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3118 Views 5 Replies Latest reply: Jan 8, 2010 5:51 AM by KAHerschberger
MNrunningchick Expert 40 posts since
Feb 24, 2009
Currently Being Moderated

Jan 5, 2010 10:39 AM

Cold Weather Help

Hi, this is my first post and I am in desperate need of suggestions for appropriate cold weather running.  I am going to be running the Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard 10K Run in International Falls, MN on 1/16.  The temp could easily be well below zero at the time of the race and windchill factor could be -25 or lower.  I have ran down to +17 so far and with the clothing I currently have was a bit chilled.  I'm good down to about 22 then chilled.  I currently wear a pair of Nike Dri-Fit cold weather running pants, a Nike Dri-Fit mock turtle neck as a base for top with a tech T, 2 plain long sleeved shirts and a really thin wind breaker type of jacket.  I wear gloves, hat and a scarf.  How can I revamp my choices to I can stay warm?  I did buy a pair of running tights from Target and plan on wearing them under my current pants to help the lower half.  I'm really concerned about upper layers, don't want to have to wear 15 layers and not be able to move.  I know there must be some combination that will work.  (I am always cold).    Thanks!

  • dfitz* Legend 612 posts since
    Aug 20, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Jan 5, 2010 8:23 PM (in response to MNrunningchick)
    Re: Cold Weather Help

    This is a topic that's discussed frequently here (if you do a search on things like "winter running" or "cold weather gear," etc. you should find lots of past threads). But in general it sounds to me like you have some of the right items, but perhaps too many of the wrong kind of layers. I live in MT and run in cold temps (usually not below zero -- just personal preference -- but definitely single digits). The pants and base layer sound OK to me, but then you mention two additional plain T-shirts (I assume cotton) plus a windbreaker that's probably nylon. What this can do is trap too much sweat, which is retained by the cotton layers and closed in by the nylon, offering no escape. Then you stay chilled because you're damp, and that's bad!


    I'm sure you've already heard or figured out that you should feel chilled when you first start out in cold weather, as you will feel warm after a while. If you start out warm, then you'll overheat during your run as mentioned above. Wear fewer layers that can be unzipped or even removed. It's difficult to remove layers when you're wearing too many of them!


    What I would suggest is keeping the mock turtleneck base and adding a heavier-weight zip-neck shirt (in a wicking tech fabric) over it. Being able to vent it at the neck once you get warmed up is very helpful. I don't think the windbreaker is necessarily bad, if worn on top of those rather than cotton. I own something similar and have worn it running a few times, as it's easy to tie around my waist when I start to sweat. I have only worn it in the spring to stave off light rain, though. It wouldn't be my personal choice for winter.


    I don't really mean to endorse a specific product as there are dozens of good ones out there, but personally I own several tops by SportHill for cold weather. I like that brand because they have three different weights of garments, the coldest of which is appropriate for single-digit temps and helps block wind as well. I wear it over a base layer like the one you have, and you could wear a light jacket over that if necessary. I almost never pay full price for running gear, which means I sometimes get the colors that might not be as popular with others but that I like. Two of my best SportHill tops are lime green, which also helps me stay visible in low light.


    Good luck in your race! I'm also preparing for one in February, so could be running in the snow, although I doubt our temps will be as low as the ones you're possibly facing. Fewer, better layers is my best advice!

  • jenster! Legend 295 posts since
    May 27, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Jan 7, 2010 4:25 PM (in response to MNrunningchick)
    Re: Cold Weather Help

    I'm pretty much repeating a lot of Dfitz's advice, but Joe in TX posted this in the half thread this week and it's really comprehensive. Can never be too prepared I will also be trying to to stay warm and dry during a race on Saturday and I'll send you some warm thoughts! Good luck!!!


    Just thought ya'll (up north) might get a chuckle; we received an email from the Race Director letting us know that the race is still on!  Apparrently she has been receiving many questions regarding the weather.  Her husband is from Chicago and helped provide the following info:



    There are three important layers when it comes to cold weather running:


    - A base (closest to your body) layer should be thin, wicking material (such as polypropylene, polyester, Coolmax, Thermax, or lightweight wool). This layer will remove or "wick" moisture away from your skin, allowing the moisture to be more quickly evaporated. If this layer is loose, it will not wick moisture as well as a tight-fitting garment. You do not want this layer to be so tight that it restricts your blood flow. 


    - A long-sleeved mid-layer of looser material that insulates and carries moisture from the base layer (such as wool, polyester, or fleece). If you start getting too warm, simply sliding the sleeves up will allow for a significant cooling affect on the forearms. If that isn't enough to keep you from sweating, slip this layer off and tie it securely around your waist. You might need it later.


    - An outer layer of weather resistant material to block wind and allow some moisture to escape (such as Gore-Tex). A nylon jacket with no insulation is usually best. This final layer is really necessary only when it is bitterly cold, raining or very windy. The shell should be resistant to both wind and water and preferably made of a fabric that "breathes" and allows moisture to escape. Vents are important since this material will not be nearly as breathable as the wicking kind. As with the outer layer, it's helpful if the shell has a zipper to allow for temperature control. This also can be removed and tied around the waist as needed. The shell can be an entire suit, or just a jacket or pair of pants.
    How many layers should you wear?  As many as you need!  When in doubt, add the extra layer. You can always remove a layer if you warm up, but you will regret not having it if you start freezing with several miles to go.


