Just because the temperature is dropping doesn’t mean you have to head in doors to train. Here are our top tips for surviving the cold.
- Know yourself. You know how fast you heat up and how fast you cool down. You know if you take a lot of walk breaks or if you run from the moment you step out the door. You know if cold air effects your breathing or if your circulation is terrible and you get corpse fingers (Sirrah). All these factors effect how you should dress when it’s cold out and how cold is too cold for you. There is no one right way to dress for cold weather running. Pro tip (from Sirrah’s BF): if you track your runs, write down what you wore and if you were comfortable or not so next year you can reference your own notes on what to wear.
- Don’t overdress! If you feel toasty when you walk out the door, you’re overdressed. You should feel a little cool because your body is going to heat up. Because you’re likely wearing layers, that heat will stay trapped and you’ll get all sweaty and clammy, which just feels gross and eventually makes you super chilly if you cool down at all outside.
- Layers! Layers of dry-fit and performance materials will help you control your temperature while still wicking moisture from your skin (yeah, you still sweat in the winter). It’s hard to say exactly what combination of layers to wear for what temperature. Lighter layers of just a tshirt and long sleeved shirt with long pants or tights can go a long way into the winter when paired with some type of head gear and gloves. Keep in mind that wind is a game changer in the cold and a wind blocking layer, like the one pictured above, can be clutch. Also think ahead of time about whether you can easily remove or unzip one of your layers if you heat up. If you hate tying shirt around your waste, get over it or find layers you can make cooler by unzipping collars or vents while still wearing them. When it’s below freezing, a running jacket like this one, Katie put on her holiday wish list last year, will help you stay warm.
- Tights and pants! I promise you’ll see someone running through the snow in shorts at some point during the winter and if you are like most people you’ll think, “that guy is crazy!” That means tights or pants are for you. When it’s really cold, fleece-lined tights feel like a warm hug for your legs. Some folks hate tights because they are, uh… indiscreet. Depending on your preference you can deal with this by wearing shorts over your tights or just getting pants. Pro tip: cover your ankles! When it’s freezing out, sometimes the gap between your tights and your ankles is enough to make you super cold.
- Hats. Everyone knows you lose a lot of heat through your head, so covering your noggin can help keep you very warm. When it’s below freezing a full hat that covers your ears will probably be called for. When it’s just chilly, a fleecy headband that covers your ears will probably do the trick.
- Gloves. Do you have crappy circulation like Sirrah? Then gloves are clutch. When it’s below 50 Sirrah has gloves. They often come off and get stuck into the waste-band of her pants, but starting off with gloves is important since its takes so long for her fingers to thaw. When it’s below freezing, you may want to wear two pairs of gloves if you’re a wimp like Sirrah.
- Socks. Wool socks like the running socks made by Smart Wool keep you toasty while wicking sweat from your footsies. When it’s below freezing, you may want to wear two pairs of socks, but be careful that you aren’t cutting off circulation in your feet with all those layer or the extra socks will be working against you.
- Neck warmers. Buffs/ gators of different thicknesses are wonderful. There are thin nylon, fleece lined, and wool varieties. They can be pulled up over your mouth to help warm the air you breath, they can act as a turtle neck and keep your neck warm, or you wear them on your head as a headband/hat.
- Races. If you’re running a winter race you want to think about what you’ll wear while waiting to start and what you’ll wear when you finish. Ideally there will be a bag drop so you can check a warm, dry layer. Throw-away clothes are often needed if you’ll be standing around for a bit before you start to run. Hand warmers for the beginning and/or end will keep your blood flowing. Remember to take off your sweaty layers as soon as possible because those wet clothes will cool down quickly and you’ll have a hard time staying warm.
- Safety. If you want to keep running when it’s slippery out, watch your step and think about getting some Yak Trax or a similar product. You can’t really wear these if there isn’t snow on the ground so when there has been intermittent shoveling they might not do the trick. Sirrah plans to use these for regular walking this winter because she only getting clumsier with her growing belly.
- Be patient, warm up! Last year Sirrah wrote about some of the frustrations of running in the cold. You may find yourself running slower or feeling stiffer for longer at the beginning of a run. It’s cold out! Be patient and warm up your body before you push yourself so you don’t get hurt!
- Buying gear doesn’t have to cost a million dollars. This isn’t just a winter tip, but you don’t have to buy all your running gear from a running store. If you want a specific piece of gear you may have to pay, but if you’re just looking for general items, check out stores like Old Navy, TJ MAXX, Marashals, and Burlington Coat Factory that have active wear sections where you can get shirts, tights, jackets, hats, gloves, etc. at a more reasonable cost.