Layering 101…and there are no awards for stupidity when running in winter!

We have had some crazy cold weather so far in 2021, that has extended throughout the United States and even affected areas in Texas where it usually doesn’t get that cold. With that being said, I know many of you runners out there can relate to the challenges of layering for the cold-especially if you don’t have a treadmill to run on in lieu of an outdoor run, and you’re in the midst of training.

This brings me to my layering suggestions, which, to be honest, I first got from Pinterest! From there I have come up with my own ideas of winter weather layering.

Depending on how your body handles running in the cold, you may wish to vary your choices. Below is my list of suggested layering.

40-32 degrees Fahrenheit: Leggings, a base layer, a vest or insulated jacket. A pair of running gloves and a headband or stocking cap to cover the ears is also typically a must for me. I wear my standard running socks (Feetures, Balega, Rockay Running, Bombas, Under Armour, or Smartwool, in case you were wondering about brands).

31-20 degrees Fahrenheit: Fleece leggings, or a base layer of leggings with another pair of leggings or joggers, a base layer for your upper body, another long sleeve top, then a vest or insulated jacket. A pair of well insulated gloves, or mittens, and a stocking cap to cover your head. If it is closer to 20 degrees, I’ll wear two pairs of socks.

19 degrees Fahrenheit or colder: Fleece leggings, heat capturing leggings (can be considered this if they are fleece as well), or a base layer of leggings with another pair of leggings or joggers, a base layer (fleece or wool if you have it), another long sleeved top, a 3/4 zip jacket, then an insulated jacket or vest to protect the core. An added must have in particularly cold or windy situations is the neck gaiter. Either fleece or performance stretch material will work, though it is easier to breathe while wearing one that has the performance stretch material. A pair of well insulated gloves, or mittens, and a stocking cap to cover your head is essential. Finally, I will wear my running socks, then longer socks over to ensure my ankles are completely covered. Some people already wear compression socks, so keeping the ankles covered isn’t an issue, but be sure whatever you’re wearing will keep your feet warm, especially if you’re potentially running in snow/rain/ice.

I have ran in negative temperatures, and when that has happened I have gone as far as wearing my North Face coat while running! Keep in mind, everyone has varying reactions to the cold. Some are more able to run in less layers at lower temperatures. This is dependent upon a person’s overall health, weight and age. Regardless of that, the key is to cover your head, hands, and feet, as that is where your heat will escape quickest and if your body is trying to protect your outer limbs, it cannot protect your core effectively, which can lead to hypothermia.

So regardless of how much you believe you will warm up on your run, start out with the gloves, hat, and warm (wool is preferred) socks during the colder time of year, and obviously the first example I gave for layering. Essentially, I don’t recommend going outside in a tank top and shorts, with a hat, gloves, and warm socks, during the cold winter months-though I’ve seen runners do that during races! 🥶

Speaking of layering, I have definitely layered a lot this winter…while at the same time I’ve used the treadmill when necessary. For almost two weeks recently, I used the treadmill at my local gym, and it was a savior as far as keeping me in training mode and getting my miles in! This is my second marathon training cycle, but my first one training through winter months, and it has been pretty brutal with the unprecedented cold we have had!

Regardless of the crazy cold temperatures, I have seen posts on social media with people outside running during the extreme cold, while judging others who opt to use the treadmill! I think as a running community, we are all better than that! But if someone is going to be doing something that can potentially be life threatening, while at the same time judging others for making their own health and safety a priority, I think it’s pretty stupid. 🤷‍♀️

Billy Madison comes to mind ‘I award you no points, and God have mercy on your soul’ when I’ve seen the outside running posts that include judging those who aren’t doing the same thing. 🤣 There is no special award for running outside when it’s -24 degrees Fahrenheit, and while you may think it seems ‘bada$$’, as a mother of 3, I don’t have time to be sick.

I’d rather be perceived as making a smart decision (albeit ‘non-bada$$’) by either taking that day as a running rest day, OR, running indoors. Lucky for me, I have a gym membership. I realize many don’t, and they also don’t have a personal treadmill, which I completely understand can be frustrating. But one running rest day will not hurt anyone. Aside from that, locally they were recently offering deeply discounted gym memberships (as in $1 for the first month and no contract), which one of my running buddies took advantage of so he could run indoors instead of having to miss a run day, or getting hypothermia. Maybe not ‘bada$$’, but definitely smart! 😉

Treadmill or no treadmill, extreme cold or not, you do you…but be sure if you are outside, you are layering appropriately! Again, don’t be stupid!

As I continue Week 5 of my marathon training program, I am counting down the days to warmer weather. Despite that, I know this cold weather running, when done smart, is only going to help with my endurance! I will leave you with the layering chart that I started out with…note I don’t necessarily agree with all of the elements of it, and I haven’t even touched what to do in warmer weather, but I do find this to be a helpful guideline.

I am always interested in hearing how others run in the winter, or any great winter running jacket suggestions…so if anyone has one, please send me a message or find me on Instagram at @irish_runnergirl! Happy running!

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