    Cotton should be minimized as it can allow sweat buildup. For the same reason that cotton makes a poor top in summertime, it falls short in the fall and winter. Cotton holds 14 times more moisture than wicking materials, and evaporates 10 times slower. When it's cold outside the last thing you need is a sopping wet t-shirt against your skin; you will chill quickly, especially in the wind.


    A runner's/walker's legs do not need as many layers as the rest of their body because our legs warm up so quickly. Many runners can wear a layer of tights or even just shorts throughout winter. However, in very cold climates, consider these two layers. Consider that it is less convenient to remove and carry tights during a run. On occasion, I have taken a hot shower before my marathons to warm (and wake up) my leg muscles.
    Your head is the place from which you lose the most heat on a cold day. A great deal of vital body heat is lost through the top of your head, like a chimney, and through your hands.
    Hat: This is good for any cool weather. You can stick it in the waistline of your shorts if you get warm enough to take it off. A wool "sock" hat or some other hat made out of wicking material works well. You can find these all over: discount stores, department stores, running stores, hunting stores, even Army/Navy surplus stores.


    Gloves: Don't be alarmed if you notice that when you start running/walking that your hands get cold and may hurt a bit. Your body is diverting blood from your extremities into your internal organs to keep the organs warm. After you've gone a mile or two and your organs are warm, your body will put more blood back into your hands and feet, and they will warm up.


    Simple cotton gloves (or cheap tube socks) will do the trick, but a wicking fabric will keep your hands warmer and drier. These too can be removed if you get warm, but you will regret not having them if needed. Mittens are better on colder days as they will keep the hands even warmer. Whatever you choose, just don't forget to remove them if you start to sweat.


    A wicking sock will seem less heavy and your feet will be drier than a conventional cotton sock. Don't stress yourself on this point, though. As long as you don't get your feet wet, the socks you have been using during the training program will allow your feet to stay pretty warm. Do not make any drastic changes to your sock type on marathon day!


    Don't Bundle Up Excessively
    Dress for weather that's 20 degrees warmer than it feels outside. After a mile or two of running, your body will warm up. It is just as uncomfortable to get overheated as it is to be too cold.

    Sweat is caused by excess heat buildup in your body, and excess heat buildup means you are burning more calories than you need to. Conserve your energy by removing layers. If you think you don't have to worry about sweating since it's cold outside, ask anyone who participated in the 1995 Houston Marathon when runners where finishing with icecicles (sweatcicles) dangling from their hair.
    This is more important than you think. You should drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run. Even if you are not sweating, you are losing a lot of water which causes dehydration. If you become dehydrated, your body has trouble regulating your temperature, your immune system is lowered, and you'll get colder sooner.  You may not need quite as much as you did on a hot, muggy Houston day, but you still need to hydrate with water and electrolytes.

    If you finish your runs/walks at home, that's great. Change into dry clothes as soon as you get in from your run/walk. On the other hand, if you're going to finish your run/walk anywhere that you don't have the luxury of changing, be sure to bring a couple of pairs of dry socks (at the least) to change into until you can get back home. Check in a bag for the end of your marathon/half marathon. Place a pair of dry socks, shoes and a T-shirt or jacket. 

    Protect your skin, especially your face and lips with an easy regimen of moisturizer, sun protection and lip balm or Vaseline.


    “Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."

    -Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)


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  • runtothefinish Expert 39 posts since
    Dec 8, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Jan 8, 2010 5:40 AM (in response to MNrunningchick)
    Re: Cold Weather Help

    Both of the comments below are great, but I do think some of it is trial and error. I personally get and stay colder than a lot of folks so I wear more layers, but others are ok with lighter layers.  So you may have to test out a few different layering methods, but agreed ditch the t-shirts for winter running.  Head to TJ Maxx or  Marshalls and you can find some amazing deals on good thick winter running clothes

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  • KAHerschberger Amateur 21 posts since
    Dec 18, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Jan 8, 2010 5:51 AM (in response to runtothefinish)
    Re: Cold Weather Help

    i am in Wisconsin, last week two of my "run" days it was below zero, day one was -11 and the second day was onlyl -4.  I know this isn't running gear but Dickies has the most awesome long john shirts out there, they are moisture wicking and come in three colors and are CHEAP.....i use one of those as my bottom layer and then just a nice thick "hoodie" as the top layer, never got cold....for bottoms i usually wear Gander Mountain "guide" series long johns (very thin, very warm" under my tights....snug as a bug, i wear ankle warmers tho too, for some reason they get cold if i don't....GOOD LUCK and have fun


    COURAGE is being afraid but going on anyhow ;-)

    American Cancer Society Madison WI 5K "team leader of Tramps like Us"  my first 5K in over 20 years APRIL 10th 2010

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