Sometime just before the holiday rush, Nik and I ran into our friends Baris and Karolina during a quick trip to the mall and joined them for dinner with their daughters in the food court. These are really super people and catching up with them is my favorite. That night, Karolina and I were chatting about running when she asked what I wear to keep warm through the winter. At the time I was finishing up my 110-mile challenge and November had been all over the map in terms of temperature and conditions.
I’ve been meaning to write this post since then.
Originally I thought maybe I’d model some of my own gear, but the thought of rocking a sports bra in public can be saved until after I’ve completed the 14-pound weight loss I referenced in my New Year’s Resolution.
Until then… models.
Generally, it’s a good idea to dress as though it’s 10-20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature, to account for how much your body will heat up once you get going. I never wear more than the layers I outline above (with the accessories below) and I’ve never run into any cold-related issues on the go. I run pretty warm (that is, once I’m moving, I heat up pretty quick), but this is what works for me.
So, let’s say it’s cold out. New England winter cold, like 20 to 30 degrees. Since I run for fun and don’t feel comfortable sending anyone out into the streets in truly freezing temps on my advice, let’s pretend 20 is our low.
You’re going to want your first layer to be a layer that sits close to your body and is never, ever, evermade of cotton. Ever. Gear that is running specific is made of fantastic high-tech material which is designed to wick sweat and moisture away from your body, therefore keeping your warmer in winter and cooler in summer. This first layer serves to keep sweat or precipitation off your skin.
Start with running tights. If temps are under 30, I’m going full length with my tights. I’ve tried and loved all different brands and note that tights come in different weights, thicknesses, and materials. I have a great fleece-lined pair by Adidas and another that are super thin, but totally cozy made by Nike. (The Nike ones have dots all over the lower legs that look like a fashion statement, but are actually sort of like air bubbles that help move warm air while wicking or something. I bought them because they look good.)
The Midweight Pattern Bottom are made by Athleta and are made with SmartWool, which is one of my favorite inventions ever. It’s comfortable and insulating. Bonus points for being on sale with free shipping, not black, and patterned.
For the ladies… (Ha! The ladies or the ladies), you probably know that sports bras come in about a million different styles, brands, and price points. The bigger they are, the more all of that matters, and perhaps not surprisingly, the prices seem to work that way too. What are you going to do? Besides shoes, I’d argue a good sports bra is my most important piece of gear and because of that, I wear Lululemon’s Ta-Ta Tamer exclusively. I wear the straps crossed in the back and stock up like it’s going out of style when any color is on sale for $39.
Socks are totally and completely a matter of preference. I like mine on the thicker side and low cut. I own the Under Armour socks up top. They’re super thin, so not my favorite, but once again, the most important thing is that they aren’t cotton. Running in the winter, it’s entirely possible that you’ll run in snow, slush, or bottomless puddles. Do your feet a favor.
Okay, the good stuff. This is where you can really figure out what you need to be comfortable, but three layers up top are the basics: a base layer, a mid-layer, and a shell. Some people might add a vest on top, but that would be too much for me.
For the base layer, keep it nice and close to the body. I bought an Under Armour “Cold Gear” shirt at the UA outlet years ago and it’s my Saturday morning long run staple. I bought mine because it had a bad ass lime green stripe down the front that looked fast. I PR’ed in the half marathon while wearing it, so it remains my go-to.
Next, you’re going to want a mid-layer with a zip. I chose a 1/4-zip from Target because their C9 line is really pretty great at a ridiculously low price. I trained for my first marathon in mostly C9 stuff: sports bras (I layered two at a time at that point), long-sleeves, and capris. The zipper is crucial because you have better control of your body temperature. If you start warming up, unzip it to let some cool (FRIGID!) air in. Zip it back up when you’re comfortable.
When you’re in the doorway looking at the inevitably grey, chilly road, you’ll probably still feel like you need another layer, and you may be right. Choose a shell that zips fully to protect you from the wind or precipitation, like the New Balance Sequence Jacket. I mean, it’s less than $30 on sale right now. I have a couple different jackets that I choose between depending on the weather and this one is by far the lightest, but works well for me on top of a base and mid-layer. It’s also great in the rain during spring and fall.
These basics will layer up to keep you warm without feeling like the Michelin man. Being warm doesn’t mean being bulky.
But, wait! The accessories!
For real! They’re important and I’m partial to head gear. It depends completely on what you prefer. If you don’t worry about your ears freezing, stick with a headband to keep flyways off your face. That’s advice solely based on what’s annoying — not weather related. If it’s really cold, my first choice is to go with a fleece or wool headband, otherwise, go all out with a beanie. They even make some with ponytail holes. Sparkly Soul headbands are my personal favorite when it comes to cute headbands that will do absolutely nothing to keep you warm (I even wear them to work on bad hair days and pretend the black glitter makes them “fancy”). Hot tip! The owner is also a big Leukemia & Lymphoma Society supporter and I’ve seen them do fundraising deals for Team In Training runners before. Beyond sparkles, I have a great North Face fleece headband, and the basic beanie above is reasonable and practical.
Gloves are my final crucial piece of gear and New Balance Glo-Mitts are the bomb dot com. They have reflectors. They are mittens. AND, they flip back to convert into a fingerless glove in case you’re fingers get claustrophobic or overheat. My only regret is that I bought mine a size too big out of desperation, so they’re sort of clumsy. You need a pair of these. Promise.
Ready to bundle up? I’m still on hiatus and om’ing it out until an acupuncture session next weekend, but I am really itching to get back on the road. Tell me all about your mileage to make me feel better.