.L. Bean. They are light, soft, breathable, and so warm. Also, a lightweight cashmere scarf is indispensable for managing cold comfort. If it’s too cold, it goes over my mouth and nose; if it gets too warm, I tie it around my waist.

3. Buffalo wool—I have this headband that is essential. I’m sure that there are other fibers that work, but this is my favorite. I bought it at the Emmaus Farmer’s Market from the guy who sells buffalo meat! It’s soft, covers my ears, and keeps my head warm, but because it’s open at the top, it doesn’t suffocate my head.

4. The ability to think ahead—Thoughts that matter: I will feel so much better when I’m done! If I run now, I can really relax later. Wow, just think how nice that hot bath will feel later. Don’t forget, it’s only the first five minutes that are cold—then I’ll get really hot, in a good way!

5. Rule # 5—One of my friends is from Australia. And he tells me there is only one rule that matters, and it’s rule # 5: Harden the F*ck Up. This is someone who rides 95 miles on his bike in one day…for fun. So when I’m facing an especially tough hill, I just tell myself “Rule #5,” and smile my way though it.  Sometimes, pain is good.

6. Take a cellphone (with a camera in it!) just in case you slip on the ice, or see something beautiful and you want to take a picture. Or you fall and hit your head and get amnesia and can’t remember who you are or where you live or something like that.

7. Wear a vest, with pockets—for holding the cellphone, or the gloves that always get you too hot and come off after the first five minutes. Plus, vests keep your core warm without making the rest of you too hot.

8. Go with bright colors—Where I live, if it’s not hunting season for something, then you have to worry about cars. Or both at the same time. It’s better to be visible. And then if you fall into a snow bank and can’t get out, you are also visible to whomever you decide to call from the cellphone in your vest pocket to come get you.

9. Have fun—Seriously, I’ve never had to call for help, but I’ve had fun taking pictures or just thinking crazy thoughts. I’m not training for any races, I’m just training for a long, healthy life, so what’s the rush? I’ve stopped to talk to neighbors, and I’ve even run from a pig (turns out it was a pet, not a ferocious wild boar, but I did not know that at the time!).

10. Have faith—Have faith that you will be fine, you can do it! You will return without injury or frostbite or regrets. Because even if you are depressed, running will make you happier. Even if all you do is walk, you will be happier for having braved the cold. It’s worth it!


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5 Responses to 10 Secrets for Happy Winter Running

  1. Karen February 9, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    as we all know, this winter has been brutal. i try to get out and go for a walk at least 4 times a week. i have a 3 month old baby and i bundle her up and we go. it gets me out of the house and breaks up my day. i sleep better at night, i have more energy when i return home and tend to get more done on the days when i walk. i even walked during one of the many blizzards, and it was pretty fun.

  2. Karen February 10, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    Thank you for Happy Winter Running. I had my challenging exercise class today I’m not a running but I’m taking the class to help hopefully improve my attitude towards running. I haven’t ever seen buffalo wool before! The tip of ‘The ability to think ahead’ has helped me many times in the past. Sometimes a little reward assists in motivating lately my treat of a good jogging is milk with flavored straws so tasty 🙂

  3. denise morris February 10, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    thank-you for all the wonderful advice!alot of times i get complete strangers telling me to get those kids inside!I tell them no worries,they are bundled up and fine!

  4. Mark February 10, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I think I need to run……thank you for the tips Maria!

  5. Donna in Delaware February 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    I always wondered why people found it so great to run. I am in such a shape, that I can barely run around the block. I am a walker though, and a stroller! It’s enouigh for me just to do that! Anyway, I have been contemplating running or jogging this year, but first I must exercise more to build my heart rate, some cardio’s I suppose, then start slowly running.

    It’s almost spring and I need to start feeling new. Think I’ll give running a chance this year. Thanks!

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