Get outside! How to dress for running in the cold

Here are some general guidelines and tips I use to keep running throughout the winter. I hope they help you!

The author running in a particularly chilly Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes 5K. Photo by Judson Powers.

The author running in a particularly chilly Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes 5K. Photo by Judson Powers.

0) If it’s sunny, and you’ll be outside for more than an hour, wear sunscreen. If it’s sunny, and there’s snow on the ground, wear sunglasses.

1) If it’s sleeting or if there’s freezing rain, take to the treadmill. You won’t be warm enough outside. Your clothes are not that waterproof, and it’ll be slippery.

2) Invest in some Eucerin baby ointment or in some Vaseline. Smear it on your exposed skin when the wind chill drops below 25F or so. It’ll help keep you warm, and it’ll help prevent windburn and frostbite.

3) Several thin layers are warmer than one heavy layer.

4) You should feel a little chilly when you start, but not cold. You will warm up.

5) Run against the wind at the beginning of your run. You’ll still sweat, and winds on the way back can be brutal. Also, this way, you’ll be able to curse the lack of your well-deserved tailwind on the way back.

6) You can actually wear a baseball-style cap over a thermal headband. Caps with brims keep the sun out of your eyes and even help with snow.

7) Even if you normally go commando in shorts, wear [sports] underwear with your tights/pants, especially if it’s windy.

8) I really like the Saucony Ulti-Mitts. These and other running gear are available at Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon Company on the Ithaca Commons.

Here’s a general list of how I dress for different temperature ranges. I always use the wind chill as my guide. This is for a regular run. I’ll dress more warmly for a recovery run, and I’ll dress as if it’s warmer for a workout or a race.

42-50°: Shorts, short sleeves, thermal headband, gloves
35-42°: Long-sleeved shirt, shorts, thermal headband, gloves
30-35°: Long-sleeved shirt, tights, thermal headband, gloves
20-30°: 1-2 Long-sleeved shirts or short sleeves and a light jacket, warmer tights, thermal headband, gloves
10-20°: Long-sleeved shirt, jacket, tights, pants, thermal headband, warmer gloves
-5 to +10°: Consider a balaclava. Keep adding more layers. Maybe even wear a real hat. Double socks. Wing it.
-12 to -5°: Is it a historically cold winter? Then I’ve probably acclimated to this crap. Keep applying the strategy from above.
<-12°: Not worth the frostbite risk.

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