When You Run in Bitter Cold You Level Up Your Grit

Tim Ebl

Running in Cold Weather Is Hard, But Maybe That’s Why We Do It


Photo by Andrew Krueger on Unsplash

I’m not an expert runner, so I certainly can’t speak for e

I used to be a runner of convenience. When winter arrived and really socked in, I wouldn’t have dreamed of going outside for a run. It was time to renew my gym membership and see some new treadmill trails.

But this year, I decided to start venturing outside and leave the gym behind. It's closed anyway.

"I’m a drinker with a running problem."- Unknown

I considered giving up and just starting again in the spring, but I didn’t want to get out of shape again. I gathered my courage to try my legs in the snow.

I quickly learned a few things about winter and running. I am really glad that I decided to get out of the gym and push myself in the real world. What I realized is that running in inclement weather really shows you what you’re made of. The challenge of toughing it out made me see what, at least for me, running is all about.

Most people don’t really break down why they run, why they get a payoff for ditching their status quo and getting out there. The basic concept of running is to go from your low energy state where inertia wants to keep you, into a high energy state with more velocity, and keep up your velocity until you darn well decide you are going to slow down.

It’s about conscious exertion and movement in the face of adversity. Not only might there be a runner’s high for you, but most people feel like they really accomplished something every time they get themselves to run.

This doesn’t matter if you’re a guy like me who only runs a few miles or someone who does a marathon. We are out there beating the odds, defying inertia and pushing past our comfort zones. If you decide to run outside in the winter, you will find out exactly how uncomfortable you can get!

" Today I will do what others won’t, So tomorrow I can do what others can’t." –Unknown

The very first time I ran outside this year, it was below freezing and icy. I wore my regular shoes, sweat pants with long johns, a winter jacket, sunglasses, and a knit cap. That first run was not warm at all, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I pushed through even though the first ten minutes were brutal. I realized that I could do this.

The week after that, the temperature dropped 10 degrees. I ran anyway. It was a lot colder.

The wind was blowing straight into my face, and I had to wear a neck warmer pulled up over my mouth to keep from getting frostbite. No matter how hard I ran, I didn’t warm up.

Not gonna lie, when it dropped another 10 degrees the next week, I decided to just do an indoor workout and wait for slightly better weather. I’m not that dedicated! I was back out there as soon as it warmed up.

Here are a few things I realized while forcing myself out that door to run.

It’s Easier To Run On Ice Than Walk On It

One of my biggest fears about running outside in the winter was ice. I imagined my first run ending in a trip to the emergency room with a broken arm, after slipping and falling on a patch of sidewalk ice.

I was shocked to discover that ice seems less deadly to a runner than to someone trying to carefully walk across it. It has to do with your feet being directly underneath you, and with momentum. Either way, I found myself running right across the ice that was in my path.

I was still cautious, but it was safer than stopping to walk across. Of course, I would go around when possible. It usually wasn’t possible, because, winter. Ice was everywhere.

I'd love to get those high tech shoes with ice grip stuff on the bottom. This was something I didn’t even know about until I’d been running on ice for a month. It seems like it will be good insurance against a spill.

Wind Sucks No Matter What

Wind is a troublesome natural feature of the universe that we can’t avoid if we want to have nice things, like an atmosphere. When you have to deal with it in below-freezing temperatures, it has the bonus effect of maybe giving you frostbite.

I’ve made it to middle age without ever getting frozen skin, and the main way I did that was to stay inside where it’s warm. Now I find myself not only going outside in the wind but running into it.

I found that there is no perfect solution to this problem, except maybe a Buzz Lightyear helmet. But I’m not sure if I could run with one of those on, so I will have to make do with toques, balaclavas, and neck warmers.

The wind that is above freezing can be a real downer too, sucking your will to live even as it slows down your speed like you’re running underwater. And in this world, we have a lot of wind. I try to plan it so I can run into the wind for the first half and then turn around so it is at my back. By then I need a break, and it feels like I’m flying.

Everyone Thinks You Are Certifiably Insane If You run When It’s Frozen Out

The looks I got while running down sidewalks covered with ice while the snow was blowing across the street were priceless. People would slow down their vehicles, shake their heads in confusion and stare as they passed.

I guess I don’t blame them. It’s hard to understand why I would choose to run outside instead of driving a warm, snug car from point A to point B. Imagine what they would have thought if they realized that I was actually running in a big circle, ending up right back where I started. What a senseless waste of time!

A few coworkers seemed to admire my determination, while simultaneously questioning my mental fitness. After telling me that running in the winter was a little bit crazy, they all went to their nice warm basement gym and lifted heavy weights, then put them down again.

Then they lifted them. Then they put them back down. Then they lifted them again. I questioned their mental fitness.

I Don’t Want To Run On The Dreadmill Unless I Have To

Now that I am going for runs outside no matter the weather, I just don’t want to use a treadmill at all. This is just as well because no gyms are open and the stores are sold out.

No matter what, I know that I will keep running outside.

I think it’s because it gives me a higher return on my effort than the dreadmill ever could. There are no real miles ran on a piece of equipment in a gym. You don’t actually go anywhere. You don’t face nature and see who comes out on top. you just spin a hamster wheel until you get tired. There’s no street cred on a treadmill, and gym cred isn’t my thing.

I plan on running right through everything but the coldest days. I’ll be better prepared, with winter shoes and new face-covering options. But the biggest change will be that I know I can do it. Mentally, I gained so much in the last three months. I am a little more disciplined, I can see a challenge that I can meet. If you happen to be driving by, you will see me jogging through snow and across the ice.

When it rains this spring and summer, I will still get out there. I used to make excuses and skip a training session, waiting for it to dry up. I guess I’m not just a fair-weather runner anymore. Deciding to brave the winter is making me embrace running in a way I never did before.

How about you? What’s your approach to inclement weather? Do you dread it? Avoid running in it? Or just do it?

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I'm an author, yoga enthusiast, and meditation instructor. I spend a lot of time outdoors with activities like running, hiking and camping. My writing is all about the humorous side of life and personal growth, habits ,mindfulness, and outdoor adventures.


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