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Braving the Elements: Running in Cold Weather Part 2 – Layers

Finally, I’m going to finish up running in cold weather with what’s really important. What to wear. Pretty much I’m just going to outline my guidelines for what I wear, when, why and a couple of extra things you might not have thought of. And no, I’m not going to be your mother and lay your clothes out for you on your bed.

Generally, what I wear goes by outside temperature but obviously there is a little bit of play within my temperature bounds based on rain, wind or anything other meteorological event. Usually it means wearing more. The real key is layers. When it gets really cold, I’d just add another shirt or thermal bottoms underneath my top layers.

4 to 8 degrees Celsius (1st photo from the left):

Here I’m wearing compression pants (spandex pants) and a long sleeve top. Both have either polypropylene or polyester as their main fabric. The top I’m wearing isn’t very thick and neither are the pants. It’s pretty much just a step up from shorts and a t-shirt just to keep my core and joints warm. Generally when I actually go outside, I’ll still feel slightly cool before starting the run.

0 to 4 degrees Celsius (middle photo):

The next step up when it starts to get a little chillier and there is frost/snow on the ground. Starting from the top, I add a pair of plastic glasses or sunglasses. Although I’d still wear sunglasses in warmer temperatures during the day, the key here is I add the glasses at night. The idea is to put a shield in front of my eyes to protect them from the cold wind. If you’ve ever run in cold weather you might have experienced your vision start to blur and icicles form on your eye lashes. The glasses help to keep the wind off your eyes and hence warmer. I suggest either clear lenses or light coloured lenses (yellow, rose) so you can still here at night. Suitable cheap glasses with frames can be found at MEC. I add a light jacket to cut the wind and to provide a little extra warmth. It is important to have a jacket that breathes. It’s not so important to have something that is waterproof as it won’t really make a big difference once you warm up if it’s raining. My pants generally stay the same but sometimes I might add a layer of thermal long underwear (again, polypropylene or polyester) underneath if it’s on the colder side.

Below 0 degrees (right):

Here is where I prepare to run in below 0 temperatures all the way to -40 C. Again, added on to what I had in the slightly warmer temperature, I’ll add a toque or full balaclava (this one is polypropylene). It’s very important to keep your head warm in extreme temperatures. If it is very very cold, I’ll wear a toque and balaclava together. The glasses become even more important here as well. Guaranteed without them your eyes will be in rough shape. Especially below -10 to -20. They might fog up a bit, but you can always wipe them as you run. Glasses that are open on the sides work best as they allow air to circulate a bit and reduce fogging. Under my jacket is 1 – 2 layers depending on how cold it is. 2 long sleeve shirts or one long sleeve with a t-shirt or even sometimes 3 layers. At this point I’ll add gloves. Fleece (polyester) gloves work well and are warm. If you really want to be elite, I like Biathlon X-Country ski gloves but they are kinda expensive. Your hands will likely get sweaty after a while but it won’t be a problem because by that time your body will be toasty warm. For pants, I’m still wearing compression pants and maybe thermal underwear as well but now I’ll add a pair of pants over top. This will help to cut the cold air getting to my legs and keep me and my joints warm.

So, that’s pretty much it. Just don’t wear cotton and layer appropriately and you’ll be running happy all winter.

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