Can you believe November is more than halfway complete!? Is it getting colder where you are? It got chilly a few weeks ago in Dallas, then got quite warm again, and is now leveling out in temperatures that are just about perfect for running!
Dressing properly to run outside hasn’t been too difficult in Texas this year, but I’ve definitely been through the gamut of temperatures throughout my running lifetime. After growing up in Dallas, I started running at the beginning of my four years in Boston (but admittedly took to the gym for the first few years rather than braving the winter weather). I then spent 3 years in the heat and humidity of Miami, headed back to the cold of Chicago for two years (and was only confined to the treadmill a tiny handful of times!), and have now made my way back to Dallas. Talk about weather confusion! I will always prefer running in the cold to the heat – you can always pile on more and more clothing, but you can’t escape the heat! As I’ve mentioned before, the heat really negatively impacts my running performance and times, so I’d choose the cold any day.
Living in these different climates has taught me a few things about how to dress for various temperatures. The “common rule” is to dress for running as if it were 20 degrees warmer outside, but this is hard to put into practice, because I wouldn’t be just standing around outside for an hour if it were 5 degrees out! Instead of following this rule, I’ve developed my own guidelines – this is what works for me, and I can’t guarantee it will be the same for you … but I hope it helps!
What to Wear For Cold Weather Running or Exercising
(temperatures in Fahrenheit)
- Over 70 degrees: shorts and tank top (Disney Princess Half Marathon, 2011)
- 60-70 degrees: shorts and short-sleeved shirt (I prefer moisture-wicking material for all of my shirts)
- 50-60 degrees: shorts and long-sleeved shirt
- 40-50 degrees: shorts and long-sleeved shirt, plus gloves and headband. My hands and ears are always the coldest parts of my body, so as soon as it starts getting chilly, I cover these up! (Veterans Marathon … my 4th and last – so far!, 2011 … and yes, I wear those shorts in almost every race! They have a perfect pocket to hold a key and a little bit of race fuel, with no chafing!)
- 25-40 degrees: leggings or running tights, short-sleeved shirt with running fleece or zip-up, plus gloves and headband (Dallas Rock and Roll Half Marathon, 2013)
- 15-25 degrees: leggings or running tights, long-sleeved shirt with running fleece, plus thick gloves and thick hat or running mask/ balaclava.
- 0-15 degrees: leggings or running tights and wind pants or sweat pants, long-sleeved shirt with running fleece and wind jacket, plus thick gloves and running mask/ balaclava, plus hand warmers. I really wish I had some pictures of my true cold-weather running gear to show you, because it’s pretty hilarious! Sadly, those have escaped the camera. For my first marathon, my mother-in-law gave me a hand towel at the start (I’m not sure why?!?) and I was so desperate for extra warmth that I stuffed it in the neck of my shirt like a scarf, and ran the entire marathon with it!
A few other things that have helped me run through cold weather:
- YakTrax. These fit onto the outside of your shoes and prevent slipping on ice … they were absolutely a life-saver for navigating the not-always-plowed-and-often-icy sidewalks of Chicago! (picture source and link to buy from REI – not an affiliate link)
- Dressing in layers … carefully. Layers are key for running or exercising in the cold weather, because they provide additional insulation, and allow you to adjust as necessary. However, it’s important that the layer closest to your skin is a “technical” material (moisture-wicking fabric rather than something like cotton which will remain wet and cling to your skin). If you don’t have the right fabric next to your body, you will only get colder!
- Don’t get into a hot shower immediately … everything will tingle, in a painful way!
- Breathe through a layer of clothing. If you get that “lungs burning” feeling while you are running or exercising outside, it can often help to breathe through a layer of clothing to warm up the air. This is one reason I love my running face mask (also called a balaclava), but if that’s a little too creepy for you, you can always just hold gloved hands up to your mouth and breathe through your fingers for a few seconds. Your lungs actually adapt remarkably well to breathing the colder air after the first few runs! (picture source)
- Don’t forget to hydrate! You won’t feel as parched and thirsty while you’re running in the colder weather, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to re-hydrate from your workout!
So tell me in the comments … Do you prefer to work out in hot or cold weather? Is it cold where you live? Do you have any tips for running or exercising in cold weather?