Dressing for

Cold Weather Running

Great Strides 2007

Shelly Glover
 

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The Basics:

  • Stay warm. Avoid bulk; it's heavy and changes your running form. Overdressing leads to overheating.
  • Keep dry. Clothing should vent excess heat to minimize sweating. The body loses heat 32 times faster in wet than dry clothes.
  • Protect the extremities--toes, fingers, ears and face from frostbite.
  • Dress in layers traps body heat and helps you to regulate it.

Layering Guide:

Next To Skin Start with an inner wicking layer. These special micro fibers pull sweat away from the body and keep you dry and warm. Add a middle insulating layer - like fleece vest, a sleeveless sweatshirt, long sleeve pullover or a wool sweater. Top it off with an outer wind-breaking layer. If you get too warm, unzip your jacket or take it off and tie it around your waist.

Legs: One layer is usually enough for legs. They generate a lot of heat. Try a pair of tights - relaxed fit if you are modest. A pair of loose shorts over tights works great! Lightweight Lycra-Spandex styles are warm enough in most weather. For colder runs try heavier tights made of wicking fabrics like DryLete. In very cold weather or wind, try an additional layer of Coolmax, or Gore-Tex pants over a pair of shorts or tights.

Hands: Fingers share their heat in a communal mitten. Socks worn as mittens keep hands toasty, too. Gloves are okay, too, but better

if they are used as liners under mittens.

Feet: Blister and frostbite prevention is important. Steer clear of puddles, wet snow, and slush! One layer of wicking socks - acrylic, polypropylene, or wool - is usually enough for warmth. In very cold weather use an inner, thin wicking sock under an insulating outer sock. Two thick pairs impede circulation or cause blisters. Plastic bags, nylon or cyclist's booties over socks keep toes warm in nasty weather.

Head: About half of your body's heat goes up the chimney and out your head. Use a hat as a chimney damper: Keep it on to keep heat from escaping. The hat is the first to go if you need to open the damper and cool off. The less thatching up top, the more likely you are to need the supplemental coverage. Protect ears from frostbite with a hat or headband - sometimes both. In extreme cold, protect the face too--either wear a facemask, balaclava or slather exposed portions with petroleum jelly. If your skin is sensitive or breaks out easily try Clinque Weather All for wind and sun protection.

 

Private parts: A word of caution: If a runner gets wets down under and then catches a strong headwind, the private parts get mighty uncomfortably cold--or worse, frostbitten. Don't laugh, it has happened to more than one poor runner. Good protection is a special pair of wind-briefs which wick moisture and have a windproof panel in front. A two layer system of bike shorts and tights also works well. Women can also take precautions to keep breasts warm and dry. Running briefs and sports bras are available in fabrics that wick moisture.


After workouts change into dry clothes immediately. Do not stand around in wet clothes or go back outside in wet clothes. Leaving wet clothes on out side is dangerous and could lead to hypothermia - a condition where the body cannot keep itself warm due to lost heat.

Running Coach Shelly Glover has a master's degree in applied/exercise physiology from Columbia University. She co-authored The Runner's Handbook and The Competitive Runner’s Handbook, is a veteran road runner and marathoner. She also coaches The Greater New York Racing Team is available for private coaching. Coaching Services