A runner wears waterproof running shoes as he runs outside in the snow.
Waterproof running shoes are a must-have for the winter runner. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Looking to log some wintry jogs in the coming months?

Well, the very first step in your running journey shouldn’t even be on the trail. It needs to begin in your doctor’s office, where you should undergo an exam to ensure you’re ready for an exercise program.

The second step? Head into a specialty running store, where knowledgeable staff can help you find the pair of shoes that’s best for you.

If you’re really looking to dig in, some shoe companies offer winter-specific, waterproof shoes outfitted with a more aggressive tread, while still others offer running-specific grips you can strap to the bottoms of your shoes.

Beyond that, it all comes down to proper preparation, appropriate attire and a smart regimen.

Get gritty

Your body can adapt to cold weather, but you should do it slowly over a period of weeks, at a minimum. There’s no hard-and-fast science to the timeframe and such, but studies have indeed shown how people have adapted their body to the cold over an extended period.

Suffice to say, if you’re entirely new to running in the cold, you should be especially careful about limiting your exposure time early on.

Do you normally run half a dozen miles or more in warm weather? You should still plan for shorter distances in the winter, at least initially. If you want to log more miles after each run, you can always finish up on a treadmill indoors.

After a few weeks, you’ll get more comfortable with running outside in the cold. That’s when you can slowly increase your outdoor mileage.

Know the temperature

Don’t let the thermometer fool you—wind and moisture can quickly make a 32-degree run feel like an arctic expedition. Many weather apps on smartphones have a feature that displays the “feels like” temperature, which can help with your planning.

But don’t forget to account for moisture. Conduction—heat lost by direct contact with a cold surface—is exacerbated by moisture, either in the environment or in your wet clothes. Wet clothes can increase heat loss by up to five times.

Your body type can also play a role in how you retain or lose heat.

Be cautious when exercising in the cold and educate yourself on possible injuries and symptoms. The National Athletic Trainers Association has helpful guidelines for exercising safely in the cold.

Bundle up

Old Man Winter can make running more difficult and less appealing for a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

As you bundle up, choose items that will block the wind and retain some body heat—but don’t make yourself so warm that you sweat excessively. It’s easier than you think to overdress in the winter.

And given the many advances in clothing technology—breathable, wicking and form-fitting—you’ve hopefully said goodbye to those bulky, 1980s-era sweatshirts and sweatpants. Those items get heavy and retain sweat, which can make you colder.

A useful general rule: Dress for conditions that are roughly 20 degrees warmer than the current temperature. You may be a little cold at first, but you’ll warm quickly as you start running.

Start with moisture-wicking fabrics as your base, then add additional layers that can vent and repel wind. You can continue layering to where you’re warm but not hot.

It’s also important to wear light-colored or reflective gear if you’re running in the dark.

Follow your regimen

You may find that you’re walking much more than you’re running—and that’s OK. Most people will start by running for a minute or so, followed by a minute or more of walking to recover. Then repeat for the duration of your run.

The key is to slowly increase your run time and decrease your walking/recovery time, until you’re running for most or all of your outing. To lower your chance of injury, try not to increase your total run time (or distance) by more than 10 percent from one week to the next.

Plenty of people will opt to stay indoors throughout the winter, but you don’t have to. With some proper planning and the right gear, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a winter warrior.