If this last week is any indication of how the rest of the winter will be, better invest in your winter running gear now because we have a long and cold journey ahead!
This week the temps were below zero almost every day! While, there are certainly temperatures that NO gear can quite save you from, here are some tricks I have learned as a primarily outdoor runner. A true "All terrain, All weather, ANYTIME" type of girl.
The Products Linked in this post are not necessarily the exact products I've used. They are something similar from brands that I trust. Most of my gear is at least 5 years old since I've been injured or pregnant for most of that time, I didn't invest in anything new! That also speaks to the durability of the clothing I use!
So lets get going.
First thing's first, If your goal is to stay warm, and stay safe, throw out your expectation of looking hot, trendy and sexy for your instagram. It aint gonna happen folks! There's nothing hot about freezing tempts, but with these layering tips, you might be warm enough to survive. If you feel so inclined to spend extra money than that's your choice... but winter running can freeze more than your fingertips, your bank account could also be in jeopardy... so I'll discuss which items I feel are worth the money and which you can probably go with a generic brand of find a cheaper option.
Shirts, Jackets and Tops
Lets get this straight, you need to keep this part of your body warm. Stop running shirtless you fools! Guys and Girls I see your abs, I feel you, you want everyone to see how hard you work, but don't be dumb. Staying warm isn't going to win popularity contests, but you can't win one of those when your dead so... if you have pants on, you better have a shirt on. and NO! arm warmers and a sports bra don't count as a shirt, JUST NO! (racing is an exception but still questionable. If you need pants, you likely need a full length singlet) This is the layer covering all your vital organs keeping you alive and keeping you moving. It's very important that you don't mess this layer up or you will get cold everywhere else very fast. Your body will prioritize where to keep warm, and I'll give you a hint, it isn't going to be your hands! (cold hands sound familiar?) So lets start here... even though most of you will probably skip to the part about keeping hands warm.... (it's last)
Objective: Wick away moisture, absorb sweat.
This might be, in many ways, your most important layer. It is the layer that touches your skin, and also the layer that absorbs and wicks the sweat away... or... doesn't (which, can cause you to get even more cold) Your base layer should be tight and should be able to tuck into pants and gloves. I usually like my base layer to have a turtle neck or a half zip as well so that I can easily keep my neck warm by tucking in a buff, or my face mask. DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT base layer with cotton. You will regret it.
I typically run in an under armor base layer. At one point in time this is what under armor was best known for... not the Tom Brady recovery pajamas (link to My brothers commercial, He's the last guy) So while it's probable another brand has produced a similar product that may or may not be as good, I can't tell you what I don't know... BUT what I CAN tell you is that I have been running in the same base layers for 10-15 years or more and they still keep me warm and still are in good condition (other than the fact that they kinda have a perma-sweat-smell...but that could be a laundry detergent issue.... or the fact that I just let them air dry and re-wear them multiple days in a row before I wash... I'm a hippie when it comes to that stuff.) It is likely no one will ever see your base layer so don't worry about what it looks like. Find something that fits you, feels good, and WORKS. Something you could picture yourself wearing every day, and get it. Get a lot of it.
How to Save Money: I'm all about saving money, but do not buy an off brand to do so. Especially for your base layer. Wear the same shirt all the time if you need to (works for me!). If a cheaper version works, than that is because it's not cold enough to matter and in that case I would say don't bother buying it at all. Plenty of races give out long sleeve tech-tees that will come as part of your entry fee.. but on a true cold cold day you need the best of the best. You can save money on brands like under armor by purchasing when they go on the clearance rack at the end of the season or by buying a lot at once and save on shipping.
The middle layer is a layer that probably varies from person to person the most. The job of the middle layer is to insulate. I'm not often wearing my best gear as a middle layer, but if I am, I definitely want something that has a half-zip in case I get too warm. There is a science to running in the winter. You need to keep yourself warm enough to function, but cool enough to not sweat... because when a cold wind (we're talking below zero winds at times) blows through you when you're wet with sweat... you wont be warm enough to function. So when the wind is making it really cold you zip up, and when the wind is at your back or settles down, you unzip (that goes for outer layers coming up next.) I also like to have a layer that is a vest. Vest is Best. This way I can keep my organs and core warm without losing the ability to move my arms freely.
