Healthy Living

Frigid Iowa air, frosty Cedar Rapids streets don't slow down winter running enthusiasts

(from left) Brian Nicola of Coralville, Cathy May of Cedar Rapids and Julie Summers of Cedar Rapids in downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, February 8, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
(from left) Brian Nicola of Coralville, Cathy May of Cedar Rapids and Julie Summers of Cedar Rapids in downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, February 8, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

The colder it is, the happier Mark Powers is to go running.

“You know what it’s like in Iowa in the summer,” he said. “I think we all really enjoy a good perspiration, a hot sweaty day, but I prefer the cold.”

In fact, the colder it is, the better. He even runs in subzero temperatures, when schools are canceled due to the cold and official warnings admonish the public to stay indoors.

“I’ve had some of my best runs on those days. I thoroughly like it. It’s my candy,” he said. Part of it’s the challenge, part of it’s the solitude. It’s just my style of running.”

That’s despite the fact that in the past, he’s suffered frostbite on his cheeks and ears from his early morning runs in the frigid weather.

“I do ask people, when it gets to subzero, to think about what they’re doing and perhaps limit the amount of time they’re outside,” he said.

Powers is the president of Corridor Running, a group of running enthusiasts that plan races throughout the year and organize group runs throughout the Corridor. He didn’t always embrace winter running.

“In my history of running I was typically, as most people are, a seasonal runner,” he said. “Meaning I would run when it was nice, and when the cold weather came around, I would say, ‘Eh, I don’t want to do that.’ But as I got a few more years on me, I decided it was too hard to get back in shape each summer.”


Running inside, on a track or treadmill, didn’t provide the same motivation as outdoor runs did.

“They are called the ‘dreadmill’ for a particular reason. It’s the scenery, or the lack thereof. It’s the monotony of it,” he said. “Exploring the city, seeing the sights, the sounds, that’s the whole thing for me. It’s just the beauty of getting outside.”

Jim Dwyer, co-owner of Iowa Running Company, a store in Cedar Rapids, agreed.

“For me, it’s the fresh air, and it’s being outside,” he said. “When I go on the treadmill, it’s like a task, but I want to go running when I’m outside. A lot of people will run the whole 12 months of the year, but in the winter, they do it at the gym. The ones who do it outside, we like to affectionately say we have a screw loose. It’s a term of endearment.”

Ready to hit the snowy streets?

Powers and Dwyer offered these tips:

Dress for success

Powers, after his experiences with frostbite, emphasized a face mask on the colder days to protect skin.

“You’re perspiring, and moisture is going to freeze or it’s going to dissipate,” he said.

That means a base layer that wicks moisture is important. For the body, start with that layer and add others as needed.

“Stay away from cotton next to the skin,” Dwyer said. “You have to sweat when you’re running, but to mitigate the damage of the cold air, a dry fit should be your base layer.”

His second layer is usually a thermal that zips or half zips. On really cold days, he adds a third layer of a light weight running jacket.


Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

“You want tight fitting clothes. You don’t want to create an air pocket, which can make you cold,” Powers said.

But don’t forget you’re going out to exercise. A full parka might be overkill. Both said to dress as if it is 15 to 20 degrees warmer that it really is.

“You almost want to underdress. You’re heat up very fast,” Dwyer said. “You should be cool when you step out the door.”

A warm pair of socks and gloves to protect your extremities are also key. Dwyer recommends moisture wicking running gloves, and Powers swears by wool socks.

Get some traction

With snow, ice and frost, routes are likely to be slippery. Avoid tumbles with traction for your shoes. Options range from special shoes with cleat-like soles to special covers to pull over normal running shoes to simply putting small cheap screws into the bottom of shoes in a DIY effort.

Light up

Don’t forget the early sunsets and late sunrises in the winter, and be sure to wear reflective gear and a headlight if heading out after or before work hours.


Even if you’re not sweating as heavily or feeling as hot, you still need plenty of fluids to fuel your run.

“It’s not just the day of your run, it’s 24/7, 365 days a year,” Dwyer said. “How much water I drank yesterday will help with how much I perspire on today’s run,”

Find some encouragement


If you’re unsure winter running is for you, find a group run to give it a try. Ask the more experienced winter runners in the group for their advice and to help answer any questions you have. If you’re not ready to run, start with brisk walks.

“In my experience, a lot of people are very intimitaded or scared to go out and run in the winter. But by the third or fourth time they kind of get hooked. Don’t be intimidated, give it a try.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8339;



When people talk about harmful stress - the kind that can affect health - they usually point to big, life-changing events, such as the death of a loved one. A growing body of research suggests that minor, everyday stress - caused ...

Headstands and sun salutations can be challenging enough at room temperature. Now, imagine doing them at about 100 degrees.At Heat Yoga, 3607 First Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, yoga classes of varying difficulty levels and styles are ta ...

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.

Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.