First World Problem: Winter Running

As much as I love to write about how awesome winter running is, and you should embrace it instead of hiding out on the treadmill, it can be a bit of a pain in the ass.


Getting dressed is a guessing game. So many variables – air temperature, wind speed, “feels like” temp, whether it’s night or day, sunny or cloudy, raining, snowing or dry.

I’ve had runs this season where I felt like my fingers were going to fall off, and other runs where I totally overheated. And tons of runs where I’m cold, then hot, then cold, then hot, etc. So wear layers.

More layers = more laundry. I’m at the point where I’ll only wash the clothes that actually get sweaty, otherwise, I’ll air it out and wear it again. It’s winter. No one else is around to smell me.

And all this lovely winter running gear? Makes you look super cool.

Old Plank Road Trail
Last winter

Then there are the ground conditions. If you find a snowy route that isn’t icy, and you can run free, feet crunching over the snow, which is as satisfying as feet crunching over fall leaves.

But if you do hit ice patches, that means walking (BUT IT’LL RUIN MY SPLIT) or running on uneven grass/dirt (hello possible turned ankle).

If it’s nighttime, and you can’t see the icy patches? Run with a light (aimed at the ground). Run in the (salted) streets at your own risk. Please wear reflective gear and stick to the side streets.

Or … dreadmill.

Also, the days are shorter, so that limits where I feel safe running alone. I’m starting to get pretty bored running the same routes over and over and over again at night.

If you became accustomed to public sources of running water (bathrooms and drinking fountains), those are turned off. FuelBelts and handheld water bottles (which I find to be less bothersome with gloves on) might be more useful for some runners in the winter. (I like this handheld by the way.) As for the bathrooms … you can always duck in the trees (everyone is at home and no one will see you anyway), or run loops so you pass by your house every few miles.

F'N Runners
Some club friends who do not go MIA

And your running friends go MIA. I’ve noticed a significant decrease in turnouts for group runs once it got really cold. Oh well, it’s to be expected. Also, it seems like everyone has been sick recently.

Finally, it is physically harder to run in the winter. Your body works harder to warm the air that you breathe, and if you have any breathing problems, they are made worse (luckily I do not). If you’re running on ice, your body tenses up.

All that aside, winter running can be very nice. It’s very quiet and peaceful, if it’s snowed (and you can find a non-icy route), it’s very pretty. And it’s a chance to get fresh air during a time of year you might not otherwise be breathing a whole lot of fresh air. It still beats the dreadmill (for me). But it’s definitely a mental game to get yourself out the door.

What are your winter running complaints?

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12 Comments on “First World Problem: Winter Running”

  1. My only winter running complaint would be that when it snows, they don’t plow the track. So, I have to do my speedwork on uneven terrain and places where I have to stop at the occasional crosswalk. Luckily for my speedwork, if Chicago keeps up its snow drought, I may never have this problem again.

  2. my biggest complaint is daylight. I usually run afterwork, but now its too dark, forcing me to either run on a treadmill, drive to the lakefront after work which is super inconvenient, or force Matt to run with me around the neighborhood so that i don’t get shot (he’s a larger target.) Ugh, winter you are so difficult!! #divafoxxx

  3. My complaints are the extra laundry and repetitive routes too. But overall, I freaking love winter running, and we haven’t really had enough snow or ice yet to have issues. A lot of people from my club are out on runs every day too, so I can usually find company if I want. I just have to find a way to get there. Ha ha. Problem of one running car.

  4. Overall, I am just a big baby. I HATE to be cold, so I’ve been suffering through treadmill runs, which means that I’m really not running over 4 miles because after 4, I get totally bored. Winter Running FAIL, right here.

  5. This winter I’m light on complaints. I am a bit surprised at how annoyed I feel that I’m running a 10K trail run this weekend with the word “Frozen” in the title and the temperature is in the 50s and there’s no snow. I should be relieved but that annoys me.

  6. Having crazy friends to run with in these bitter cold days is really helpful. Even knowing other folks are out there, also running, can be motivating.

    The biggest complaint I have is the lack of daylight, for sure! It is dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home. Talk about depressing! If I’m busy and don’t get the chance to leave the office for lunch, I’ll go days without seeing the sun.

    The other complaint is too much laundry from all the extra layers! I have a hard enough time keeping up with the laundry on a regular basis, let alone if my clothes pile more than doubles!

  7. I hate the lack of daylight. I also hate the fact that when I first step outside for my run, I feel absolutely awful for the first few miles until I’ve sufficiently warmed up. But I do enjoy wearing tights, though, since I don’t have to worry about chafing the same way I do with shorts.

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