Winter Workouts on Madison's Capital City Trail

Madison Winter Weather Activities

Consider yourself a Madison local? Have you really taken advantage of Madison’s wealth of running and cycling trails? The seventeen miles of the Capital City State Trail run through and around Madison, linking the city of Madison to the Military Ridge State Trail and the Dane County E-way (great winter options for snow shoeing).   If New Year’s Resolutions are making for crowded gyms, rediscover Madison by taking your winter workouts outdoors. Exploring Madison’s outdoor offerings is an instant mood booster, giving you a healthy dose of daylight and fresh air during this dark and cold time of year.  It’s easy to combine your workout with a healthy reward as you check out local businesses on the way.  Here are a few highlights of winter running and cycling on Madison’s Capital City Trail.

Before you head out.

As Nordic wisdom reminds us, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”  Winter workouts require a little more preparation to keep you comfortable.  Dress in layers, check out the traction on your running shoes or biking tires, and prepare with a warm up indoors.  (Here are some more tips for running and biking in cold weather.)  Bring a little cash and a cell phone so that you can come up with a backup plan or get a lift home if the conditions are more than you expected.

Warm up with Circuits.

Bodyweight strength training is the perfect warm-up before you explore Madison with a run or bike Ride.  Strength training with planks (or plank taps ), squats, spider lunges, and push-ups will round out your cardio workout. You will also increase your range of motion and warm up your joints and core. Getting your body temperature up will make your workout more comfortable and reduce your risk of injury. Just don’t overdo your warm-up.  Working up too much of a sweat will increase your risk of becoming chilled in the cold.  Go for five or ten minutes of bodyweight exercises while wearing your base layer.  After you finish your warm-up, throw on your additional layers and head out.

Here are the Best Parts of Winter Running or Cycling on Madison’s Capital City Trail


  • Olin Park: You can start your run near the Holiday Fantasy in Lights (ending January 2) on John Nolen Drive. This easy, flat path is well-maintained and provides a striking frozen view of Lake Monona, including the previous location of Madison’s sinking Statue of Liberty.   Combined with the adjacent Turville Point Conservation Park, you have access to just over three miles of trails.  Schedule a warm-up by checking out the local businesses at Gateway Mall, located at the entrance to Williamson Street.  If you’re cycling or looking to log some running miles, continue onto Williamson Street.


  • Williamson Street: The Capital City Trail continues down this popular gateway to the near East side. Local coffee shops, artist studios, and restaurants make this a tempting turn-around or end-point for your East Side workout. The Willy Street Coop is Madison’s original food cooperative, offering organic and local foods, bulk products, seafood, and ready to go options.  You’ll can also take advantage of free and low-cost cooking demonstrations and wellness events.


  • Fair Oaks and Atwood Avenue: Extending out to Olbrich Gardens, continue to follow the Capital City Trail through Madison’s East Side. Meet a friend for breakfast at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner or refuel by sampling the hot chocolate and truffles at Gail Ambrosius Chocolates.   Running with a four legged friend?  Bad Dog Frida will treat you well.   Whether you choose to start or end your run at Olbrich Gardens, warm up in the Bolz Conservatory ($3 donation) for a healthy dose of chlorophyll and warmer weather.  There are plenty of benches, so download an e-book and soak in this indoor oasis.

Exploring Madison through a winter workout makes the perfect staycation getaway during the longest months of winter. Wrap up your workout by rediscovering the city you love.  Madison’s East side is a fitness wonderland.  If you need support continuing your home and outdoor workouts this winter, the staff at Johnson Fitness & Wellness have the expertise to help you pick the perfect treadmill or strength training equipment.   For a little more down-time, wind down (and warm-up) with a hot (or warm) yoga class at nearby Sol Hot Yoga or DragonFly studio to complete your Madison winter workout exploration.

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