Well, winter is indeed upon us.  It certainly didn’t sneak in, but has instead landed quickly and furiously.  This weekend I ended up running by myself and I will tell you, it was hard to convince myself to go.  One of the advantages I have that newer runners do not is experience.  When it seems too cold, or my house seems to cozy, or my rational mind says “surely you don’t want to run in THIS today,” I can draw off of past experience.  I know from experience that I feel good, good, good after a winter run.  Nothing makes a coffee taste better, conversation with friends more delightful, or my home seem cozier than a winter run.

BUT, if you aren’t prepared, you just might think I am lying.   And, I wouldn’t want that.  So, let’s see if we can’t get your dressed to enjoy your winter runs.

  • Buy Apparel Made for Running:  This might sound obvious or self-serving since I own a running store.  The truth is, however, there are times you can get away with sweatpants and a cotton t-shirt.  Now is not that time.  There is an inherent good cop/bad cop relationship in regard to sweating in the winter.  Your body is warming up (good) but it is also now getting wet (bad).  Wet and cold = No good.  Running apparel is designed to wick the moisture away from your body and the garments are designed to dry quickly.  Cotton holds moisture.  When the wind hits you, you will utter cuss words you did not know existed.
  • Know Your Options:   Not all long sleeve shirts or tights are created equal.  I will use the example of tights.  I categorize them into 4 groups, regular, thermal, windproof and compression.  I use regular tights for 30 degrees and warmer.  Thermal tights have a luxurious, cozy soft lining and I wear them for any day below 30.  I personally don’t wear windproof tights unless I am biking.  If you live in a colder/windier area than central Missouri or you just cannot handle the wind against your skin, this might be something for you to consider.  Finally, there are compression tights.  I personally do not think compression gets the hype it deserves and I touch on it below.  Please note though, that just because something is labeled compression or it fits tightly, does not make it a compression garment.   I’ll write a post on that later.
  • Dress In Layers:  I think we all instinctively know this, but here are some suggestions.  Make sure, 100% sure, that the layer next to your skin is a moisture wicking material designed for running.  Also, remember your core is the most important.  I wear an extra layer on my core by wearing one of my fitted summer tanks under my regular winter running shirt.  Then I usually wear a vest as well.  Not many people wear vests, but I find, as I mentioned, that if I keep my core warm, everything else is fine.
  • Protect Your Ears and Your Hands:  These two areas often get ignored, but there is nothing that will hurt more or send you home faster than frozen fingers.  Maybe I should have said that the core and your hands tie for most important.  Remember the days of playing in the snow and accidentally letting your hands get so cold that they hurt?  Seriously, don’t mess around here.  There are a lot of great products out there but my personal favorite is the Brooks Utopia 3-n-1 Mitten.  It’s a little pricey but it will be the only glove/mitten you need because you can wear it three different ways.  Your ears are important as well, but they just need a good covering and you should be ok.
  • Consider Some Compression Gear:  The premise of compression is that by improving blood circulation, you will also be able to improve your running times, lower your exertion level, and recover more quickly.  As I was getting ready to write this, I did some research and it appears there is some controversy on this.  I can only tell you what I know.  I will never (yes, I said never) do another long run without my CEP socks and in the winter, my most enjoyable runs are done in compression tights.  That is what I know.  Take it or leave it.  Just because research doesn’t support something, doesn’t mean it isn’t so.
  • Realize There Will Be Some Trial and Error:   There is a good chance you won’t dress perfectly the first time.  And, I unfortunately, can’t tell you exactly what to do.  Some people can wear shorts at 40 and others, like me, will have on tights, a long sleeve shirt and a vest. We are all different and you will develop a little bit of perseverance as you figure this out.

I will tell you that even if you follow all of these tips, winter running takes some guts, raw courage and bravery.  It just does.  AND in the first mile you will likely be a little uncomfortable.   But what good endeavor, what thing worth doing doesn’t involve some courage?  Be courageous today my friends.

Any other tips you would like to share or questions you have?  Leave your comment below.

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