Winter Running Tips & Cross Training Workout Ideas

Winter Running Tips & Cross Training Workout Ideas

As the daylight hours get shorter, and the weather takes a turn, it makes running more difficult and more dangerous; some days the weather may be so bad it’s impossible to get outside for a run. To stay safe keep the tips in this article in mind. If the weather is so bad you aren’t able to run try out one of the cross training workout ideas included in this article!

Before you go for a run this winter, make sure to keep the following things in mind to help keep you safe and healthy!

Winter attire

  • The sun can make it seem like it is warmer than it is, check the temperature and dress accordingly.
  • Wear long sleeves, pants, and other warm clothes. Even though your body may feel warm running, it is important to wear warm clothes and layers. 
  • Avoid cotton as it will hold onto water and has limited insulating value when wet. 
  • Wear reflective gear and bright colors so cars and others on the road can see you when it's dark out. 
  • When it starts to snow wear darker colors and reflective gear so you stand out against the snow. 
  • Wear a windproof and breathable shell to help regulate your heat loss as you run. 
  • Use a blinking light on the front and back of your jacket for extra visibility. 
  • If you rely on your shoes for cushioning remember that the colder weather will cause your shoes to stiffen up, meaning the soles will not be as forgiving as they are during warmer seasons.
  • A mesh shoe that is comfortable in the summer may not be in the winter. 


  • Stay hydrated! In colder conditions it is easy to forget to drink water because you may not feel as thirsty compared to hotter summer days. Even if you don’t feel thirsty your body still needs water to stay hydrated, especially on longer runs. 

When to run

  • If your schedule allows, try to run during the daylight hours when you are easily visible to others.
  • Save long runs for the weekends or days off from work so you are able to go during daylight hours.
  • Avoid running at dusk and dawn, visibility for drivers is low at these times of day. 

Where to run

  • Run on well lit paths and sidewalks.
  • Run facing oncoming traffic so that you can see what is coming towards you. 
  • On windy days run into the wind on the way out and run with the wind behind you on the way back so that you do not have the wind chill towards the end of your run.


  • Check the weather report before you go for a run to make sure there aren’t any concerning weather changes predicted for the near future. The last thing you want is to be caught in a storm in the middle of your run!
  • If the weather is dangerous, do not go for a run outside. It is more important to keep yourself safe then to risk your life going for a run in bad weather conditions.
  • Try a cross training workout instead of risking running outside. Check out the workout below for an example of a possible cross training workout!

Be able to call for help 

  • Running with a friend ensures that if something does happen to you while you are running, there is another person there to call for help. 
  • Carry a mobile device with you so that you can call for help if needed. 
  • Make sure someone knows the route you are running before you go for your run.

While all of these tips can help you stay safer running in mild colder weather conditions, it is important to be prepared to modify your workout if the weather worsens and prevents you from running outdoors.

Below are a couple ideas for cross training workouts you can keep in your back pocket for when the weather is too dangerous to run in.

  • Pool Running
      • Running in the water at your local public pool is a great way to get in a workout and take impact off your joints.
      • Run in the deep end of the pool so that you aren’t hitting the bottom.
      • You can do form work drills in the water (if that’s what you usually do) for a warm up. 
      • I have used flotation devices to help me stay upright in the water, but these aren’t always necessary.
      • To gauge your pace, compare how you feel while running in the water to how you normally feeling running on land (this is called your perceived exertion). 
      • In a Runner’s World article, they mention that you can also use your land times as a guide to gauge workout intensity. For example, if you usually do an interval workout of 8x400 meters, and let’s say it usually takes you one minute and forty five seconds to do a 400 meter run. Then you would water run 8 x 1:45 minutes at a hard effort level in the pool, instead of the 8x400 meters on land. Replace the interval distance with the usual time it takes you to run that distance.
      • You can also use water jogging to get in an easier run, by keeping a continuous jogging pace at your normal easy run intensity. If your easy runs are at conversation pace use that to gauge your effort level while jogging in the pool.
      • It may not feel like you aren’t moving forward very quickly (that’s normal and completely okay).
    1. Cycling and Spinning
        • Cycling is a great option for cross training because you use all the lower body muscles through a full range of motion.
        • It works the quads, glutes, and calves differently than running which can help prevent imbalances in muscles.
        • Similar to running, cycling improves aerobic capacity, strengthening the heart and lungs and improving the rate at which oxygen is delivered and used in the muscles. 
        • Cycling is lower impact than running, which can decrease your overall risk for an injury. 
        • Check out this article by Runner’s World for a few examples of cycling workouts you could try.
      1. Treadmill Running
          • Using the treadmill is a great way to keep running in the winter. You can do your normal workout on a treadmill if you have access to one. 
          • However, keep in mind that running on a treadmill is a little different than running outside.
            • The treadmill belt is mechanically powered and can assist with leg turnover, whereas running outside you are required to create the force to propel yourself forward.
            • Your pace will be a little different on the treadmill than it is outside, try not to worry too much about the numbers. Focus on how you are feeling and use that perceived exertion that was mentioned earlier to determine the intensity of your workout on the treadmill.
            • Because the treadmill is a bit faster than running outdoors, you can take advantage of it for speed work. It’s great for intervals or tempo runs in a controlled environment. 

          These three options are the most common and easily accessible forms of cross training. There are tons of cross training workout examples out there, find what works best for you and tweak it to fit your training needs. 

          Happy Training!
          Tunnel Marathons Personal Trainer