How to Save Money: This is the easiest layer to afford because what I typically use for middle layers is given out for free (aka: as part of your race entry... is anything truly free?) at most races. This is where I use the race t-shirts. I even sometimes will use a cotton as a middle layer because I do feel like it insulates, but I typically do not sweat enough to sweat through the base layer so that could be a problem for you if you sweat more. (If you do sweat a lot, a more expensive middle layer might be what you need... but like I mentioned, if you buy something of good quality it can last a really long time... just might not be as cool on your instagram). Those cheap old navy fleece vests work well, and I even know people who use wool sweaters for this layer. You can go to a Good Will or Salvation Army and find a cheap wool sweater that will keep you insulated. Again, this is why that base layer should not be cheap because you will sweat and you need to keep the sweat off of your body.
Objective: Protect you from the elements
OH man, when I find a jacket I like, I run in it until it literally falls off my body and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I actually don't own any of the three jackets below, but if I didn't have access to them all the time (explained below) I would buy in a second. I am so passionate about the few jackets listed below. When it's cold, it's usually dark, when it's dark, you need to be seen. Reflective qualities are essential. If you run in the day time, if it's really cold it's likely there is snow on the ground and if that is the case it's very important that you are wearing something very bright so that you are seen. I have a few absolutely favorite jackets that I do not own, but... kinda do....
How to Save Money: Do what I do and beg borrow or steal?... Or, don't save money at all. The jacket could literally save your life, so it's worth having a good one. Don't skimp on this. Just look for sales or buy off season.
Pants and Bottoms
Bottom Layer: Just like above, don't wear cotton underwear. I think this section is probably most important for men, but my butt tends to get very cold so I just wear a pair of spandex shorts with the built in underwear. It just adds a little extra.
Tights: I have a few pairs of CW-X tights that I swear by. They have a wind proof layer and are water repellent. When it's just mildly cold I hate these tights because they are so warm and TIGHT (damn! My postpartum body isn't a huge fan right now!) but that's the idea I guess. They are supposed to support ligaments and joints as well, and that may be why I've been running okay since it's been so cold (even though I can barely get my ass into them!) What's nice is that these pants often eliminate the need for two layers and since you really need full range of motion in your legs, this is a great perk. If you're not into the stability of these tights (they aren't for everyone) Try a spandex that has some wool or fleece. I had some New Balance tights that I ran in for so long the knees frayed and got holes from friction. I sewed them back together for a while until my husband tossed them. It was a sad, sad day. If it is REALLY cold I may wear another pair on top of these, but more often than not if it is that cold I will simply stay inside. When it comes to pants you want to avoid things that don't have a drawstring or a high waistband (essential for tucking and tying the upper layers into it). Also avoid cotton (common theme here), and anything that has mesh behind the knees or weird material for cutouts or decorative style. Like I said, your instagram ain't gonna be poppin' in the winter weather. (although those rainbow CW-X tights below are pretty cute AND functional! Me like!)
How to Save Money: Wear the same tights every day. Yes, I do this for everything! I'm broke. I have two CW-X pairs of pants and when I finish my run I take them off, hang them up and wear them again. I don't know about you, but my legs just simply don't sweat enough for me to care about washing them right away... when I feel like they are too dirty for another day, into the wash they go, and I change into my other pair.
Hats and Headgear: I hate hats. Hats are not meant for someone with the plethora of hair that I have. Even if I get one of those cute hats that has a ponytail hole, it doesn't line up correctly and I'm still a hot mess. Hats are not something I wear often (winter hats anyway)... So If I'm wearing a hat it's 9 times out of 10 something cheap, because I have yet to find a really good one anyway, so if I'm going to be uncomfortable in a hat, It's going to be one I didn't spend a lot on. I usually stick to masks, and buffs. Occasionally I have real ear warmers on (usually over or under the mask of buff, but not often.) There's really not too much to this one. I keep it very simple. The same buffs that I use for a regular headband,in the summer, I use in the winter. I have like 4 of the very same one and I wear two for every winter run. One for my neck and face, and one for my head. Otherwise I have my facemask. My issue with most face masks is that they, once again, can't accommodate my hair, so my hair ends up pulling the mask back and off my forehead. Because of this I wear the buffs as well. If I have a jacket with a hood, I will use that if it's wet, or I will put a cap on with a buff over my ears and around my neck. Don't wear just a headband in extreme cold. Heat escapes from your head even when you don't feel it.
