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How to Dress for Cold Weather Running

Hello and happy Friday! I had a great run this morning – it was 40 degrees out, and that got me thinking about dressing for winter running. I’ve had a few requests for a post about how to dress for cold weather running, so here you go! I hope you find this helpful – feel free to share any additional tips you swear by in the comments.

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I love cold weather running – I find it so much easier than running on super hot, sticky days. I know it doesn’t sound awesome to head outside for a run when it’s really cold out, but I promise once you get a few minutes into the run you will feel great. Give it a shot! The hardest part is getting out the door.

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when dressing for colder running, including:

  • True temperature vs. “feels like” temperature (weather.com shares both)
  • Wind
  • Time of day & whether the sun is shining
  • Intensity and duration of run
  • Whether you are more comfortable slightly too warm or slightly too cold

For me, I prefer to be a little on the cooler side for running because I overheat quickly. This morning, I checked the weather: 40 degrees, feels like 41. No wind. 6:30 a.m. start time so even though it was clear, no sun to warm us up. I had 4 miles on the docket at a casual pace, so since the run was short and not too intense, that meant wearing a little more clothing than I would have had a longer or faster/speedwork run been on the docket.

I ended up deciding on tights, a really lightweight/thin long sleeved jacket (with just a sports bra under it), and gloves.

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Capris would also have worked, but I just really wanted to wear these awesome Brooks tights I received as part of my Run Happy Ambassadorship – aren’t they cute?! They’re really light/thin, so it wasn’t much different from wearing capris.

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As for gloves, I bust them out anytime the weather dips below 50 degrees, especially if it’s windy and I’m carrying my trusty point and shoot camera – the cold metal makes my hand freeze quickly! Plus, if you get too hot, gloves are easy to tuck into your waistband or just hold onto for the rest of the run. If it had been just a little warmer out this morning, the thumbhole warmer from my jacket would have been plenty warm enough.

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I’ve been known to wear gloves with a short sleeved shirt at the start of winter races – your arms will heat up fast but it’s good to keep your hands warm!

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to check the weather, then dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. This will ensure that once you get moving, you don’t get too hot. If you’re chilly when you walk outside and for the first few minutes of the run, that’s a good thing. If you’re comfortable just standing outside before the run, you’ll be way too hot once you get going. Also, dressing in layers for a winter run is important, but make sure the clothing you’re wearing is breathable – look for “wicking” clothing that will absorb moisture and pull it away from your body. Cotton is not a good call here.

Regarding hats or ear warmers, I usually break them out when temperatures dip below 35 or so degrees F. For today, it wasn’t necessary.

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So – give winter running a shot! It might take a little trial and error to decide what works for you, clothing-wise, but you’ll figure it out in no time. And if you want some extra help, check out this cool tool I found on the Runner’s World website, which lets you enter in gender, temperature, conditions, wind, time of day, intensity, and how you like to feel (e.g. do you prefer being a little warm, a little cool, or juuuust right), and then it will spit out some thoughts on clothing. Sweet! Super helpful.

My running buddy for this morning was my friend Mary, and we had a lovely run in the clear, cool temps.

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As you guys know, I’m tapering for the Richmond Marathon right now, so we covered a casual 4 miles. It’s weird that 4 miles seems super short now – I remember when, a few years ago, a 3 mile run was really far for me. How times change!

Luckily, we made it far enough out to get this gorgeous view before turning around. I think we both wanted to keep going – such a lovely morning for a run!

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Mary snagged this cool shot of me taking a picture of the gorgeous view. :) The tights are the same colors all around – not sure why they look solid gray in the back! Must have been the shadow.

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The mile long uphill that was our last mile was rough, but we kept up a great pace.

Splits:

  • Mile 1: 8:33
  • Mile 2: 8:20
  • Mile 3: 8:33
  • Mile 4: 8:46

Thanks for the great start to the day, Mary!

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Before I go, I wanted to share that I finally created a “favorite products” page, which shares all of my absolute favorite fitness/running gear and cooking/kitchen stuff. I’ve had a bunch of requests to put all those recommendations in one place, and I only included stuff that I use ALL the time and really, really recommend. I hope it’s helpful! In the future, you can find a link to that page over on my FAQ page, and in the drop down menu under “Running”.

Have a great weekend!

Comments

  1. 1

    I just stumbled upon your page from googling “cold weather running”! What good timing :) I just signed up for my very first marathon in March and I’m now trying to figure out how to train in the cold! I am also in the DC area but about 30 minutes away. So glad I found your blog :)

  2. 5

    I’m a big fan of that Brooks blue/pink print! I bought a headband in it a few weeks ago and was so happy to discover a whole line of tops, bottoms and accessories in it at the NYC Marathon expo last week. I now have capris, a long-sleeve top, another headband and gloves (which have the smart-touch fingertips) in it :)

    • 6

      I love the long sleeved top in the same print – saw it at a store in NYC last weekend and loved it! I didn’t realize they also made headbands in it!

  3. 7

    Very informative post! Very useful to people who see running outside as too scary. I agree with you that it is more satisfying to run outside, especially when you finish a morning run, and you are stretching, warm, endorphins running around your body, ready to face the day.

    As an elite athlete, one piece of advice I would suggest is to purchase a set of arm warmers. For race day it can be a little too warm for a full long sleeve and gloves, by wearing arm warmers you can keep more heat in, but let it out of your armpits (gross I know), and feel more comfortable. They can also be taken off much easier if you get hot.

    I also find that when it is really cold, mittens work better than gloves as they keep the surface area exposed to the cold limited. I have bad circulation so I have always struggled with this.

    Thanks again for the great post!

