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Forum: Anything Else - Running Related
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Topic: Tips for Beginners - Winter Running - Staying Warm
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Posted By: Webmaster Mary Posted: Jan 2, 2011 Reply
Jan 2, 2011
Winter running can be tough.  You can be tougher.
When it comes to winter running, there are 4 key issues to consider: staying warm, slippery/icy footing, running with lack of daylight, and cold weather hydration/nutrition issues.
This blog post will cover the first issue: Staying Warm.
I run outdoors all year round, in Wisconsin, and can provide some insight based on personal experience.  I have gone out for many long runs where the temperature barely climbed above zero, and wind chills made it feel even colder.  I was able to stay suprisingly comfortable.
Here are my tips:
1. Layers.  Lots and lots of layers.  This may be obvious, and most everyone will tell you this, and its true.  Here's what I have done for my coldest runs: 2 pairs of running tights, 3 or 4 shirts, and 2 jackets.  I like one of those shirts to be cotton, the others are some sort of wicking material.  Wicking shirt will be first layer(s), and cotton will go over the other shirts, but under the jacket(s).  Cotton doesn't breath that well, so I feel like it keeps the wind out.  Cotton does soak up moisture like a sponge, so I prefer to keep it farther away from my skin.
2. Gloves, mittens, and hand warmers.  I put on a thin pair of gloves first, then put my hands and the hand warmers into the mittens.  Hand warmers can be found at most big general discount stores like Target, and WalMart. I find them for around $5 to $6 for 6 pair.  They last many many hours, I have never had them quit before me.  I use them for runs over an hour when the temps are low teens or lower.
3. Wool socks.  My feet generally don't get cold, but when its bitter cold, I like wool socks.
4. Hat, neck gaitor AND ear warmer band thing.  I am not a fan of the head sock, or scarfs.  I find the all-in-one-piece head socks problematic.  They often drowned out all surrounding sounds, so that I can't hear traffic or people around me. I also find that when I turn my head, they don't turn, limiting visibility.  I also find breathing difficult with the head sock - the nose/mouth holes never seem to line up right with my nose and mouth.  With a separate hat and neck gaitor (rather than scarf), I get good coverage, and a lot more comfort, and can still hear and see what is around me.  I don't like scarfs because they never seem to tie right and stay where I want.  The excess ends bounce around, which I don't like either.
When it is really really bitter cold, I do something that will look very dorky, but will keep me warm... I put the ear warmer band thing across my face to cover my nose.  This way, I can still breath, and consume liquids, and keep covered.
5. Adjust route to minimize the affect of wind.  I love trail running because the trees can provide a lot of shelter from the wind, and make a huge difference in comfort.
If trail running isn't an option for a given run, then I will try to find a route perpendicular to the wind, so that the wind is crossing my path, rather than running into the wind for long stretches, then with the wind for long stretches.
If that doesn't work, then I will choose a short loop route (maybe under 2 miles), so that I am not running into the wind for more than a few minutes at a time, and run the loop repeatedly.
Short loop routes also provide the opportunity to return to your start, where you can add clothes or remove clothes if you find you need to make adjustments.
Hopefully these tips will help you keep warm.  In the next blog post, I'll cover dealing with icy/slippery conditions.