How to Save Money: Here's a secret- Vaseline. I once did a science experiment with my 1st graders to demonstrate how fat insulates animals that hibernate. I had two thermometers and a bowl full of ice. One of the thermometers I covered in Vaseline (the fat)... and even I was totally surprised... Literally NO change in temperature! It protects you from the wind, and the cold, and the rain. The only downside is that some people have very sensitive skin and maybe would break out from this, but I haven't heard anyone that has... Just some people told me they probably would. I say it's worth the risk to find out. I break out without it because my skin gets so dry. So if you want to get the Dollar store bandanna instead of the more expensive buff, or just as back up when the buff is in the wash, make sure you have Vaseline on hand.
There's a common theme here: Wool. Get Wool. I'm a big fan of feetures socks, and they do have wool options, but they are much tighter than I like in the colder weather. For some reason the really tight socks don't seem to keep me as warm. I really like my smart wool socks that I bought for hiking. They come up higher on the ankle and aren't adding compression. Some people use compression socks to add a layer to their legs (and because they like compression socks, I can't understand that) but if you're wearing the CWX pants, you'll need something a little less tight. Something not made for compression necessarily. I'm not really too picky about my socks as long as my ankles are covered and I keep my feet dry, usually I don't have a problem with my feet... and if I do, I'm better off inside that day because that means it's -30 out...
How To Save Money: Vaseline is life when you are a runner... but especially in the cold, so if you need extra insulation, it's your best friend. It can also protect you from blisters if you run in cheap socks. The wool socks are pricey, and in the summer I don't want to wear my wool socks, so lots of times I just run in my usual running socks in the winter and I buy a cheap package of tube socks, and cut the ankle part off and put that on over the ankle of my shoe and over the bottom of my pant. This way I don't get blisters from running in cheap socks, but I also don't get frost bite on my ankles or break the bank buying socks I can only wear in one season.
Gloves and Mittens
The moment you've all been waiting for... because keeping hands warm is the number one complaint that I hear from other runners, and mine get warm enough to sweat. If you feel like spending money, I'm willing to bet that cycling gloves are really effective, but I wouldn't know, because I run in non-running gloves. They are big, they are bulky, but they are awesome. I have mittens from The Mitten Company which I just realized in making this post is under new ownership! (I thought they closed!) At the moment they do not have any mittens, but basically they recycle old sweaters and make them into awesomely cute mittens! These are for extreme temps or if you are pushing a stroller. My hands actually sweat in them even in negative degree windy days. I literally don't feel any cold in these things (unless they get wet) They are about $40. I also do a fold over mitten that isn't as warm, but is warmer than your typical running glove. I do have sleek expensive running gloves, however. My favorite are a craft brand because of the bright colors and the reflective quality. They are linked below. Safety is my primary concern!
How to Save Money: The Clark Family special (10 people under one roof,) is a huge money saver: buy cheap gloves, layer with socks (you can use the bottom part of the tube socks you cut for your ankles. But if you keep tube socks whole, you can keep your wrists warm, too.) Another trick my mom uses is Vaseline covered hands, latex gloves on top, slip those latex gloves into another pair of gloves, mittens (or socks), and you're good to go! You also come back with nice soft hands! (still not as good as the Mitten Company)
So there you have it, some tips and tricks to running in frigid temps and how to not die. I linked a lot of products in this blog, most of which, I have used but again, my stuff is old so the brand may have updated or changed it a bit! I will never post about a product I don't believe in! I do not make money from these companies, but if you purchase through one of my links you can help out me and my family just a little bit! Maybe I can get a new pair of socks!
I think I'll do a post on safety tips next!
What are your favorite products?
Learn anything new?
Welcome to my blog! I blogged my entire pregnancy in 2017 and I had high hopes for where I could take my running after baby number 2, but my body had other plans. At some point I got too discouraged to write and recently realized that it is essential for my personal growth and development to keep putting feelings into coherent(ish) thoughts. I still hope to run sub 2:45 in the marathon one day, but for now I’m trying to focus on the process and I’m learning to enjoy it. You can come along for the ride, apologies in advance for grammatical incorrectness!