Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter Running: How To Stay Warm

     Let's face it. Sometimes it's tough to get motivated to run in the winter. I love running in the snow, but when it's 38 degrees and raining the last thing that I want to do is go outside and run 12 miles in it. But sometimes running inside isn't an option so we have to suck it up, lace up the shoes, and hit the roads.

     So how can you still get outside and stay safe and warm? Having trained for my 1st marathon during the winter of 2011/2012 and now training for a 100 mile ultra this winter, I've learned a few things and I'd like to share them with you. Here's my tips:

     (1) Layer up-Yes just like your mom used to tell you to do when you were a kid. It really works. But just make sure that you don't end up looking like Randy from Christmas Story. 

Add layers but don't go overboard
So I usually wear a dri-fi compression shirt as my base layer for my upper body. Almost always a short sleeve shirt. I also wear dri-fit compression pants on my lower body. Depending on the temperature I'll either wear a thin set or insulated. I'm usually good to about 40 degrees with the thin pants, but below that I have to go insulated. If it's extremely cold, perhaps in the teens or single digits, I'll acutally wear both. After the base layer, I usually throw on a long-sleeve tech shirt. The moisture wicking helps a lot because even in the cold I sweat a lot. If it's less than 30 degrees though I'll wear an insulated, long-sleeve, dri-fit shirt for added warmth instead of the tech shirt. I will also add a 3rd layer which is usually a full zippered vest with zippered pockets. I don't like to run with a full jacket on so the vest works well. The zipper will also allow me to control my core temperature. If I get too hot I can always unzip it. If I'm too cold, I can zip it up. If it's in the teens or lower, or if it's in the 30's and raining, then I'll wear a waterproof, full-sleeve jacket. I do usually get hot in it but my experience has been that if you get your core rain-soaked in the cold weather your run will suffer. I've learned the hard way. Finally, over the base layer pants, I will wear a pair of running shorts. I like to have the pockets available and honestly, I can't stand it when guys wear tight running pants by themselves. Somethings just weren't meant to be, ya know?
     (2) Arm Sleeves-In certain conditions, I will also wear my arm sleeves. I have found that they keep me warm but also give me the option of removing them if I heat up too much. Just be careful if you wear them under a long sleeve shirt or jacket because it can be tricky getting them off. If it's extremely cold though, which for me is in the teens or less, I'll wear them.

No, this is NOT me

     (3) Hats and Gloves-For my gloves I have a couple of options. If it's not too cold, in the 40's, I'll wear a pair of Gore full fingered cycling gloves that I use for cycling. They are good for keeping my hands warm but not hot. Once it drops below 40 I'm all in with my Nike dry-fit running gloves. The funny thing is that even when it's get really cold my hands will get hot. Often times I will take my gloves off after a few miles. That's why I like wearing my vest because it has nice side pockets I can shove the gloves in and zip up so I don't lose them. Now for hats I really struggle. I HATE wearing anything except visors when I run. That's great when it's warm, but once it gets cold you have to have some head and ear protection. I've tried many things in the past. I've used toboggans, headwraps, baseball caps, earmuffs, etc. My biggest problem is that I sweat. A LOT. And within a few miles most head coverings are soaked. And then they get really cold. Recently I purchased a Nike dri-fit headwrap that really seems to work pretty good for me. It's not thick like most headwraps I've used and I can still fit my visors over it. Yes, I wear my visors over my head wrap.


    (4) Run Loops-When I run long runs I usually will run loops anyway. If I'm running 15 miles then I'll run my 5 mile loop 3 times. This will allow me to come back to a home base (my car or house) before heading out for another loop. When it's cold this is a great plan because it gives you the opportunity to make adjustments if you need to. If you're too hot you can lose some layers. If you're too cold, you can add some layers. If you're soaked in sweat you can change. You can also refuel, hit the bathroom and get some hydration.

Hopefully you won't feel like this running loops

     (5) Ice-Don't do it. I learned the hard way last year when I tried to run on the roads when it was snowy/icy. I hit a patch of ice that I didn't see and before I knew it I was on the ground. I was fortunate that I didn't hit my head but I thought that I had broken my arm. I was sore for a couple of weeks and getting back into training after a fall like that was pretty hard. If you insist on running outside when it's icy I suggest YakTrax, or you can make your own spiked running shoes. Here's a short video:

     So there you have my basic tips for running in cold weather. I hope you get the chance to experience it this winter. Honestly running on the falling snow at nite is the best way to run in my book. There is nothing else quite like it.

     Have fun. Stay warm. And be safe.


  1. Thank you. I've never done the shoe screws before but I considered it when training outside in 2011-12. I guess we'll see what this year holds but after my fall last year I'm just not a big fan of running on ice.

    1. I've never even heard of shoe screws! I have YakTrax, I think they're a lot easier.