We are just going to admit it now that we are very lucky in the Pacific Northwest. We have clients in various parts of the world where it is much, much colder for much longer than we have to deal with. And during the summer, we don’t have real extreme hot and humid temps either. Yet we do get a lot of damp cool to cold weather and dressing for that does take some figuring.
Everyone has a different set point as to what feels comfortable for them and it also depends on what kind of workout you are going out to do.
Are you planning on just an easy run or do you tend to run a bit cooler in general? If so, you might need to add one extra layer than the average person.
Are you going out for a workout where you will be working harder? Are you a person who runs hot and overheats easily? Do you sweat a lot? Plan for another layer that you can strip off as you warm up.
The goal is to be a bit chilled when you start out. I know...this does not sound super inviting but here is why. We don’t want you to get wet from the inside out as then it is really easy to get chilled. If you are wearing too many layers when you start you will start to sweat quickly. This can build up inside your jacket or other layers creating a wet layer against your skin and this can put you in the danger zone. Once in this danger zone, if you were to take off a layer or vent you will chill quickly and there's not another dry layer to help you warm up. You will end up getting even colder.
In talking about being chilled and getting started another thing we want to caution you against is the tendency to charge into a workout early because you are cold and want to warm up. Bad idea! Your body takes longer to warm up in the cold and running that default moderate pace can cause you to over reach with muscles that are not yet warm. Charging out into your run will cause you to sweat more right away and it is often hard to slow down and remember the objective of the workout. Stick to your goal for your workout and take the time to let your body warm up to the effort.
A wind vest can block the wind and add another layer to keep your torso warm. It seems like they are so thin that they will not do anything for you but they can be enough to make the difference between chilled or comfortable for some. A very light shell jacket can also provide this layer as long as it breaths enough and does not trap too much moisture in or make you overheat right away. Either way, it should be something that if you needed to take it off, it would be easy to take off and carry if needed. For a vest, just taking your arms out and rolling it around your waist makes it transportable and most shells now have clever ways to carry them into a zippered pocket.
The wool long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts really can provide a light, wicking warm layer next to your skin. Add in another layer over, that may be enough.
Don’t forget your head where you lose a lot of heat. A headband, running hat or light beanie can really provide a lot of warmth.
Of course, wearing gloves can help provide a lot of warmth. You can get fancy ones but if you are like us, you might tend to lose them easily. We swear the dog likes to carry them off! We keep multiple cheap pairs around and extras in the car. For some people. their hands may be much more colder than average. In that case, invest in a nicer pair of gloves (we like some that have a shell you can pull over the fingers to provide more wind protection) or mittens! If you are really desperate, the small, disposable hand warmers can be tucked into your gloves to help.
And for the legs…
All tights are not created equal. Some are much thinner than others. If you feel that your hips are cold, try wearing a pair of shorts or skirt over your tights which can help keep you more comfortable. There are also wool tights or tights with front wind panels that can make a big difference on these really cold days.
If it’s windy or raining hard, add another layer or something to block wind/rain. Some of our coldest runs have happened with cold rain or wind where we just weren’t expecting to chill so quickly.
And don’t forget to plan for after the run. Make sure to have a complete dry change of clothing ready to go for when you are finished. The sooner you can get out of wet clothing, the better.
We have found this “What to Wear” Calculator from Runner’s World helpful. Give it a try!