Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Cold Weather Running

 As long as the roads aren’t slick and icy, I’ll run outside throughout the winter. 

Connecticut temperatures haven’t been horrendous so far this winter, but they HAVE dipped below freezing on quite a few of my running mornings. Over the years I’ve figured out how to layer up for different temperatures and have collected enough of the right layers to get through the winter.

The general wisdom of dressing for 20 degrees warmer than actual temperatures has worked pretty well for me. Anything below 60 degrees has me wearing an earband (I have wimpy ears). When temps get down to freezing and just below, I’m running in 3 layers on top and a warm pair of running pants or leggings. At 5 degrees below freezing I add a 4th layer on top and pull out my heavy duty running tights (made out of heavyweight polartec power stretch fleece). At 20 degrees I add bike shorts under those leggings (butt cheeks get really cold!) and substitute a much heavier layer for my usual fleece jacket. A run in the single digits calls for 2 pairs of socks (wool of course) and 2 pairs of gloves.

Tech fabrics that wick the sweat away from the skin are a life saver in cold weather. Much as I love cotton in my street clothing, I do not recommend it as a layer anywhere close to the skin when running. Cotton will produce chafing. Ouch! I have one wool-blend running shirt that works really well, and I swear by wool socks year round. Everything else I run in is a man-made technical fabric.

There’s more than just the running clothes. My old running partner, Susan (who moved away years ago and I miss her terribly!) always recommended tucking in the first layer. That helps to create an enclosed pocket of air close to the body that will more easily stay warm. Quarter zip tops give me the option to open up at the neck if I start to overheat, and I can cool off without having to take a whole layer off and carry it. In the picture above, my first layer is a quarter-zip, long-sleeved wicking top, second layer is a wool-blend short-sleeved tshirt, and the heavier fleece jacket can also be partially or fully unzipped if necessary. I discovered just this year, when trying to replace my old running gloves that are full of holes, that even gloves need that little pocket of air between the glove and the skin. I tried a new pair that had a much tighter fit around the fingers and found that they didn’t keep my hands warm at all. I’ve gone back to the old gloves, holes and all, because they’ve got just the right fit and keep my hands much warmer.

Sunday’s run: 3 layers on top, approx. 28 deg. F at start of run

Through all the stress this year from the coronavirus pandemic, the presidential election and my fear that the Biden-Harris team might not win, running has been my go-to for working through the stress. It has also been my connection to seeing real people in person (safely outdoors) who are not in my household of 2 people. And we all need to take our safe stress relief wherever we can get it.

Occasionally, on a particularly stressful week, I’ll look at my watch at the end of the run and discover that my pace was a good 20-30 seconds per mile faster than usual. Not planned or pushed for, just a result of my need to run through the stress. The Sunday after the riot/attempted coup at the Capitol, all 3 of us on the Sunday run ran noticeably faster than usual. Feels better to know that it’s not just me.

With any luck though, stress levels will go down once we have a working White House with a competent administration and get the country vaccinated. I am hopeful.

Shelley in CT