    Tina

    • 8

      Yes, arm warmers rock! For races, I love arm warmers because I can just get rid of them when I warm up. Instead of buying arm warmers, I actually cut the toe off a pair of my husband’s old socks and used those, then tossed them once the race started and I didn’t need them anymore!

      Great tip about the mittens, too – thanks! I agree.

  4. 9

    Cute tights! I love running in cooler weather.

  5. 10

    This came in handy since I”ll be in Chicago for a bit next month and don’t own any warm running gear! That jacket is cute, I need to at least find something like that and borrow somebody’s gloves ;)

  6. 11

    As a New Englander…merino wool is a must have! In fact, I run in it from the hottest days to the coldest days. I get more use out of merino than anything else in my closet. I loved merino so much that I recently launched my own collection called Vielet. I just didn’t like the styles out there — I wanted to look young, hot & hip so thus I set out on a mission to solve that problem!! Check out my line & try it out — you will be amazed! I’m on Etsy & have a website, http://www.vielet.com. Thanks!! xo Melanie

  7. 13

    I need to get some cold weather clothing! I started running in February at the gym and started to truly embrace outdoor running in the summer… so I have like zero cold weather clothing… it is just so darn expensive! I may have to wait after xmas unil it all goes on sale.

    I love the idea of your product page!! :)

  8. 14

    Runner’s World has a page on their website where you can input the condition, time of day, intensity of run, etc. and it will suggest an entire outfit for you. I have used it a few times since the temperature has dropped here in NYC and I love it!

    http://www.runnersworld.com/what-to-wear

  9. 15

    Whoops. Guess I shouldn’t skim the blog post before commenting. Sorry!

  10. 16

    I’m very spoiled and the only times I’ve experienced cold weather running is when I’ve traveled to NYC and Portland, OR. When I run in the mornings in SF, all I need is a long-sleeved technical tee and capris and I’m good – 365 days/year!

  11. 17

    I completely agree – running when it’s cold out is so much easier and more enjoyable than running in hot weather. Love the Runner’s World tool!

  12. 18
    Roadrunner says:

    I love winter running too, Anne. My rule of thumb has been to put gloves on first (just when it gets chilly; even if still only in a short-sleeved shirt); a cap on next (to keep ears warm); then a long-sleeved shirt (and jacket if really cold); and only in real cold slim fitting fitness trou…

  13. 19

    Woah awesome pace on the uphill climb into Rosslyn!! :)

  14. 20

    I don’t mind the cold..it’s the wind that gets me! I say gets me…it kills me!

  15. 22

    Totally unrelated to cold weather running, but I’m just curious how your friend Maria is doing and if she’s using her R.D. certification yet. As someone doing the pre-reqs to get into a R.D. program and hopefully having kids in the next few years, I’m just wondering how she’s juggling it all. Thanks!

  16. 24

    I love those tights! Winter running is tough for me thanks to asthma but I love temps right around 50degrees…it’s the perfect temp for me.

    • 25

      Do you ever run with a scarf or gaiter over your mouth/nose? I haven’t run much outdoors in the cold, but we did as part of a CF workout the other day (in ~35-40 degree temps and after dark), and I didn’t make it 200 yards before I started wheezing and couldn’t catch my breath. I think I’m going to start wearing a gaiter on cold runs to let my lungs warm up!

  17. 28
    Jenny Paxton says:

    This jacket (discovered via healthyhappierbear.com) made all the difference for me running early mornings in DC last winter. Can layer underneath when needed and frequently can be found on sale!

    http://www.sugoi.com/usa/2013/fall/run/women/base-layer/midzero-zip.html

  18. 29
    Emma Katie says:

    I did a half marathon in Abu Dhabi yesterday. I almost passed out from the heat! It was brutal. It would have been about 90. Stinkn’ hot I tell ya! I do miss running at home in NZ, especially after yesterday.

  19. 30
    Ashley @ Power, Love, and Self-Discipline says:

    Thanks so much for this! I just moved to the East coast and have been concerned with keeping some of my workouts outside throughout the winter. This is really helpful!!

  20. 31

    Thanks for the great tips, and best of luck next weekend! I’m doing my first half tomorrow and it’ll be a little chilly so this was a good validation of my clothing plan :)

    One thing I’d add to your advice is what type of clothing to wear while you wait at the start line when its cold. Luckily many races have a bag transport where you can drop off clothing and other items before the race, and other races encourage wearing “throwaway clothes” which then get collected along the course and donated.

  21. 32

    I am seriously obsessed with those tights and need them in my life asap!

  22. 33

    Love those tights! I don’t run but I’ve been struggling with knowing what to wear for cold-weather cycling. I think I can get away with many of the things you suggest here, so thanks for this post!

    By the way, the trail you’re on in these pics is the one I take to bike to work in DC from VA. :-) Isn’t it gorgeous!?

    • 34

      For cycling, I’d dress a lot warmer than you would for running – probably dress like it’s the actual temperature or maybe 5 degrees warmer. All that wind makes you cold!! Warm gloves are especially a must for cold weather biking.

      • 35

        Thanks, Anne. I actually went out on a ride right after I left that comment, and while I agree that the wind makes it cold, I actually ended up shedding a layer or two from working up a sweat! Granted, yesterday was an unseasonably beautiful day in DMV (I know you agree! :-) )

  23. 36

    I live in Montana so cold weather running clothes are a must!! I love those Brooks tights…they are so fun!

  24. 37

    I live in Canada, and it gets really cold here. I live in the country and don’t have a treadmill so I will be running outside. What I find difficult to deal with is breathing in the cold air. It feels like it’s burning in my throat and lungs! Does anybody have any suggestions?

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  1. […] was colder out than on Friday morning (check out my “How to Dress For Cold Weather Running” post if you missed it!), so I dressed in layers. I wore basic black capris, plus a black […]

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