Sunday, January 2, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside!

    I've been running off and on since seventh grade, so roughly twelve years. There haven't been a lot of constants throughout those years except for one. Without fail every year I took the winter off. Call me a baby but in Michigan it's typically cold in the winter. One thing I've never been overly fond of is being cold. This winter all that is changing. You see the city of Kalamazoo (my hometown) decided they needed a marathon, and I decided I needed to run said marathon. So far no problem, then they decided it would be a spring marathon! What am I to do?! Surely I can't train for a marathon indoors on a treadmill, because if there's one thing I dislike as much if not more than the cold it surely has to be running on a treadmill. I can handle up to a half hour on one but at that point I'm usually ready to go certifiably insane. My only other option; talk to people who have figured out the secrets of surviving the arctic weather. (I may exaggerate a touch when it comes to how cold it really is!)
    So here we are the beginning of the new year and the temps have been below 30 degrees for over a month now. (oddly enough except for new years eve where it was 51!) Lucky for me I have an old friend who works at the local running store who supplied me with ample amounts of info on how to survive the next four months.

                             Layer, Layer, Layer
                  The biggest key to staying warm in the winter is staying dry. Layering helps accomplish this as long as its done right. Even though it's below freezing outside your body still sweats a lot when you're running. the key is to move this sweat away from your body to the outer layers where it can evaporate. The first thing I put on is a base layer. For now I'm going with a Patagonia Capilene level 1 long sleeve shirt. Its snug but not overly tight like most under armour style compression shirts. I'm not a big fan of the uber tight feeling so this shirt works well for me, and it's made from polyester which by the way is great for moisture management.

                   Next I wear a looser slightly thicker but still fairly thin layer. This helps again with moving the moisture and since it's thin it keeps the bulk down so I don't feel like the kid from A Christmas Story! I've got a few different options that have worked well so far. If its not crazy cold I've been wearing my brooks technical shirts that I've gotten at a couple of races, one is long sleeve and the rest are short. They seem to work well when weather is around 30 degrees give or take 5. I also got this next gem for Christmas and it is nothing short of awesome! It is the Nike wool 1/2 zip. The thing is awesome, did I mention that yet? From what I'm told wool is the only fabric that traps water in it's vapor state, and moves it away from the body. Sure sounds very technical blah blah, all I know is it works and it has kept me warm. The 1/2 zip is nice because it's a quick and easy vent if you start to get too warm and let me tell you it keeps you warm. It has little built in mitten like pockets at the end of each sleeve and I could not believe how warm they have kept my hands when it's been below 20 out!

                   Depending on the temp and whether or not it's windy/wet or calm and dry my outer layer either consists of a thin wind blocking, water repelling layer, or a thicker fleece like layer. The wind can get pretty brutal and cut right through to your core so the wind blocking layer is a must for gusty days. I got a Saucony Epic Run Jacket, which came with a cool little rechargeable USB LED light that clips on the sleeve for added visibility. It's light, thin, water resistant, and awesome at blocking the wind. My other outer layer option is a New Balance 1/2 zip with little holes for me thumbs at the end of each sleeve. This piece has worked well in the cold but the wind still tends to cut through if it blows very hard so that's when I need the wind breaker.

                  I received two pairs of tights for Christmas, both of which display my lack of a bum.... which is why I usually wear a pair of shorts over them. That and a little added weather protection over my man parts is always a good idea. From what I've been told the thing you want to look for in tights for winter running is thermal tights. Meaning they have some type of fleece like lining on the inside for added warmth. Both pairs I got have this fleece like lining. The second pair also have a softshell exterior covering a lot of the front. This helps block the wind from chilling you to the bone. Both pairs have worked really well.

                  I have a couple of choices for headgear which is good because lack of hair on top of my head means an extra need for warmth. I have two skull cap like style hats from brooks, both have reflective logos and one is half bright green for added visibility. The third option is a Saucony Balaclava which covers whole face, head and neck, minus an opening for my eyes which is convenient for....seeing. I haven't worn this option yet because it hasn't been that cold or windy yet, but when I do I'll let ya know how it works out!
                 On my feet I've been rocking Smartwool phd light cushion socks, the wool is crazy soft and works great at both cushioning and keeping my feet warm.
           So there you go that's what I'm using to avoid turning into an ice statue of a runner this winter. There are a lot of great products out there to keep you warm. Remember to layer, pick items made from non-cotton materials like wool or polyester that will wick moisture away from your body. Items with softshell or something similar work well at blocking the wind. That's about all I've got, if you have some tips for staying dry and warm this winter I'd love to hear about them. Oh and don't forget to stay hydrated this winter, you don't always think about it but again you still sweat a lot when exercising in the winter, don't forget to replenish that lost liquid!
        Official training for 2011 starts tomorrow! woohoo! hope everyone had a great New Years Eve and 2011 brings you a lot of happiness!


  1. The picture of the tree is pretty, but there only so many winterish runs I can stand before I long to wear shorts instead of itchy spandex on my runs.

  2. I definitely need better cold weather gear. The tree picture is so pretty. Good luck with training!

  3. I took the tree picture behind my work last week. I think it was Thursday morning, all the trees, bushes, buildings and everything were covered in this fine white mist of snow and ice. It was too beautiful to not get photo of....and it was gone by noon haha