We still have another five weeks before the calendar officially says winter is here, but the recent temps tell a different story. Thankfully, there has not been any snow accumulating on the ground (though there have been some flurries blowing around in the wind). That means it's time to assess the running gear and get ready for the next few (or several) months of chilly weather running.
Living in Iowa, I'm no stranger to winter temps (even when they arrive several weeks in advance). As a runner, though, it's not just a matter of grabbing the nearest fur-lined parka or snow boots. There are some items that I deem necessary for winter survival (whilst in my running shoes), and some not so much. Also, a lot of warm weather running gear can be used in the frigid temps if you know how to tweak it.
Here are my favorite Winter Running Must-Haves:
***Fleece-lined running tights
Oh, do these feel ever-so-toasty! You can pay top dollar for name brand ones (which start at upwards of $75), or you can find comparable ones at discount stores (Target or Old Navy, for example), which are about 1/3 of the price. If it's really cold (like in the single digits, with wind chill), I've been known to layer an extra pair of (unlined) tights over the top.
***Thermal-lined base layer
The layering gig takes a little practice and experimentation, and it still is not fool-proof . What works (and feels comfortable) for one person, may not be an ideal fit for another. That said, a warm base layer is usually one thing most of us will agree on. I prefer a long-sleeved fleece-lined, fitted tech shirt. Often times, I'll even layer a tank top underneath or a 1/4-zip jacket on top. I prefer a more fitted cut so there's no loose fabric flopping in the wind.
I'm a big advocate for wool socks, and I wear them year-round. In the summer, I usually only wear them for long runs or races. In the winter, though, they are worn for almost every outdoor excursion. Believe it or not...even in the cold, your feet still sweat and wool socks will not only wick the moisture from your feet, but the the wool itself will help to keep your feet warm.
Truth be told, I have never worn a face mask. I usually have a scarf or a neck gator at the ready, though, if it's an especially windy day. Not only will a scarf or gator keep my neck warm, but it also gives me the option of pulling it up over my mouth (or even over my nose) periodically.
***hat or headband
It's a scientific fact that heat rises, and that includes your head. There are many options available, but I prefer a stocking hat (with a big, beautiful pom pom) or a fleece headband. A fleece headband can also be used as a "base layer" if you want to layer a funky (and/or colorful) light-weight headband over it..
***BONUS***Don't forget your hands!
There are many options for keeping your hands warm. Many shirts and jackets have thumb holes now days, which will keep the majority of your hand(s) warm. You can also layer gloves or mittens over the thumb hole-covered hands. Another trick is to wear gloves but keep your hands in a "fist" position inside the fabric until you've had time to warm up...then spread your fingers into the the individual finger slots.
Now, let me add that these are all basic items. Often times, I have to include some add-ons...like a puffer vest (warm, but not as bulky as a full jacket) or arm sleeves (for an extra layer on the arms).
Of course, worst case scenario...there is the (dreaded) treadmill or an indoor track. I much prefer to be outside, though, even if it's only for a quick 2-miler. Call me crazy (you wouldn't be the first), but the great outdoors offer a lot of tranquility, ever-changing views, and the benefit of varying terrain underfoot. There's also a little dose of vitamin D from the sunshine!
How about you? Do you run outside year-round, or do you take it inside when the temps plummet? What's your favorite cold-weather piece of running gear?
I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0. Please join us!! Today, we're talking about being thankful...and I'm thankful for all of these cold-weather items!