It’s cold outside, warm inside and the idea of making an appearance in those frigid temperatures is less than appealing. Nothing quite stings like winter running, but you don’t have to live on the treadmill between December and March (or April, depending on where you live!) if you’ve got the right attitude, approach and winter running gear.
I hail from the chilly streets of the Detroit suburbs, so I know a few things about finding the motivation to knock out 14+ miles in sub-zero temperatures while 90% of the population hasn’t even had their coffee. One of my favorite runs involved six layers on the top and four on the bottom, all of which served a purpose, without making me the Stay Puft Marshmallow (wo)Man. With this kind of layering, running outside in the middle of January isn’t so bad after all, so let me break down the essentials for the winter runs that range from a slight chill in the air to a slight blizzard coming down all around you.
BASELAYERS- These tight fitting, sweat-wicking, looks-like-they-fit-a-four-year-old-child-when-laid-out-on-the-bed pieces of clothing are clutch in keeping the body warm while slogging through the miles on a cold day. You know all about Under Armor (the guys who kind of pioneered this type of form-fitting clothing), but virtually every other company out there has their own version that works similarly.
SOCKS- It is critical when running outside in frigid temperatures that you keep your Achilles tendons covered, lest you succumb to red, achy, potentially inflamed Achilles tendons after your run. The Achilles heals on its own agenda, so exposing it to any extra risk (read: the winter elements) is not advised. Don’t fear tall socks! They’ll cover your vulnerable Achilles and keep your calves warm, too.
TOP LAYERS- Looser-fitting, sweat wicking short sleeves and long sleeves over your baselayer can help you avoid getting cold from your own sweat. Pile on a couple if it’s really that cold!
JACKET- A good jacket will serve you well in the snow, rain and especially in the wind, which makes it my strongest recommendation of cold weather running apparel. It’s easy to remove and tie around your waist if you get too warm, but it will save you from serious shivers if you’re wearing it while running on a two-mile straight country road next to an open field on the windiest day of the year.
TIGHTS- Though some men may cringe at the suggestion that they put on running tights (for fear of people noticing their runner legs?), they’re going to serve you well as a base layer for your bottom half. The beauty of tights is that they come in ankle length, capri length, zippered ankle style, fleece-lined, wind resistant style, thinner materials and a wide variety of colors, so there is a tight out there for every running occasion. Uncomfortable showing off the goods? Throw a pair of pants over the top.
LOOSE FITTING PANTS– If it’s exceptionally cold out there, I’ve been known to double up on tights layers, but I’ll be sure to top them off with a pair of loose fitting pants to serve as the jacket for my lower half. This flowy top layer takes the brunt of the cold, wind and precipitation, and it can also be easy to remove and stash if the weather or body so permits.
MITTENS/GLOVES- I’ve never had outstanding circulation in my hands and feet, so for me, winter running means the right pair of mittens. The benefit to mittens is that your fingers can huddle together for warmth in a cozy space, but you can’t easily start and stop your watch. Enter: winter gloves. Often, companies will have a key pocket or fleece-y snot wiping panel on gloves, which are two highly prized features for any runner. I recommend your hand gear have a sweat wicking material, otherwise it will be like wearing a cotton tee- clammy and chilly after a while.
HEADGEAR- While I do enjoy a good hat in the winter, as most runners do, I have a ponytail, a rather sizeable ponytail, so a little beanie isn’t going to cover my mob of hair. This is when I entertain a sweat-wicking ear band for my chilled ears or a hat that has a drawstring top that will accommodate my mane. For those with fewer tress issues, I recommend a fleece-lined hat or a tight-fitting skullcap to keep that body heat from escaping.
Armed with this winter running gear knowledge, the only thing you should fear is the possibility that the bagels will be all gone by the time you get back from your run. Now get back to training and be warm!