What you should know before running in the winter

Five tips all runners, new or experienced, should follow before braving the cold and dangerous weather of the winter months.


While some Halifax citizens are complaining about the icy sidewalks, many runners maintain their physical activity despite sidewalk conditions.

For some runners, the winter months become daunting. They turn to crowded gyms and at home workouts in order to continue staying in shape during the winter. However, while snow and ice pose a threat to running outside, it is still possible to tackle those obstacles without changing your routine to fit the weather.

1. Running for beginners

According to Running Room, someone who is new to running should start slow. The first few times they go outside they should start by fast-walking. This allows for the new runner to build up their endurance.

Instead of going out and running as fast as you can for as long as you can, which could result in injury if the runner pushes themselves too far, it is much safer to start slow.

The best thing to do is to gradually increase the ratio of walking to running each time. It is best to start by walking for two minutes and running for one minute, then the next day, walk two minutes and run two minutes – always increasing the time and distance.

According to Andrew Moser, a student at the University of King’s College and avid runner all year around, joggers should also do specific exercises to increase the strength in your ankles.

Moser’s mother is a physiotherapist who taught him most of what he knows about muscles and how they help with running – especially on slippery and icy sidewalks.

“She would always talk about stabilizers, which are basically muscles that do the correcting for you when you are trying to balance [on the ice],” says Moser. “Already being a good runner helps, but you can start on the treadmill, or do simple balancing exercises like standing on one foot to strengthen your ankles.”

2. Thinking about tackling the ice?

After training to become a stronger runner and building up endurance, runners might be tempted to run outside all year around. However, before doing so, the runner must know a few tips for making sure they do not fall on the ice.

According to Moser, anyone who is planning to run during the winter months should:

  1. Pay attention to where you are running. If you see any shiny patches, chances are it is ice and you should slow down and shorten your stride.
  2. When turning corners, you should also slow down and shorten your stride so that you do not lose your balance.

According to Running Room runners may also feel soreness after running in the snow and ice. This is because your stabilizers are working harder to keep you from slipping.

3. Clothing

Moser thinks that there is a lot of value in getting athletic gear that is more expensive because it will last a few years, and you know what you are buying is good quality. He recognizes that not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of dollars on running gear, and suggests that anyone can buy leggings or sweat pants from Winners.

Moser also acknowledges that it is best for new runners who are not sure how much they will be running, or if they will stick with it, to look for cheaper versions of athletic clothing at places like Winners. As they become more committed, it can be justified to spend more money on longer lasting gear.

Running Room suggests that runners who will be running in the colder months cover up any exposed skin like: your neck, hands, faces and heads. You can do this with scarves, hats, gloves and ski-masks.

Running Room also suggests that, because days in the winter months are shorter and it gets dark much faster, a runner should make sure that they wear bright clothing or running gear with reflective stripes so that drivers will be able to see them in the dark.

4. Tips for running in the cold

According to Running Competitor, it is best to start off your run by running into the wind, then half way through the run you should switch it up and run with the wind at your back. Running Competitor explains that if you run with the wind at your back first, you will work up a sweat. Then when you change direction, the cold wind against your face will cause sweat to freeze.

Running Competitor also suggests that runners use Vaseline on any exposed skin that cannot be covered. Vaseline has waterproof and windproof properties that will protect your skin from frostbite

They also stress the importance on keeping hydrated during and after a run because you sweat just as much while running in the winter as you do in the warmer months – even if it does not feel that way.

Moser also suggests that any runner, experienced or new, should definitely take it easy on hills. Although the hills make for a great workout, they can become very dangerous during the winter months when they are covered in ice, snow or slush. He says that it is better to run slow and keep your balance, than to run fast and hurt yourself.

5. Alternatives

Moser says his girlfriend is starting to get into running as well, but she’s not experienced enough to go out and tackle the snow, ice and slush that covers the ground. Instead, during the winter months, she likes to go on Youtube and look up workout videos which are posted by fitness gurus.

Some alternatives to running in the winter are:

  1. Going to the gym
  2. Walking
  3. Yoga/ Hot Yoga
  4. Fitness classes
  5. Online workout videos