Winter is made for a warm fireplace (or heat dish), lazy pj’s, a cozy blanket, and a steaming mug of something spicy and delicious. Removing yourself from that setting can be challenging – at least I know it is for me! Summer proves to be the perfect time to stay active outdoors, with long sunny days and dry weather leaving little excuse.

This winter I’ve challenged myself to opt out of the treadmill and continue to stay active outdoors. You guys – I hate the cold. HATE the cold. In preparation for my winter challenge, I’ve been seeking out the advice of others on how they stay warm and active during the cold winter months.

Here are seven tips to stay active outdoors during the winter. I would love to expand on this list, so if you have other thoughts, please feel free to comment or reach out so I can add!

Find Some Running Buddies

Accountability is a wonderful motivator. Scheduling a run with a friend or group is a great way to stay safe in the dark, get in some social time, and keep your mind off of how cold and miserable you are (ha!). Running with friends helps the miles go by quickly even in the worst weather conditions! It took me way to long to figure this out.  For me, running with a group has been a game changer.

Here are a few groups that meet up in the Seattle area (free & no strings attached). I know this isn’t all, so please let me know what other runs are in the area!!

Be Strategic on Your Timing and Routes

Keep an eye on the weather and know when the rain/snow/wind is supposed to move in. If you plan, you might be able to miss the poor weather entirely!  If you know a storm will be rolling in after 4 pm, you can plan for a morning or lunch run. If you aren’t going to be able to miss the rain/snow/wind, at least, you’ll know what layers to wear to make your run less miserable.

Always keep in mind which direction the wind is going, and plan to run against the wind. Try to plot your course into the wind on your way out so you can enjoy a nice tailwind, and stay warm, later in the run.

Give Yourself Time to Warmup

My suggestion is to start your first mile with a small loop or out and back. This loop gives you the opportunity to start with a warmer layer and shed the layer once you are warmed up! Maybe this is a quick loop around the block so you can ditch your warmer jacket in your car or home.

Be prepared to warm up and begin your workout slowly, before getting up to your desired pace. Starting slowly is more important in the cold than the heat because you don’t have the hot weather that would warm you up naturally. Plan to stretch out well when you’re done!

Dress for Success

Not every runner is going to warm up the same way. While I’m ready for insulated leggings below 50 degrees, I have other running friends that can wear shorts until it is 40 degrees! No matter whether you run hot or cold, think breathable layers that will keep moisture away from your skin. If you’re going to wear a warmer layer, focus on your core (jacket or vest) and your head (a beanie or hat).  I also really enjoy wearing a balaclava to help generate warmth with my breath. Don’t forget – avoid cotton like the plague!

When it comes to selecting your winter running clothes, keep visibility in mind. Days are shorter which means you’ll likely be running in the dark. Reflectivity is added to most gear, now! Adding a reflective vest and headlamp is also a smart idea.

Be Ready with Warm Clothes

I have to thank my run club (Cascade Run Club) for this tip!  Have a bag of warm gear ready to go for post run. The faster you can get out of your cold, wet clothing, the less likely you are to get chilled. Warming up quickly will make the after run experience much more enjoyable. Think to include: gloves, warm hat, towel, dry sports bra, and dry shirt/sweatshirt.

Integrate Other Activities for Cardio

Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean there aren’t other activities you can’t participate in to mix up your cardio! I’m hoping to look at snow as not a point of frustration, but as an opportunity to turn my cardio into play. Some ideas include snowshoeing, ice skating, sledding (try running up the hill in your way back up), snowboarding/skiing, and snow sprints (in a place that isn’t going to be icy).

Take Time to Strength Train

While strength training doesn’t necessarily put you outdoors, winter is the perfect time to include more strength and flexibility training. Since you’re likely not racing through winter, the season gives you the opportunity to build a solid base for the following season! For those of you that want strength series that you can do on your own at the gym, I love the Nike Training Club app. The app is loaded with 100+ workout ranging from 15-45 minutes with clear audio and visual guidance for each move.

Have other tips on staying active outdoors? Know of other free run groups in the Seattle area?  Comment below or email me to get them added!