Winter Running Layering Systemby Eileen Portz-Shovlin
Runner's World Online
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The three-climate layering system that assures
you ultimate victory and warmth in the fight against freeze
For nonrunners, dressing in winter is simple. You
pile on as many clothes as it takes to stay warm. For runners, it isn't so
simple. Too little clothing, and you'll never warm up on a run. Too much, and
by mile 2, you'll be drenched in sweat, which can lead quickly to bone-chilling
The trick is to dress warmly, but not too warmly. You need
adequate bundling, but not so much that you limit your movement. And it all
depends on the temperature and wind, as dressing for 45 degrees is a lot
different than dressing for minus 10 degrees.
That's where our
layering guide comes in. We're going to show you exactly what to wear in three
different winter climates: moderate, cold and extremely cold. In this scheme,
"moderate" means 40 to 60 degrees,"cold" means 10 to 40 degrees and"extremely
cold" means 10 degrees and below.
Armed with this know-how and the
proper running clothes, you'll run comfortably even on the coldest
days."Running in really cold temperatures can look pretty uncomfortable, but it
usually feels just fine," says Goldman Miller, a resident of Kaltag, Alaska.
She ought to know. She trained for a marathon last winter in
temperatures that occasionally reached 70 degrees below zero. The secret, of
course, is layering. Doing a 15-mile run in 55 degrees below zero, Miller wore
three long-sleeved shirts and a wind shell, two pairs of pants, a fleece hat
with ear flaps, a neck gaiter and mittens. Seems like a lot of clothes, but the
layers were light and breathable, so she was fine.
Here's the basic
plan: Always start with a base layer that's light and breathable. This is the
most important piece for keeping you dry, comfortable and chill-free. A good,
breathable base layer - a long-sleeved shirt and lightweight tights, for
example - moves moisture away from the body so it can evaporate. It's important
to wear synthetic, wicking materials rather than absorbent fabrics (such as
cotton) that get wet and stay wet. For moderate winter temperatures, this one
layer should be enough.
When the temperature dips below 40, add a
second layer. This outer shell on the upper body will protect you from the
cold, wind and snow yet will still allow perspiration to evaporate. One layer
on the legs should be fine, though it may need to be somewhat heavier.
Even the best two-layer system won't keep you warm when the wind is
howling and the temperature drops below zero. That's when you need a thermal
layer between the base layer and the outer shell. This layer continues the
moisture-transfer process but traps air to keep your body's natural heat from
On the following pages, our layering-system guide will help
you run comfortably in three different winter climates.
Climate 1 Cold (40 - 60 degrees)
Within this temperature range, you'll normally
need just one layer of clothing. If it's wet or windy, however, you may want to
add a vest and some extras. Consider the following wardrobe:
|Short-sleeved shirt and shorts
Lightweight long-sleeved shirt
Headband or hat
Climate 2 Cold (10 - 40 degrees)
Here's where you'll need two layers. If you're in
a snowy area, you should consider investing in a water-resistant jacket.
Overall, your wardrobe should include:
|Gloves and mittens,
Headband or hat
Climate 3 Extremely Cold (10 degrees and
When the temps drop below 10 degrees, you need to
be careful. No, your lungs won't freeze (a worn-out myth), but the rest of you
might. Proper layering is key, so stock your gear closet with the following:
|Gloves and mittens
Hat or balaclava
To help take the guesswork out of your winter
clothing strategy, remember these five guidelines:
1. LAYERING 1-2-3
Perspiration moves more easily through two thin
layers than it does through one thick layer. A well-designed layering system
keeps you warm and dry, yet still allows freedom of movement.
2. YOU GOTTA BREATHE
Breathable fabrics wick perspiration away from
your skin and pass it on to the next layer. One wrong (i.e., nonbreathable)
piece, and the layering system breaks down. Which translates to unpleasant
running in heavy, damp clothing.
3. USE YOUR HEAD
You've always heard that you lose more than 50
percent of your body heat through your head. Well, you heard right, so keep
your head and other extremities well covered when the temperature dips below 40
4. FACE UP TO IT
On cold, windy days, remember to cover your face.
Consider buying a neck gaiter or balaclava. If you have neither of these, you
can always dab some Vaseline on your face.
5. DON'T OVERDO IT
More runners overdress than underdress. A good
rule of thumb: you should feel chilly during the first mile or so of your run.
If you feel toasty soon after heading out the door, you're probably going to
get too hot and sweaty later on.