Most people that are new to running, especially running in the winter when the cold starts to push down from the Canadian north into our heartland don’t really know how to handle putting one foot in front of the other when the wind starts to blow. They’re probably thinking they need to wear layers, layers, and then more layers. But choosing what to wear for running in cold weather isn’t rocket science, but it’s easier than you think to overdress.
It seems counterintuitive, but if you want to stay comfortable for miles in any weather, removing a layer is your best bet. That means you need to start off with wearing an extra layer that if you need to, you can take it off and put it in an easy to carry a backpack.
Don’t worry, you’re not going to freeze to death. As a general rule of thumb, you should be dressing like it’s 20 degrees warmer than the actual outside temperature. For example, if it’s 45 degrees, opt for a moisture-wicking long-sleeved shirt and leggings. At 35 degrees, add a light jacket or vest, thicker leggings, a fleece headband, and gloves. As temperatures dip into the 20s, you’ll keep your body warmer by wearing a thin layer of synthetic material such as polypropylene, which wicks sweat from your body. Stay away from cotton because it holds the moisture and will keep you wet.
An outer, breathable layer of nylon or Gore-Tex will help protect you against wind and precipitation, while still letting out heat and moisture to prevent overheating and chilling. If it’s really cold out, you’ll need a middle layer, such as polar fleece, for added insulation. It’s a fact that running raises your heart rate and increases blood flow, and your body heats up after the first 5 to 10 minutes. If you start out dressing in several layers, you may get too warm during the run. While taking off one layer is not too much of a problem, taking off and then storing more than a sweater or light vest can be cumbersome when you’re out there on a long trail run.
One of the simple rules that newbies just don’t seem to get, or maybe they just don’t realize is that one of the tricks to giving your body a heads up on the outside cold temperatures is to get your heart rate up before you step out the door. You do this with some indoor exercises, specifically some light cardio. Before heading out into the cold, grab a jump rope or spend five minutes doing butt-kicks, high-knees, and side shuffles. By getting your heart rate up your moving that blood flow through your body enlarging the vessels and in turn ratcheting up your body temperature a few degrees.
When doing this you’re now ready to brave the cold, and probably impress passersby’s knowing you’ll feel much better in a few layers than you would be rocking two turtlenecks, a jacket, and a puffy vest.
Which just might have you looking like a poster child for a Michelin Man Commercial!