Misc. Monday: Winter Training

I never cared much for the Jonas Brothers. Now that Winter Storm Jonas gave us a snowy butt whoopin’, I especially can’t say I like that name. So, how about that blizzard, huh? Raise your hand if, like me, you got cabin fever being stuck inside for an eternity.

*sees hands raised*

For today’s entry in Miscellaneous Monday (check out my madcap Taco Tuesday Challenge if you don’t know what I’m talking about), I’ll be blogging about marathon training during extreme weather. I may not live in the deep south any longer, but I trained there long enough to be mostly fine doing both long runs and speed training in the heat and humidity. Winter weather, on the other hand, I find much tougher for training.

The first day the JoBro Blizzard hit, this is what I woke up to out of my bedroom window:

No, I do not want to build a snowman. I want to run without fear of breaking my neck on the gosh darn ice.

It started off not too bad, but got worse quickly. The city mostly shut down, and at the time of writing this I have been snowed in since late Thursday night.

As much as I prefer training on open roads rather than indoors, sometimes there’s no other choice but a treadmill. So, during my wintry captivity, I did my 11 mile long run, along with a handful of 3-4 milers, on the treadmill.

My next full marathon isn’t until April 30th, so I’m still in the regeneration phase of training after my full marathon on December 12th. Right now I’m logging about 28 miles per week and plan to get up to 35 per week again by early March.

So, here are the things I’ve personally learned over the years about training in (or in spite of) winter weather:

If it’s exceptionally cold: Running will make you feel about 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than the temperature around you, so unless it’s well below freezing, running in the cold isn’t too bad if the roads/trails are clear of ice.

For temps between 40 and 50 degrees, I prefer a super lightweight jacket like the Brooks jacket (finishers prize) featured on the left below. I’m sure Brooks makes similar ones for retail sale.

For anything colder than 40 degrees, I wear the pink Pearl Izumi jacket ($120) on the right. It is lined with a thin fleece and feels waterproof, or at least very water resistant, to me. It gets super warm, but my only gripe about it is the lack of side pockets.

Left: Lightweight Brooks jacket. Right: Heavier Pearl Izumi.

If it’s exceptionally dark: The danger of fall and winter training outdoors is, of course, the limited daylight hours. Even if it’s nearing sunrise, I don’t want to risk it on my early morning runs, so I wear this goofy looking headlamp.

Run like a miner.

If it’s exceptionally windy/rainy: When I was with Dear Boyfriend over the Christmas holiday in what will soon be my new hometown, one of my weekday runs took place during an insanely windy downpour — and on a VERY hilly course, to boot. I’m sure all the neighbors near his mom’s house thought I was mental, but I find this kind of training to be so invaluable, because it makes the good weather, flat road days seem like a piece of cake. There’s also something very mentally liberating about running in the rain. The wind, additionally, adds an excellent element to the training, forcing you to fight headwinds to keep up your goal pace.

If it’s exceptionally icy/snowy outside: I’m sure some braver soles than I run outdoors during blizzards. But I personally am far too risk averse to take that chance with black ice or hypothermia (if, heaven forbid, I got injured and stranded outside somewhere). I know a lot of elite runners knock the treadmill as being a useless excuse for training. But I have to disagree with them on that point. While I firmly believe that there is no true substitute for training outdoors in conditions similar to those you’ll face in a race, I do also believe that, at the end of the day, logging the mileage is what matters most if your goal is just to cross the finish line.

I plan on doing another post like this regarding dangerously hot and humid weather, like that which shut down the 2015 Savannah Marathon.

For now, though, stay warm out there! 🙂



  1. I only do intervals and agility training, and it gets cold as hell (negative 4 Celsius this morning…) here in Japan. My biggest gripe with cold weather training is the amount of time it takes to get loose. I feel like by the time I get loose my body pace is already thrown and I can’t get my speed all the way up. The times I have run my 5k days in the cold I am at least 10 to 20 seconds off my normal pace. I’ve never ran into the black ice issue but I do agree with the running in the rain sentiment. People are waterproof, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure off the top of my head what -4C is in F, but that sounds quite chilly!! You are very right about the cold making it tougher to keep your leg muscles loose. And yes, I have found that when temps drop below freezing my 5k time gets at least an extra minute.

      And exactly! I have truly never understood the opposition to running in the rain (assuming it’s not lightning as well). My thought is, I’m already getting sweaty and will need a shower afterwards anyway, so what’s a few more puddles?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nothing wrong with the treadmill in bad weather…especially when snow and ice cover the ground and running becomes more about avoiding ankle/knee injuries than it does about training or even enjoying the run. 1.5%+ incline and you’re good until the roads get clear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Mike! I’ve never really understood why many runners say the treadmill doesn’t count as training. I would always rather avoid an injury and find other ways, like the incline, to get good training in!


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