Schedule an Appointment

Running Smart in the Cold Winter Months: A Guide for Runners from Orthopedic Experts

The cold weather is back here in beautiful Charlotte, NC.  These cold fronts not only bring with them cold weather, but also brings on new challenges when it comes to running. These challenges include finding the motivation to consistently show up to maintain the habit and keeping weather related injuries at bay during this season.  

In this article, courtesy of OrthoCarolina physical therapist Chris Hux, you’ll find cold weather specific warm up, running tips, exercises, and stretches to help you not only stay consistent, but also reduce your risk of injury during the winter months:   

Try this Warm Up for Cold Weather Running 

This is a crucial first step to make sure you warm up properly and prepare your muscles for the overuse & demanding motion of running. Frequently we see patients skipping this step and eventually ending up with an injury that keeps them out of running for months. This is especially true of patients that work a sedentary desk job and go outside to start pounding the pavement right away without warming up. We obviously don’t want you to find yourself with an injury keeping you from doing what you love. The following warmup won’t take you anymore then 10-15 minutes and you will get so many benefits from it. 

Warm Up 

  1. Begin with a fast-paced arm pumping walk for 5-10 minutes to warm up the muscles.  
  2. Then perform dynamic stretches such as butt kicks, knee ups or marches, leg kicks and side to side shuffles. (Complete each one for 1-2 laps.) 

Check out this alternative Warm-Up, too.  

Running Maintenance  

Best practices for the running weekend warrior includes running, of course, but also includes mobility, strength, & endurance programming as well.  I recommend people to run three times a week so you can save energy and days to complete mobility, strength and cross training. Here's some specific exercises that you can do on your non running days to improve mobility, strength & stability:  

Running Exercises to improve your running & reduce risk of injury 

The muscles you want to address to improve your running, mechanics and speed are the quads, hip abductors, glutes, calves and small muscles in your foot. Recommending 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps of each on your off days (non-running days). Here are some examples:   

(exercises from the video appear again below in picture form)

Hip Abductors (Side glute muscles) Exercises

Side Lying Clamshell (Start without a band and progress to a band) 



Lateral band walk  


Gluteus maximus exercises  

Bird dog 



Dead lift (Progress to weight)  


Quad Exercises

Long Arc Quad  

Squat progression  


Foot strengthening Exercises

Toe & Foot yoga 

Calf Strengthening 


Final Tips 

Other risk factors I would highly recommend focusing on is having good and consistent sleep, diet and training errors.  

Here are some specific tips for you to try: 

  • Sleeping & waking up at the same time, aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  
  • Staying hydrated & eating a variety of healthy foods with different colors (fruits & veggies).  
  • Gradual increase in mileage week over week. A great rule of thumb is the “10% rule”, which – you guessed it – recommends increasing your mileage each week by only 10%. 

 If you have any other specific questions or concerns please reach out to a Physical Therapist at OrthoCarolina. Physical Therapists are key providers for runners for injury prevention & rehab.   

Stay safe out there pounding the pavement during these cold winter months! 


This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. If you are seeking specific orthopedic advice or assistance, please consult with your OrthoCarolina physician or locate one in your area through OrthoCarolina’s website at

Leave a Comment