Surviving Winter: Gear Up For Cold Weather Running

I got the urge to begin running in mid-October, which was a pretty poor choice on my part. Within weeks of starting Project Become A Runner, winter arrived in Colorado. Here’s my guide to not freezing your ass off (completely) as a winter runner.

Under Armour ColdGear compression layer and Big Logo Storm hoodie. Hat from my first race, the Ugly Sweater Run. Run the race and get one too!
Under Armour ColdGear compression layer and Big Logo Storm hoodie. Hat from my first race, the Ugly Sweater Run. Run the race and get one too!

If you buy one thing, buy good base layers. They will serve you will in a variety of situations for years to come. I’ve had a solid selection of base layers for a number of years now since I ride horses year-round and it’s not particularly balmy inside the massive metal indoor arenas that you are stuck in during the dead of winter. I am a die-hard Under Armour compression gear fan.

Layers are your best friend. This can be a hoodie (love these Under Armour ones), a fleece, puffy vest, pretty much whatever you’re comfortable in. REI makes a great fleece jacket, but it’s not very cheap. I can’t tell you how much to wear for certain temperatures- it depends on personal preference and how long and how hard you plan on running. A general rule of thumb is to dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer outside to account for how hot you get while you run.

Let me say this now – use what you have. Base layers are the most important, but I am in no way insisting that you have to go buy ALL THE THINGS. Technical fabrics like Under Armour and other brands are pricey, and I know everyone (myself included) can’t afford to go buy a whole new wardrobe of things to sweat in.

I rocked regular leggings for a long time, probably because I maxed out at half a mile and wasn’t actually outdoors for very long. Once I decided I wanted to be a Real Runner, I gutted up and spent $50 on running tights. This sucks, but it is worth it to have something that wicks moisture and effectively deals with the amount of heat you put off during your run.

I opted for Nike’s basic running tights. As usual, they do not offer pockets. Which is why I got a Flipbelt, which you should also consider.

My second pair of tights was a Christmas gift (an excellent way to offset costs of gear one piece at a time!), and are substantially thicker, which has come in very handy in polar vortex-like conditions. Naturally, Under Armour no longer makes that exact pair (I love their gear, but they like to change things a lot). Here‘s their current selection.

As for accessories, gloves are important, even if they’re just the $2 bargain gloves from Target. Your hands will be numb/chapped and you will probably be hating life pretty soon if you go out with your hands uncovered.

For my head, I prefer an ear warmer since 99% of women’s hats don’t have a hole or similar place for your ponytail. It is truly mind-boggling how there have been so many advances in active wear, but it is still assumed women carry nothing with them and wear their hair down while exercising.

REI Venturi fleece jacket (two years old, they've changed the design a bit), Gap Outlet puffy vest (using what I have!) and Outdoor Research Ear Band.
REI Venturi fleece jacket (two years old, they’ve changed the design a bit), Gap Outlet puffy vest (using what I have!) and Outdoor Research Ear Band.

This Outdoor Research ear warmer is awesome, but it’s so good at blocking out the cold and wind that it also blocks out a fair amount of background noise – so just make sure to be extra careful when crossing streets. Also, don’t be surprised if you startle anyone when you think you’re talking to them in a normal voice volume. You aren’t. You’re yelling. And it’s awkward. Worth it for warm ears, though!

Bottom Line

Focus on wearing lots of layers that are comfortable, and don’t forget a moisture-wicking base layer. I’ve gone over different sock options in another blog. It’s also important to wear something reflective besides your shoes. Cold weather means shorter days, which means cars have a harder time seeing you. Here are my affordable best bets.

Also, a headlamp doesn’t hurt if you’re running at night. If you live in a well-lit neighborhood, disregard this message, but the combination of questionable lighting and extremely questionable sidewalk quality in my neighborhood has made me a devotee of running with a headlamp. I wrote a blog about them for camping, but the information will be just as useful for runners.

Stay warm out there!

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