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Moe Johnson | Running with Moe 

What to wear while running in colder temperatures

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The recent cold weather is usually a welcome change for running.  Cooler weather means runs can be longer and in some cases faster.  It is easier to do the marathon training runs without the danger of heat problems.  For experienced runners, the outfit is still a pair of shorts, a long sleeved shirt, and maybe a wool beanie cap.  I have seen several runners that thought that colder weather meant a runner needs a jacket, gloves, and long pants for a run.  This temperature was a “cold front” but not a freezing cold front.  It was the sudden change from a warm temperature to a cooler one that when you step out the door the cold feels like winter coat weather.

I have seen runners a few miles into their run with jacket tied around their waist because they were getting too warm.  It may take a mile into the run to warm up but the body is an amazing thermostat when exercising or running.  It does not take long to heat up the core temperature and feel very comfortable in a cool temperature. When the temperature is in the 40’s, a long sleeved shirt might feel good on the arms.  The legs will not notice the cool temperature as much.  The fingers might get a little cold but that is about the limit for adding a layer of clothing.

When the temperature drops down to the low 30’s and mid 20’s, a few layers of warmth are welcome.  A light nylon wind breaker will keep the wind off the body and allow the body heat inside to warm the body.  The jacket should have a vent to allow the heat of the body to escape.  Without the vent in the jacket the body heat will cause the runner to start to sweat.  The sweat will actually feel cold when there is any wind during the run.  Most running outfits are designed for cooler running weather.  The older cotton sweatpants and hooded sweatshirt are not the best.  The heavy cotton tends to absorb the moisture and becomes damp.  It does not feel so bad during the run but after the run when the runner is standing around the damp clothes can cool a runner down fast.

Some reports mention that the head gives off some of the most heat.  Wearing a wool cap, or even a ball cap, can make a run more comfortable in cold weather.  I remember running a marathon with the starting time temperature in the low 30’s.  I had a wool beanie and a pair of wool gloves with a tee shirt and shorts to run in.  It turned out to be just right as later the outdoor temperature warmed up into the 40’s and any extra clothes would have been too warm.  The one thing I remember was running past the five and six mile marks and seeing  the number of jackets, windbreakers, and sweat shirts laying by the side of the road from runners tossing the clothes they thought they needed because of the cold weather.  Some of the discarded outer wear were high dollar outfits.  The race management had a crew follow the last runners picking up the tossed clothes.  They had a location area at the end of the race for runners to sort through the pile of clothes to see if they could find the jackets they threw off.  I imagine the remaining left over clothes were donated to a second hand store or needy organization.

It is early in the season for really cold temperatures.  When the temperatures get down into the mid-20’s the warmer outer wear feels good during a run.  Short runs need a little more cover than if a runner is training for a marathons and is doing a longer run.  Runner’s tights for the legs might feel good and keep the leg muscles warm.  I was visiting my folks in North Dakota one Christmas and the temperature was below zero.  I had some tights on the legs and a nylon pair of pants over them for leg warmth.  A wool shirt under a wind breaker, a wool cap, and gloves were the outfit for the run.  It turned out to be a good mix in below zero weather.  The recommended mask to help keep very cold air from getting into the lungs was the one item that took getting used to.  The other problem was getting used to running on snow covered ice. Footing was a bit tricky.

I doubt the temperature will reach that very cold level but with the higher humidity in Texas it feels colder than it might record on the thermometer.  Remember that the body temperature will warm up soon into a run.  Try to start out feeling cold for the first mile and enjoy the rest of the run being comfortable in lighter clothes.

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