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Did you think running was a summer sport? Well if you did, you're a wuss. Frigid weather is no excuse to put your running on hold. Keep hitting the trails, and not only will you stay in great shape, you will also get the opportunity to bask in the admiration of your friends, family, and coworkers as they exclaim "You can't possibly still be running in this weather? You're such a badass!"
That being said, heading outside as the mercury retracts is not always pleasant. But as we say in my home country of Norway: There's no such thing as bad weather - only bad clothing. Here's how to dress for success on a cold-weather run.
Layers, layers, layers.
You’ll often hear runners talk about layering like it’s the cure-all for chilly runs. And it is. But only if you understand how to do it right.
Let’s start with the basics: we’re mostly talking about layering on your upper body. Your lower body stays relatively active, so as long as you invest in good-quality, full-length running tights and socks that are high enough to overlap with the pants, your legs will be fine.
Now, what kind of layers should you aim for? The thicker the better? Nope! Thinner layers are preferable (i.e. not your fluffy college sweater). Why are two thin layers better than one thick? The reason is simple: layers trap air between them, and it is this air that keeps you warm, more so than the fabric itself.
What about the types of fabric? Layers for cold-weather (or any-weather, really) running should always, always, always be moisture-wicking fabric. Throw away anything cotton (it’ll get drenched in sweat and turn you into a popsicle), and opt instead for good-quality technical fabric. The outer layer could be wind- or water-resistant, or simply another moisture-wicking long-sleeve. And if it gets really cold, you can consider adding a more isolating layer between those two. Merino wool or anything with a thin fleece layer will go a long way.
Now, how many layers do you need? This is up to personal preference, and you should take some time to experiment. However, here is a good rule of thumb you can use as a starting point: At 60 degrees, wear one layer. For every 20 degrees the temperature drops, add a shirt. At 40 degrees, wear two shirts. At 20 degrees, 3 layers. At zero degrees, if you are that much of a BAMF, go for 4.
Tuck it in.
As we said above, it is the air trapped between layers that is keeping you warm. Thus, it is important to keep that air in place. That means sealing off any potential exits. Tuck your pants into your socks, your shirt (at least the inner-most one) into your pants, your sleeves into your gloves, and a scarf or buff into the neck opening of your shirt. There. You're all sealed off.
A few more essentials.
Remember that feeling of your fingers being so cold and stiff that you can’t use neither keys nor your cellphone? Yeah, let's avoid that. Mittens and gloves are essential. In general, for runs where the temperature is above freezing you should be ok with gloves, but when it gets real cold, opt for mittens or a glove-mitten hybrid (like this one). Keeping all your fingers in one "chamber" allows them to huddle for warmth.
Top it all off with a headband or hat. Again, moisture wicking is important! Try a good ol’ Buff, they come in all sorts of fun colors and can also double as a scarf or facemask if needed. For freezing days, opt for a hat, since heat can also escape from the top of your head.
How much is this going to cost me?
You might worry that all of this swag will drain your bank account. And yes, running gear can indeed be pretty expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. One thrifty tip is to look for last season’s products, as they’re often on sales at stores like Rei, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Eastern Mountain Sports. Below are some suggestions for your winter wardrobe – whether you’re in the mood to save or to splurge.
A layer with a little bit of heat