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Dressing for Cold Runs - Tips from a Southern Girl

I know it's winter, and winter is cold. I get that logic. However, I live in the south where winters are typically mild. We have only a handful of days that dip below freezing. We rarely see any good snow, you know, the kind that actually sticks. Usually we get ice, gray, dangerous ice.

We worry more about power outages from ice storms and being stranded because the roads are too slick far more than we worry about any need to shovel our driveways.

Our weather is notorious for crazy temperature swings. As an example, I ran on Sunday in shorts and a tank. Yesterday and today it was 2 layers on top and bottom with ear warmer (headband thing), hat, gloves with mittens over the top and my neck warmer.

This morning was 14 degrees. I realize that for some, that's a mild heat wave. For us, it's almost unheard of. In fact, it's so rare to have these temps (and so many days of them) that I only have 1 pair of fairly thick running tights. I did purchase a new pair this year because my only other tights were super cheapies from Target that are thin and they have zippers at the ankles that dig into my legs. Not ideal or comfortable I can assure you.

I did figure out how I could layer two pairs of tights successfully, but man you feel squeezed in. I remembered that several years ago, Jason and I had gone out on a sleeting/snowing run and it was in the low teens. That day I wore a pair of my old ballet "sweat" pants over my tights to block the wind and keep in the heat.

When I say sweat pants, I mean that they were designed to make your legs sweat, to keep your muscles nice and warm. When I saw the temps for today, I pulled those pants out along with a wind resistant jacket.


Now, I'm clearly no expert in running in the extreme cold temps. I've made many goofs with my dressing. I am great about over-dressing. I have also definitely managed to under-dress for the weather, especially when it comes to my hands.

So for today, I thought I'd share some of my cold weather running tips:

  • First off, remind yourself over and over again that you will indeed warm up ... hopefully.
  • Choose a tight base layer top (preferably long enough to tuck into your tights).
  • Layer on another top that is slightly looser. Choose thickness depending on the temperature and the thickness of the base layer. <--- everyone probably silently said, "duh."
  • If it's windy, choose a wind resistant jacket or top. I adore my Brooks Infiniti Hybrid Wind Shirt.
  • Depending on your level of cold-weather comfort, when it hits the teens, layer up on the bottom. I highly recommend checking into a pair of ballet sweat pants when it's windy.
  • Wear mittens over your gloves. My fingers always freeze with regular gloves. I found that cheap, cotton mittens are a great addition to helping prevent frost bite.
  • Wear a neck warmer (aka chin warmer).
  • Keep your ears and head covered with either a beanie or headband with a hat.
  • Smear Vaseline on your face. Tried this trick today and it worked pretty well. 
Now, for the experienced cold-weather runners, what tips or tricks do you have to share?

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