Jog and Enjoy the Weather

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last year, I finally experienced something that many runners before me had discovered: a love of running. It didn't happen overnight and it was something that I never expected, but over time, running morphed from something I "should" do into something that I wanted to do.

That said, this is the first winter that I am running outdoors and making every effort to stick with my routine, even though the rain, snow and dropping temperatures are doing their best to keep me from it. Until recently, I hadn't exercised outside in any temperatures colder than 20 degrees.

Last Monday, I checked the Tuesday morning weather report to see what I was up against. It wasn't pretty: 17 degrees and snow. But more importantly, the weather website predicted that it would "feel like" 8 degrees outside. Yikes!

I laid out my gear (reflective vest, fleece gloves and headband, iPod, Garmin, the works), layered up and went to bed in my workout clothes that night. I wasn't fully committed to the next day's workout. After all, I do not like mornings, winter or snow, so the odds of me being successful were stacked against me.

When I awoke and peeked through my blinds, I saw my street and sidewalk covered in snow. "Great," I thought. "How am I supposed to run in two inches of snow?" I'm more than paranoid about slipping and falling when it's icy, wet or snowy outside. I think this stems from an unforgettable—and painful—fall I took as a kid when walking to the bus stop. I put on my second layer of clothes: lined pants (on top of my running tights), a zip-up fleece with a mock turtleneck (on top of my long sleeved performance top), and a second fleece headband—not for my head and ears, but to wrap around my face to warm my nose, mouth and breath. (I was a remarkable sight, let me tell you.)

When I got outside, it didn't feel too cold, certainly not like 8 degrees (I would guess closer to 20). As I walked to the end of my street to begin my run, I kept finagling with my earphones, which didn't want to stay in place with two headbands wrapped around my head (epic fail!), so I shoved my iPod into my pocket and ran without music (another feat I would have never attempted a year ago).

Despite the cold, snow and lack of entertainment, this winter run was unlike all the others that I had done before it. Without music blasting in my ears, my other senses were heightened and I think I enjoyed myself as much—or maybe more—than when I work out to my favorite songs. Without music to motivate me or set my pace, I had to listen to my own body to set the tone for the day's workout. I heard my deep breaths, indicating that I was working hard—something I never really noticed before. I listened to every single step that packed the snow underneath me to form a perfect footprint, making a squeaky sound as I jogged slowly down the block. I watched the airy snowflakes, float down before me like miniature feathers. It was beautiful! They weren't in a hurry and neither was I. Occasionally, one would land on my eyelashes or my cheeks only to melt on contact.

I could have viewed this cold, dark morning as something dreadful. I could have focused on the slippery sidewalks, below freezing temperatures or my cold nose, but I chose to view it as something magical, almost like a kid who wakes up to snow on Christmas morning. It was my version of playing in the snow, something I haven't done since I was a lot younger.

With a couple inches of snow on the sidewalk, there is no such thing as running fast. I had to be extra careful about where I stepped and how I picked up my feet. I ran for 24 minutes that morning (my short run for the week), and only managed to cover 2 miles, but I didn't care. Sometimes, no matter how fast or slow you're moving, whether you're near or far away from your goal, sometimes you just have to accept what is and enjoy the journey itself.

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I guess it is something you have to DON"T like cold so would rather be on my health-walker indoors Report
Screw an old pair of shoes, about 3/8" sheet metal screws. It's a cheap way to improve traction on snow and ice. Not much work if you have a drill, a little more if you do it with a screw driver.

Love playing in the snow!!! Report
The first time I ran without my iPod convinced me I didn't like running with it. I haven't used it for outdoor running since. I even ran my half marathon without it.

We don't have snow where I live. However, I am looking forward to one day visiting my family up north in the winter just to experience it once in my life! Report
Thank you for the inspiration. I have a goal for this year to try a half marathon, so I will look forward to "wanting" to run over the feeling of obligation! You go girl!! Report
Your article makes me wish I had snow to run in. What a great description and mental image you created. Report
I am not a runner, but I recently took my first walk in the rain. Not that I started out to walk in the rain, but the rain caught up with me. Surprisingly, I still enjoyed the walk, and felt good that I could do it. There will be a next time and hopefully I will be more prepared to really enjoy it. Report
Very inspiring story... not a runner, but definitely feel inspired to get out and get moving, even in the cold weather! Thanks. Report
I have been running all winter long for years. I hate treadmills, but running outdoors is so much more interesting and is a real stress reliever for me. A few years ago, I bought running shoes with metal studs, and with those shoes I have been able to run with great traction under even the iciest conditions.

I hate changing into my running clothes on cold winter mornings, so recently I bought a small inexpensive space heater, and I turn it on in the morning when I am changing. It keeps me warm while I get ready to run, so that eliminates one of my best excuses for not running.

I run no matter how cold it gets, and where I live, it can sometimes get very cold indeed. I dress warmly but not too warmly because I warm up quickly once I start to run. On very cold windy days it's important to wear something that covers your face because your nose and cheeks could freeze otherwise.

