Learn to Love your Winter Workout

I lived in Seattle for six years and can tell you from personal experience that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is REAL. Even here in California, many of us feel a little down on rainy days. Fortunately for our depression (but unfortunately for our water supply), the rain here does not usually last more than a handful of days, so we do not spend much time thinking about it.  Nevertheless, the effect the winter has on our psyche is real, and it affects us whether we realize it or not. And one of the best ways to combat this and perk yourself up during the winter months is to go outside and getting moving.

You may be thinking to yourself, but why would I go outside if it’s cold, rainy, snowy, etc? It can admittedly feel punishing, but training in winter can be extremely beneficial both physically and mentally. Studies show that exercising in cold weather can increase the body’s metabolism and fat-burning ability. Getting into nature at any time of year lowers your risk for depression and increases your intake of immune-boosting vitamin D.

But working out should not feel like drudgery. If you know me well, you know I always say “I GET to workout” rather than “I HAVE to workout”. So how do you make getting outdoors in the winter a positive experience? Here are a few tips:


Do your warm up routine indoors, before you face the cold and rain. The warmer your body is before you get out the door, the more pleasant it will be. Need a warmup routine? Check out mine here.


There is no bad weather, only bad clothing. There is actually a technique to dressing to stay warm and dry while working out: layering. Your clothing should include these 3 layers:

  • Base layer: the layer closest to your skin which wicks away sweat
  • Mid-layer: the insulating layer which retains your body heat to protect you from the cold
  • Outer layer: a shell which shields you from wind and rain

Learn more about layering here.


Do not forget about your extremities. Important as it is to layer for core warmth, covering extremities like ears, heads, and hands is vital, since blood flow is quickly reduced in cold air. Hats and gloves do not need to bulky to do their job. Check out Buff Beanies for some lightweight options that will keep you warm and toasty. If it’s raining, I like to add a moisture-wicking hat with a bill to keep the rain off my face. If your hat is a bright color, that will help you stay visible to traffic as well (two uses in one accessory!).  


Always check the weather report and make sure you are not going to get stuck in a storm. And even though I usually prefer to run first thing in the morning, I leave the house a little later in the winter so that the sun has some time to warm up and thaw out the roads. Slipping on ice is a real concern, so during the winter I try to get out mid-day and run the when I can see the roads and when the temperature is a bit warmer. If there is ice in your area, consider microspikes to help with traction. Always wear bright colored clothing to make you visible (neon colors are my favorite!) and carry a headlamp if you may be out in the dark.


While winter is a great time to get moving, remember not every day (or every season) has to set a personal record. For most of us, winter runs, hikes and walks are maintenance miles that can set you up for more success when spring rolls around. The key is consistency. Keep moving during the winter and your fitness will continue to improve setting you up for more gains in the spring and summer.

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