Cold weather running – should you do it?

Running in picturesque snow scenes looks great on Instagram but in real life running outdoors when the temperature drops below freezing is not much fun. Let’s face it even the biggest running enthusiast would struggle to get the motivation to leave a warm and cosy bed for a 5am run in sub-freezing temperatures. This, along with the injury risk of running in the snow or on icy pavements, makes running outdoors when it is below freezing not just a matter of motivation but also of protecting yourself against serious injury.

Last week it was almost impossible to get out for a run. I’m back at work now so I can only run very early in the morning or in the evening. At both these times the temperature was below freezing and although we didn’t get snow where I live (I think the only part of the country that didn’t!) the pavements were still very icy – plus there was the dreaded black ice, which is dangerous in the daylight but even worse in the dark. I’ve waited 6 years to get into the London Marathon so I’m not going to risk an injury by running in these conditions.

After last year’s ‘beast from the east’ which hit in the weeks leading up to Barcelona Marathon, I had learnt my lesson and I was prepared for my marathon training to be interrupted by inconvenient winter weather. I built my training plan around the fact that I expected to miss some training runs so I’m not worried about missing a week of training, especially this far out from the marathon.

Running in these types of conditions can be battle between heart and mind. Many of us marathon runners like to think of ourselves as a hardy bunch – we will get up early on Sundays and go out for runs in weather conditions that would have most normal people staying indoors and curled up on the sofa watching a box set. We will run marathons in freezing rain and galeforce winds. So giving up a long run because it’s a bit cold and the ground is a bit slippery can seem like a poor excuse to us. But the reality is that unless you have proper running shoes that are designed for the snow and ice, running in these conditions can cause serious injury. It doesn’t take much to slip on a bit of black ice to twist an ankle which will stop you for training for weeks.

Hopefully the worst of the winter weather is over, but if not it’s important to evaluate if whether going for that run when it’s icy and snowing is worth the injury risk.

cold weather running
It’s so cold the river has frozen!

 If you decide to skip the run, here are some alternative training ideas for when it’s snowing or icy outside:


If you have access to a treadmill it is a much safer option to an outdoor run. It might be boring and not the same as running outdoors but at least you’re not at risk of slipping on ice.

Cross train

Just because you can’t run doesn’t mean you have to give up exercising altogether. You should be cross training as part of your training plan anyway, so when weather conditions are rubbish just up your cross training workouts instead. Swimming, cycling and weight training are great for runners.

Get the right gear

If you really don’t want to give up your outdoor runs even on the coldest winter days make sure you invest in the right gear. Go to your local specialist running shoe store and get a pair of running shoes that are specifically designed for running on snow and ice. Also make sure you wear lots of layers, gloves and a hat so that you are warm enough on your run.


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