Saturday, November 9, 2013

#NaNoWriBloMo (Nov 8) How to know what to wear on a winter run?

This Tuesday was a long day, with the launch of a blog for my day job. By the end of the day, my mind and body were spent. But I knew that once I got outside for a run, I'd feel that much better. So that's just what I did. 

As runners, we quickly become watchers of weather - The Weather Network is usually bookmarked on our desktops, because it's the first thing we check before deciding what to wear, especially on a winter run.

I've learned over the years to discount the temperature reading and go straight to the windchill - because even if it's -1 without the wind, once that -10 windchill hits you, you'll wish you had a few extra layers on. But on this particular run, TWN read 1 degree without a windchill, so I decided to wear a long-sleeved running shirt, tank top and crop pants, along with mitts and a headband.

At first, I felt fine. But soon enough, my hands started aching from the cold, and I could feel it seeping through the thin wicking material of my sweater. Thankfully, I only had a few kilometres left to go, and I pushed my pace up to a tempo so I could make it home sooner while at the same time warming up a little more due to the faster pace.

It was obvious though that by the time I got home, I'd made a mistake in my clothing choices. I rushed inside and bundled up into warm clothes and sat by the fire until my core temperature increased.

It's no secret that clothing choice is one of the most important decisions of any run, particularly in the winter. Wear too little, and you risk suffering from hypothermia if your core temperature drops too far. Wear too much (as I've also done), and you'll not only overheat, but eventually get too cold from the humidity in your clothes due to sweating.

So how to know just what to wear on a run on any particular day? Even though as I note above, I've made the occasional clothing mistake, here are a few tips I've learned over the years:

1. Layer, layer, layer: this one's not new. If you haven't heard about layering, then it's possible you've been running under a rock. Layering allows you to moderate your temperature along a run, depending on the elements (as anyone who's run in Halifax knows, a sunny warm day can quickly turn to rain and back), and your own body temperature changes.

2. Keep a running diary: when I first started winter running, I was more diligent about this, because I was learning what worked for me. After all, everyone's internal thermometer is different. I tend to be a warm runner, warming up a lot faster than my running buddies but also needing a layer less than them on most occasions. But I also cool off really fast too, especially after we're done. By keeping a running diary, I not only tracked my distance and pace, but also what clothes I wore on a particular day and what temperature it was - whether I needed to add or take off a layer depending on whether I felt cold or hot.

3. Dress for ambient temperature + 10 degrees C: I have found that once I start running, I'm able to wear clothes for 10 degrees warmer than the current temperature. So if it's 1 degrees C, then I dress for what I would be wearing at around 11 degrees - hence capris and a light long-sleeved running shirt on my run on Tuesday. Or if it's 11 degrees, then I'll probably wear a t-shirt or tank top and shorts, because that's what I would wear if I was walking around at 21 degrees. But again, each runner's internal thermometer is different, so for you it might be ambient temperature +7 degrees, etc.

4. Bring something warm for after the run: our bodies tend to cool down quickly after a winter run. So it's important to have a warm and dry ski jacket, hat and mitts to slip into after the run's over.

But if you're not sure, it's always better to wear a little more and strip off a layer if you do get too warm.  Dressing for the weather is something you'll only learn by going out there and running. And if you're really not sure, consider staying close to your home base and doing loops, in case you discover partway through your run that you've underdressed for the occasion. 

So what tips do you have for winter run clothing? 

Stay warm and safe out there, running friends!


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