Running is a great way to start the day and doesn’t have to take very long. I run for about 20-25 minutes, and when I come back, I am calm and energized. There’s no reason to have to stop in the winter as long as you have the proper running outfit.
I LOVE running (or walking) outdoors without music. It's so wonderful to hear the sounds of the city, &/or of the natural world. Also it's safer where there's traffic.

I recommend Yaktrax for traction if you're going to be running often on snow or ice. You can get a "pro" style that allows you to run confidently even on sheer ice. A great invention! Report
How timely. I recently realized I'd inadvertently discovered the "joy of running," even though I'd run often before. Until now, though, it had always been out of a sense of duty and not as a form of recreation. I'm not sure what changed. Maybe I'm just older and wiser.

Reading your blog entry here, I identify with so much; though I don't have to confront cold snowy days since I live in San Diego. But I just went out on a late night "maintenance" run last night and it was one of the most enjoyable I've ever experienced; trodding through the quiet neighborhood streets with just a little chill in the air.

I rarely run with headphones, and I agree that listening to the sounds of the environment around you can be more intoxicating and motivating than the metronome of the Black Eyed Peas.

I'm so glad I read this DailySpark blog. It reinforces the notion that I've tapped into something that others have as well. Report
Love to hear some one else toughing it out in the snow... Here on the shores of Lake Erie, east of Cleveland, It gets pretty rough in the winter. But today L.B. (my black lab) and I did 3 miles this morning. Took us about 36 minutes, nothing fast about it,but he never complains. He's my best workout buddy ever and has helped me lose 30 lbs. Rain, snow, sun- he's always ready! We love the snow trails- less people and more deer and wild turkey to chase! Report
I love-love how peaceful and quiet it is when it snows. It's almost like a soft blanket that hushes all those harsh sounds. Report
I don't mind the cold - I was running in temps below 20 F last month while visiting my parents - but I have not yet braved snowy or icy sidewalks. One of my friends suggested I do trail runs in the winter, but I don't know of any convenient to my house. So for now, for this winter, I'm stuck with the Y. (I only started running again last year, and didn't even run outside until around March, so this is my first winter for running.) Report
Love, love, love your blog post! This is exactly how I feel about running and living in MN have not tackled the outdoor winter running yet. I just ordered some base layers and should be getting them soon and am very excited to start running outside! Amy Report
I have only braved the snow one time to run so far this winter, slipping on the ice and almost falling has made me decide I want to keep running and an injury at this time would not be good. Waiting for a melt in PA :)

Great Blog!!! Report
I'm glad you're enjoying running so much. I haven't been able to get out doors this winter as much as I would like. My favorite run last winter though was this 7-8 mile run in some hills in a rural part of town while it was just starting snow. It was so amazing and gorgeous.

This weekend is an 8-mile race up here I'm going to be doing. It's projected to be about -25F! I don't usually go outside below -20F, but I'm trying to make a streak of running this race so I am going to be one bundled up runner! Report
The weather has been so icy and then slushy that I even contemplated running the 'dreadmill' indoors, which I really hate. But I have found that running outside, however slowly and even if I don't get to do my interval training properly - it's great for my calves and ankles and I feel absolutely bushed afterwards! As if I'd had a much longer workout! Report
I don't run, but I do walk and it's great fun to be out walking in the snow around the lake in single digit wind chill! Report
Great blog, Coach Nicole and very inspirational! I live in Vermont and really have to force myself to go for a run or walk outside in the winter, especially when it gets down to the negative wind chill factors. Once I'm outside, though, it's magical - it's very peaceful and like being in another (more relaxing!) world. I never regret bundling up and venturing out. I highly recommend getting a pair of Yak Trax or Stabilicers. They're relatively inexpensive ($20-30), durable and come in walking and running models. They make exercising in the snow and ice much more comfortable and are well worth it. Snow shoes are great too and also come in walking and running models. They're a bit more of an investment but can often be found used on Craigslist or at secondhand sporting goods stores. Happy winter! Report
I live in Minnesota, and while the close-to-zero or below-zero days are dreadful, as is exercising in the dark (which is what I'd have to do on work days), it really is sidewalk conditions that seals the deal for me: I'm just not going to walk outside (I'm not a runner). Last year I fell on the ice and hit my tailbone so hard I cried like a baby and was bruised for several days. When I was in my early 20's, I slipped on the ice, hit the side of my head, smashed my glasses and had to go to the ER (fortunately, I didn't have a concussion). I probably should get Yak Traks (I think that is what they are called). I'm not sure if I could walk fast enough in them, however, to get my heart rate up. Report
Nicole, where's the picture of yourself in all this awesome gear? Report
I recently joined a gym so I could move my runs indoors - I love running in the park but we've had a lot of snow lately - fun for walking (in boots) but not so great in running shoes.

My tip on winter running: cover your nose & mouth! I had some successful cold runs using a thin Buff over my mouth to keep my air warmer. The last few runs before the snow, I didn't even use albuterol for my exercise-induced asthma and I didn't have any problem. The Buff gets a bit wet from your breath, which is kind of icky, but it's wicking fabric so it's not too bad (and condensation is like distilled water anyway, right?).

