Until this week we have been lucky in the UK so far this winter with regard to temperatures as it has been a relatively mild one. As luck would go this was also the week that our central heating broke just as the cold snap hit! On Tuesday its was -1 when I went training and the track literally froze and then on Thursday we were in a heavy rain which we are more used to in Wales. I was fortunate enough to grow up in Singapore which make running in winter a relatively challenging experience and constantly fills me with the question: What do I wear??
One of the best things about running is that you need very little kit compared to some sports like cycling or swimming where you obviously need access to some key equipment .Over the last few months I have started to get pretty good at judging what I need to wear for what temperature. Therefore I thought I would share my new found knowledge with you. However if you are heading to the gym to use in the treadmill to escape the weather then check out my blog post on the science behind treadmill running.
Firstly, I am a wimp when it comes to the cold weather. I tend to get cold easily but hopefully you will get the rough idea of what to wear form this guide. Generally the advice is to dress for around 10 degrees warmer than it is outside as that is around how much you will heat up. However if it is windy or rainy make sure that this into consideration as it will feel colder than it actually is. It will also depend on the intensity and type of workout that you are doing. This is a rough guide as everyone is different so adjust it to what you think you will be comfortable with. I have been for a run with my boyfriend in the winter who would be in shorts and no t-shirt while I am in a long sleeve t-shirt and leggings so each to their own!
Lets start at the more comfortable end of the scale:
Around 10 Degrees:
A long sleeve shirt and long leggings will generally be comfortable at this temperature. I generally stick to dry fit tops. They work to help absorb the sweat when you run which can also help in keeping you from over heating, as well as keep you warm. If you get warm quickly when you run you can get away with 3/4 length capri’s or possibly shorts but I certainly wont be joining you in shorts.
5- 10 degrees:
At this point recommend running leggings or tights whether you transition into thermal winter ones at this stage is up to you. I personally love my Nike Pro keep warm running leggings but that’s my preference you may not want them so thick at this temperature.
As for the top half this is when I start to layer up. Anything below 7/8 degrees I normally start to think about putting on a sleeveless or short sleeve top underneath and if it gets down to five I generally will have two long sleeves tops on or one long sleeve top with my wind/waterproof jacket as a light layer. It’s handy to have a top with a zip so you have the option to get some air if you do heat up over the run. If your running top has thumb hole then you may get away with not having any gloves at all. However I always have cold hands so if it is around 5/6 I mostly likely will have my Gloves on.
Below 5 degrees:
Depending on how warm you get when your run this would be the time to think about getting a base layer or at least starting to layer tops to run in. Its important to get ones that dry quickly so a synthetic dry-fit/ moisture wicking material is best the last thing you want is the layer on your skin to get sweaty and therefore cold. The idea is that the moisture gets moved away from your first layer to your outer layer and then will evaporate and keep you warmer. Also think about the fit you want it to be tight and fitted so that it keeps you as warm as possible. You could also think about getting a jacket to layer up with as well as your long sleeves t-shirts. It may not be that cool but tuck your bottom layer into your leggings if you wearing layers no one will be able to notice anyway and it will keep you warmer especially if there is some wind around.
At this point I would recommend wearing thermal leggings to keep your legs warm. You also want to start to think about keeping yourself covered up and minimising the skin on display for example that your leggings overlap your socks.
Gloves: I certainly will be running in my running gloves at this point. I have some Karrimor gloves that I love and would be lost without they are really good quality. I also got them for a really good price as well.
Luckily this is a set of temperatures that I haven’t had to deal at all until this week when it fell below freezing. At this temperature its about keeping yourself layered up and having very little skin on show. Also it so important to warm up throughly and to keep moving, we did a track session so there was more stopping and starting but there was no walking involved between sets.
You will want a base layer, insulating layer and a out layer.. You will find most base layers will come up like a turtleneck to keep your neck warm though you can get some that dont if you prefer. You can always get a neck gaiter to protect your neck and face especially if there is a cold wind.
Insulating layer: At this temperature it will be needed think about getting a fleece or insulating dry fit material that will keep the heat in and tap some warm air between the layers.
Outer Layer: You will mostly likely need a jacket at this temperature. You can get full winter running jackets as well as a thin wind/water proof layer, its up to you which one you get. However if it is a thin jacket then make sure you warm up in a coat or an extra hoodie or fleece to keep you warm.
Hats and Gloves! I am not a hat fan personally but I certainly will be running in my running gloves. I have some Karrimor gloves that I love and would be lost without. While I don’t do hats I have recently purchased a neck gaiter which I use as a headband to cover my ears. You can buy headbands that are just for that purpose but as a lady with a rather small head circumference they were all too big for me and I thought the headband more comfortable.
You definitely will need a hat and gloves at this point in time as almost 10% of your heat is lost from your head and 30% through your extremities, so its important to keep it covered. Most long sleeve running tops with have thumb holes and so that may buy you some time before you will have to invest in a pair of gloves having said this you can pick them up cheaply.
As for your lower body you may need to layer up with thermal leggings and normal leggings or get some windproof jogging bottoms on over the top. Again when you warm up it would be a good idea to put on some jogging bottoms just to help get some warmth into the muscles.
Rain, Snow + Wind:
It may not have been a cold winter generally but we certainly have been hit with a lot of rainfall and wind here in the UK. I live in Cardiff, Wales and I did almost end up in the bay at one point on my run. For this a wind/water proof out layer is essential and should help to protect you from getting drenched as well as keeping you warm. It’s best to get one with a zip most will have them so you can always undo it if you need to. Also if it is windy definitely think about tucking your layers in so if they do blow about your skin is always covered!
Also think about getting a hat with a brim it may keep the rain out of your eyes but if its really coming down in the wind it might not be much help.
If there is thick snow then you can buy traction devices that you can attach to your shoes so that you are able to get some grip in really extreme conditions.
I may not have much experience in the cold weather compared to other places in the world but on the topic of socks I am an expert, if you ask anyone I am a sock person!! I am constantly in socks whether it’s the summer or in bed I will have a pair of socks on! I am also a frequent suffer of blisters its my Achilles heel, ironically I don’t really get them there but I am constantly stocking up on blister plasters. If like me you get blisters easily then get some with extra cushioning especially round the arch. For really cold weather or longer distances get socks that are double lined it may not always stop you getting them but it certainly does help to prevent them. I have to say I love mine it really does make a difference, running when you can’t feel your feet is never pleasant. Also try to avoid cotton socks as again they will absorb the sweat and moisture and leave your feet cold and also increase your changes of blisters.
In the winter it’s almost impossible not to run in the dark at some point. Therefore make sure you have a high Vs jacket or get a long sleeve top that is bright in colour to that you can be seen. This is important even if you are running in a well light area.