Running outside during the winter isn’t as difficult as you might think. However, lack of preparation and proper running habits could keep you from reaching your goals.

In this article, we’ll provide guidance on how to set realistic goals to stay on track, how to avoid the pains and discomforts of outdoor winter running, and how to improve your endurance to help you crush your running goals this winter season.

Setting Goals

Try using these four tips to develop an action plan that can help you turn that intimidating goal into reality.

  • Focus on one task at a time. Don’t focus on the big goals if they appear too daunting. Break down that goal into smaller steps, until it becomes realistic and achievable. Try writing down short “action steps” that you can check off every day or week to work toward your main goal. Meeting these small milestones can encourage you to keep striving towards your overall goal.
  • Don’t confuse motivation with determination. Motivation won’t always be there for you. If you’re feeling tired, had a bad day, or just not in the mood for a run, it will be up to you and your determination to get up and go.

Winter Running Prep

Because of the cold weather and chances of snow and ice, making sure you’re fully prepared for the weather is critical to having a good time and avoiding an injury.

  • Wear the right gear. A good rule to follow is to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer. Weather-resistant, moisture-wicking layered clothes are perfect for outdoor running because it will keep sweat and snow from chilling you to the bone, and you can easily shed your layers if the temperature changes. Since winter weather means shorter days, you’ll likely be running in the dark. Wear high-visibility, reflective clothing and accessories so others can see you.
  • Know your route. You also want to be familiar with the path you’re taking so you can avoid potential hazards and falls. Avoid streets that could be slick with ice or have heavy traffic. Instead, try using sidewalks, trails, or pathways. If it gets too cold or your usual path is too dangerous, you can always hit up your local gym for a run on the treadmill.
  • Cross-train to build strength. Adding strength training to your running schedule will keep your muscles strong and prepared for any activity.

Now that you have your gear, your chosen routes, your workout plans, you’re probably raring to go outside and start running! But what happens if you get injured, or your body starts hurting as soon as you get out the door?

Avoiding Winter Running Pains

  • Run slower. Slow your speed to improve your stamina and try to avoid overexertion when you’re running outside. Keep your pace consistent as well. Running with a slow, consistent pace helps you focus on building endurance and improving your running form, with less risk of pain or injury.
  • Take time to warm up and cool down. These chilly winter days will sometimes leave your body feeling stiff. If your body is less responsive or your range of motion is reduced, it could cause pain or leave you susceptible to an injury. Taking extra time to get warmed up before your run, and remembering to cool down after your run, could make all the difference between a comfortable evening at home and a painful evening in the doctor’s office.
  • Stay hydrated. If you’re an avid runner, you probably already know the importance of staying hydrated during your run. What you might not realize, however, is that drinking water is just as important during these chilly winter days as it is in the heat of summer. The amount of water you need may vary slightly, but to keep your body going and avoid muscle cramps, aches, and pains, you’ll need to stay hydrated.

Prepare for Winter Running Mishaps

If you do happen to feel pain while running, don’t panic! It’s common to experience slight aches and pains, especially in more frigid temperatures. Sometimes all you need is some rest and recovery. However, any pain or injury that persists past 48 hours, or gets worse within 48 hours, warrants a visit to your doctor or a sports injury specialist. Quickly pinpointing the true causes of your injury will help you keep running for the long term. When well prepared, outdoor running can be a fun and effective workout to keep you active all winter long.


Dr Casey Crisp serves as the Director of Clinical Quality Assurance at Airrosti, a nationwide health care organization specializing in musculoskeletal pain injury treatment. His primary role is educating and developing new doctors and managing clinical teams to meet clinical requirements in documentation, clinical assessment, and quality care assurance. He currently serves as the lead instructor for the CEU (Continuing Education Unit) program for Doctors of Chiropractic.