By Chris Mah
Updated December 08, 2014
© Shobeir Ansari / Alamy

Working out in the winter is not very many people’s idea of a good time. Especially for those of us who like lacing up our shoes and going for a run, the short days, cold temperatures and icy roads are enough to make a body want to pack it in and just hibernate for a while. But there are ways around these problems. Whether you’re training for a spring marathon or just hoping to fend off holiday pounds, here are some tips for staying safe, motivated and on your feet until the spring thaw.

1. Plan ahead: A spontaneous run on a warm day is one of the most enjoyable pleasures of summer. However, if staying fit through the winter is a priority, you’re going to need some foresight. Check the weather forecast regularly and plan alternative ways to work out in case of inclement weather. If you don’t want to run in the dark, shuffle your schedule when possible to fit your run in during daylight hours. Planning ahead also makes it less likely for you to skip a run in favor of an extended happy hour.

2. Give your wardrobe a makeover: Take advantage of holiday deals to invest in all things reflective, windproof and rainproof for your cold-weather running. That pillow-soft, brand-new Dri-FIT microfleece might be the difference between an afternoon on your couch and an energizing jaunt through wooded trails. For maximum warmth and breathability, dress in several light, loose layers rather than a single heavy one. Since your body will warm up as you run, a good rule of thumb is to layer up just enough that you’d be comfortable standing in weather 20 degrees warmer.

3. Lighten up: You may be dressed for the cold, but in places with the most extreme weather, some additional accessorizing may be necessary for safety. Headlamps not only light your way in the dark hours of the morning or early evening, but they also make you more visible to drivers in the snow and fog.

4. Find a training buddy: Nothing helps you stay motivated and on track like a good training partner. Find someone who has a similar schedule, runs at your pace, and most importantly, won’t flake on you. Knowing that you’ll have someone to talk to (and more importantly, take turns blocking the wind) on your run will make it that much easier to put your feet on the ground on even the coldest Saturday mornings.

5. Allow time to warm up: Just like your car, your body needs extra time to warm up in cold weather. Without a proper warm-up, you’re asking for a pulled hammy or worse. To minimize the risk of injury, build in a few minutes of slow jogging or form drills before starting your main workout. Most importantly, never stretch a cold muscle.

6. Get warm and dry quickly when you’re done: Now that you’ve gotten the hard part out of the way, make sure to get dry and warm quickly after your run. If you are a big sweater, have a towel on hand. Find a spot inside to stretch, and if you can, sip something warm to gently bring your body temperature back to normal.

7. Have an indoor alternative: Even the toughest of the tough are no match for Mother Nature. If the weather forecasters are using phrases that start with “life-threatening” or end in “-pocolypse” to describe conditions, you’re probably best running on a treadmill, cross-training at the gym or (gasp!) taking the day off.