The arrival of November has brought cooler temperatures and shorter days. It was 31 degrees here in Charlotte this morning and dark by 5:30 p.m. This presents some challenges for running. Gone are the days of throwing on shorts and a tank and hitting the road. The time has arrived to break out cold weather workout gear and acclimate our bodies to the brisk temperatures.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve read quite a few Tweets, Facebook posts and blog updates about dislike of running in the dark cold. True, it’s not the most fun thing to do but it is necessary if you’re training for a spring race or just wanting to maintain your regular running routine.
I think there are two key elements to surviving cold weather running: attitude and gear. With the right attitude and proper gear, you may even find a love those cold runs!
- The first few cold weather runs of the season are the hardest. It’s very similar to the struggle we go through every summer with humidity. You have to acclimate your body to the colder temperatures. It will get easier! The burning feeling in your lungs will subside and the ache in your ears will pass. Be extra careful to cover hands, head and mouth if necessary when you’re first starting out with cold weather running.
- You will always be colder than you want to be the first 5-10 minutes of your run. Resist the temptation to overdress. I usually follow the guideline of dressing like it’s 15-20 degrees warmer than it is. Check out this cool application on RunnersWorld.com where you input conditions and it tells you what to wear. I’ve used this as a guide since college. And if you have to overdress because you just can’t stand it – layer and shed them as you get warm.
- Try to avoid negative thoughts about the cold and think about how lucky you are to be running outside and not on the “dreadmill.” 😉
- Suffer with a friend. Doesn’t that always make it easier? This is also essential if you are running in the dark.
- How cold is too cold? I think that’s personal choice. What’s cold for some may be perfect conditions for others. Luckily, our temperatures usually don’t drop below the teens so I run outside all year. I really believe that barring negative temperatures and snowstorms, that it’s possible to continue running outside through the winter if you’re dressed appropriately. That said, I know I have some readers in VERY cold parts of the country. I’m sure you run through conditions I can’t imagine!
Here are some of my cold weather running must haves.
The first thing I reach for when the temperatures drop is my vest. I find that if I keep my core warm, I can continue running in shorts and a t-shirt for quite a while. My go-to vest is Columbia’s Benton Springs Vest. No frills but reasonably priced and great quality.
Keeping your hands warm is important to keep heat from escaping the body. I love these Lululemon W’s Brisk Run Gloves. They have all kinds of fun features like storage pockets, a slit on the thumbs that allows you to play with your iPod or phone and a slit at wrist to allow you to see your Garmin or watch.
The head is another place where we lose a lot of heat. This Nike Dri-fit Lightweight Running Skull Cap is the perfect hat for keeping your head and ears covered. It even features an opening for ponytails in the back so you don’t have to smush your hair against your neck (which I find really uncomfortable when I’m running).
When it’s time to add a warmer layer, I usually reach for a fitted half zip. I find them extremely comfortable to run in and they regulate my body temperature well. Also, if I want to cover my neck, I can zip it all the way up. I like this Nike Women’s Chamois Half-Zip and it even features built-in hand mitts!
And when it’s really cold, I break out the running tights. I try to hold out in shorts as long as I can but usually when temperatures dip under 40 degrees, I switch to tights. These Under Amour ColdGear Fitted Leggings feature special ColdGear technology that “wicks moisture from the skin and circulates body heat, keeping athletes warm, without weighing them down.”
Last but not least…
The reflective vest! No, you’re not going to make a fashion statement in one of these but they are necessary if you’re running in the dark. Please wear reflective clothing – protect yourself! I wear this Nathan vest.
Questions? Feedback? How do you survive cold weather running?