Winter Running Clothing Guide: Layer Appropriately and Beat the Chill
23rd November 2017. Picture this: you wake up in the morning, ready to head out on your daily run, and your phone tells you the temperature. It's not just cold ? it's reallycold! Maybe there's even a chance for some snow in the forecast later in the day. As you look outside at the chilly, grey weather, you can't help but think to yourself, "Should I just stay home and skip my run today?" It's a challenge that many runners face when autumn weather evaporates and makes way for the icy winds of winter. A major component to running is the challenge of the elements. It?s why you run through the rain in the spring and endure the heat in the summer. You adjust your plans during the rest of the year, so why not during the winter, too? Staying on top of your schedule despite the cold weather will allow you to enter the spring without the feeling that you need to catch up on your endurance. You'll be ready to spring into a new year of running goals and milestones. What's the most important factor in facing winter weather head-on? It's the way you dress for it. From understanding the right way to layer to choosing the best fabrics and accessories, your wardrobe makes all the difference when you run in the winter. However, sometimes it can be counterintuitive to pick out these items without some guidance, and you might not always know the best way to dress for a given day. Let's break it all down into something that's easy to understand, beginning with layering based on the temperature.
Building up from your base layer
The main principle behind layering is that you can remain warm by effectively trapping the body's natural heat between successive layers of running clothing. The colder it is, the more layers you'll need. That's to keep the cold air from reaching your skin and to prevent your own body warmth from escaping. That?s why, as we'll see shortly, you should consider your extremities carefully. We often lose the most heat from our hands, feet, and head. As for the rest of your body, you should begin with a base layer. This is often a close-fitting garment made from polyester or a similar type of technical fibre. It should prevent chafing while helping to transfer sweat away from your skin. In cool weather, your baselayer and a light jacket may be all you need. On more blustery days, you'll want to don a long-sleeved midlayer garment. These should generally feature a turtleneck design to help reduce the amount of bare skin exposed to the cold air. Finally, wear a jacket over your midlayer to help cut down on wind and keep moisture from snow or rain away from your body. You may find it helpful to add additional layers between your base and midlayers, such as light long-sleeved shirts. Clothing made from wool, especially Merino wool, can provide the heat-trapping effects you're after at a lower cost than some more technical fibres. Adjust your outfit according to the forecast for the day, but always remember to dress as though it is warmer than the weather channel tells you. You'll generate body heat as you run. Wearing too many layers can make for a sweaty and uncomfortable run in the cold. After a few weeks of practice, you should know exactly which clothes are a fit for different winter weather scenarios.
Protecting your hands and head from the cold
We mentioned how important it is to protect your extremities, so what should you look for when you shop? Let's focus on your hands first. Before the weather changes too much, you can often get away with running gloveless. As soon as the winds start having a big impact on the perceivable temperature, you'll want to cover your hands up to protect your fingers and preserve your body heat. Choose gloves made from a technical fibre that allows for easy breathing while absorbing perspiration from your hands. This will allow your hands to stay dry and comfortable throughout the run without causing overheating. Which type of hat should you wear? Pick one that fits close to your head and can trap the most heat. Something made from wool is often a good choice, as is the case for clothing. Try to choose a hat that covers your ears as well unless you plan to invest in a separate pair of earmuffs. While you shouldn't need to resort to something as serious as a balaclava unless you're running in the Arctic, providing good coverage for your face is a smart move. Don't forget that you can always pull your hat or gloves off for a while if you warm up too much during your run.
Take care of your feet in slippery conditions
Winter runners need to pay attention to their socks and shoes. Trying to stick with the same choices you made over the rest of the year will be a recipe for wet feet and a very uncomfortable run. Typical athletic shoes allow your feet to breathe and encourage airflow, which is excellent in warmer weather. When you might run through snow and slush, though, that breathable fabric will allow all moisture to seep straight into your shoe. Plus, you might encounter ice or other slippery conditions that will cause your shoes to struggle with traction. Pick out a separate pair of winter running shoes that provides better coverage, more water resistance, and additional grip. When you think about the socks you'll wear, wool will be your friend once again. The natural odour-fighting properties of wool combine with its superior absorption abilities to create the perfect winter sock. Not only will your toes stay nice and toasty, but you'll remain dry in all except the absolute worst of slushy winter conditions. Choose woollen socks with individual toes. This will prevent unnecessary chafing as you run and improve the wicking ability of the wool. Together, a good pair of winter shoes and the right socks will keep your feet in prime condition for powering through any run.
Extra accessories that can aid with comfort
Overall, this should cover everything you need to layer appropriately for most winter weather. At times, you may wish to toss some other items into the mix. For example, on a very windy day, wearing a scarf in addition to your hat can help provide extra protection for your neck and face. No one enjoys losing all the feeling in their nose and their lips! Wearing a scarf can help prevent the discomfort that accompanies hard breathing in very cold weather. Keep some lip balm in your pocket to help soothe chapped lips along the way. If the pants you wear on your run aren't holding up in the wind, buy a pair of wind pants. Yes, they'll make you noisier as you run ? but they'll also deflect much more cold air than your summer garb. A good pair of arm or leg warmers to complement your clothing might also be a good idea. Consider running with a small backpack meant for athletes during the winter: backpacks can give you the perfect place to store things like your cell phone and the clothing layers or running accessoriesyou don't need, all while keeping these items safe from winter moisture.
Layer up ? the running trails are ready for you
When you glance in the mirror after dressing for a run, you might feel like you look a bit silly ? but once you're outdoors and running through the snow while staying warm, you'll feel only relief. Understanding the best way to dress for winter weather is more of an art than a science. Some days, you'll find yourself peeling layers off as the temperature rises over the course of your run. Other days, the extra layers will provide welcome warmth as winds unexpectedly increase. Take care in choosing your winter wardrobe and remember to balance comfort and utility. You should be able to run as you normally do with little interference from your clothes. With practice, dressing for your winter run will soon be second-nature ? and you?ll be able to congratulate yourself on your unbroken running record as spring arrives! Follow @SportNessUK