Just found this great "winter runner" picture in an article about a recent event. She seems happy despite all that frost!

@SHAUNDA - Keep walking! Try to increase your pace every week. You'll get there. If you're bored with walking, try jogging a _short_ distance, like one block out of 5. Also look for some interval training workouts to help you increase your fitness without getting overwhelmed. Report
Thanks!! Great story!!;-) Report
I so want to be able to do this. I do walk 2 miles a day, and am doing the spark your body workout to get myself into doing strength exercises. I'm also doing some knee strengthen exercises, because I tried jog/walk a couple of months ago and quickly learned I was not prepared. If you can do it in this snow, I know that I can surely keep at it and pick it up when my knees are ready.
Thanks for this great article, Nicole. Report
Such an inspiring blog.....i have been too afraid to run with the amount of ice we have but now I think maybe I need to think again. Report
I'm not a runner (yet; working on it), but last weekend my DH and I went cross-country skiing. It was a balmy 18 degrees in the middle of the day and sunny. We dressed in layers and were out for about 2 hours. We love it! A few weeks before that, we tried snowshoeing for the first time - neat! Compared to downhill skiing, both of these activities are much less expensive and easy to learn, IMHO. Report
This was such a motivating post to read. Thanks for the inspiration! Report
I promised myself I would walk the dog today. :( We're having a heat-wave (38 degrees today!!)
And I'm sitting here trying to convince myself not to. I'm so sick of cold, and wind, and snow. I'm sick of excuses more.... Report
I've really had to push myself to get out and walk the dog when it's been so cold, however once I'm out, I do enjoy it. Layers are the trick and a sock hat! Until this month, I had not listened to music, just walked and enjoyed my surroundings and the antics of Rocky, my walking partner.
Thank you for writing such a lovely and inspiring blog! It's been a lifelong goal of mine to become a runner, but I'm not there yet, I can't get over my fear of failing and low self esteem telling me that I'll never be athletic. Reading your blog, running seems like such an attainable goal. Thank you! Report
I took on the cold weather for the first time a week ago (no snow). It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Thanks for sharing. Report
Love the journey! Report
You never know what a run will be like until you are out there! Running in snow can be a fantastic experience, though not the run you planned before the storm. Great blog!

By the way, I love wearing Yaktrax for snow runs. They are like tire chains for your feet. But for anyone who cannot afford them, try 3/8" sheet metal screws... here is how:
Excellent! I have been taking 10 minute walks with the dog in the snow. Now it is slightly melted and slick. I am going to have to get out the ice trackers or go for the deeper snow! I take my cell phone to reassure myself if I need help. Report
Beautiful writing Nicole.
I too have grown to appreciate running. The same guy who quit being a track statistician because he was asked to WALK a mile at each practice. Layering up and proper gear is important for an enjoyable experience. I slipped during a new years day event and I'm still hobbling around. Best wishes! Report
Running outdoors allows you to really enjoy the cycle of the seasons as you notice and adjust to the changing conditions. Each season and weather condition has its advantages and challenges. Report
Having just moved back to the midwest from CA, we're enjoying x-country skiing - so great to be back in winter workouts! (I know, ask me again in February!) Report
This sounds great in theory but I can run a 10k in the summer but I could barely walk from the doctors to the library (2minutes tops) last week without having an asthma attack. I can barely go outside here in the winter. It is just to cold and my lungs can't cope. Report
Have to be honest that too cold for me to try and run in the snow...I like running and walking and exercises but can't stay out long in the are doing great wonderful feeling to be able to be able to do that... Report
Truly inspiring, thanks! Report
Oh, I would SOOO love to be able to run in snow.... Only two problems - I can't run more than half a minute or so, and it doesn't snow where I live (well, once this year, but it's very much a rarity)...

Running is a goal for me for this year... Report
you zen runner you. i loved this.
thank you! Report
my o my. you have experienced you first "snow globe" run. the harder it is snowing the better the run, it is beautiful. i run more often with out the i pod than i do with it, a nice steady rain, snow, spring when the birds first come back, the sounds of the streets or the sounds of the country, twigs cracking under your feet on trail runs....etc. you need to experience all of these and there are many many more. another suggestion is take off the garmin and just run, not you regular route so you don't know how for or for how long just run to enjoy the run, you will be amazed Report
that sounds beautiful, thanks for sharing! Report
I am a morning person that the best time of the day for me but I don't think I would run in the snow,I would run in the rain, very good article thanks for sharing, Report
There is nothing better than walking in the snow! But I will *NOT* walk in the rain. No thank you. ♥ Report
Thanks for sharing your story. I am constatly making excuses why I can't run--no iPod, too cold, I hate mornings (etc.) so it is good to know other people work through those same issues. Report
I'm not a runner but this story was wonderful!
Thank you!!! Report
This is really fantastic to read. I'm a beginning runner and have been feeling really discouraged about going out and running in the cold and rain this winter. But I got out this morning, and you've inspired me to keep getting out. I too get absurdly bundled up! :) Report