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How to Dress for Winter Running

lifestyle Nov 16, 2020

The seasons they are a-changin’ — at least in most parts of the world — and that means shorter days and dropping temperatures for many of us. But don’t think that just because the weather may be getting colder where you live, you’re resigned to the treadmill for the next few months. In fact, when you’re dressing for a run, it’s a good rule of thumb to actually plan for a temperature that’s 10 to 20 degrees warmer than what’s forecast.


That said, make sure you’re looking at the “feels like” temperature, which takes into account wind chill on blustery winter days. You should also factor in whether you’re going on a short run, an easy run, a long run, or heading out on a hard workout.


Layer, layer, layer


The most important thing to remember when dressing to run in winter weather is layers. You should aim for two to three layers on your upper body depending on how cold it is. (Thankfully, your lower body generates enough heat from your legs that you usually only need one layer there.)


Dressing in layers for cold-temperature runs is helpful because you can shed them as you warm up. Tie a jacket around your waist once you get too hot, for example, or plan your route as a loop so you can drop your it off at your car or house the next time you pass it.


Focus most of your attention on the base layer, or the layer that is closest to your skin on your upper body. If you choose a moisture-wicking material, it will help keep you warm and dry. Merino wool is a good choice, as are running tops made from other synthetic materials. When you can, try to avoid cotton, which gets damp easily and dries slowly.


For the second layer, select another top made from a synthetic material, such as a polyester or fleece vest. If it’s cold enough, add a third layer, such as an insulated jacket that’s wind- and rainproof.


On the bottom, one pair of tights or running pants will usually suffice, but if temperatures are cold enough, you may want to consider adding a pair of track pants over them.


Don’t forget the accessories


Hats or headbands and gloves or mittens are critical for winter workouts, especially because your circulation tends to worsen the harder your body works. And although you may not lose half your body heat through your head despite what your grandma used to tell you when you were little, you do lose 7 to 10 percent of it that way.


For socks, it’s, again, best to avoid cotton for the simple reason that if they get damp, they stay that way. Instead, try socks made of tech fabric or a wool blend.


Even though it’s winter, you can’t forget to apply sunscreen to your face during daylight hours, and you might want to consider adding Vaseline to your cheeks and other parts of your face that aren’t covered. It can act as a barrier protecting your skin from the cold, dry air.


Match your outfit to the temperature


Generally speaking, use the below criteria to guide how you dress in certain weather (degrees are in Fahrenheit):


  • Over 60 degrees – sleeveless top and shorts
  • 50 – 59 degrees – short-sleeve shirt and shorts
  • 40 – 49 degrees – long-sleeve shirt; shorts or tights; maybe gloves/mittens; and headband/hat
  • 30 – 39 degrees – long-sleeve shirt; tights; gloves/mittens; and headband/hat
  • 20 – 29 degrees – two layers of a short-sleeve shirt and long-sleeve shirt or a long-sleeve shirt and a vest or jacket; tights; gloves/mittens; and headband/hat
  • 10-19 degrees – two layers of a short-sleeve shirt and long-sleeve shirt or a long-sleeve shirt and a vest or jacket; a third layer of a jacket or fleece; tights; track pants; gloves/mittens; headband/hat; and a face covering, like a neck gaiter or ski mask


You can also use the website Dress My Run for quick feedback on how you should dress. The site, dressmyrun.com, finds your location and the associated outside temperature and weather conditions; and then advises you on how you should dress based on that information.


Remember that before you start the run, you should actually feel a little chilly. If you feel warm before you begin, you’ll probably end up overheating once you get going.


Also, when exercising in cold temperatures, your body heats up fast and cools down even faster, so be prepared to jump in a warm shower or change into dry clothes after your run.


Now get out there and run your life.

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