Winter Running Wardrobe Tips or “Avoiding Both Treadmill and Frostbite”

Is it news to anyone that it’s been cold out there?  Not like “I need a sweatshirt” cold – “no exposed skin” cold.  I had decided that for Saturday’s run I would have to just suck it up and drive on to the installation to use the Army gym’s treadmill because of the below-0 “dangerous” windchill… but I really didn’t want to feel like I was going to work on Saturday and I reallllllyyyy didn’t want to run on the treadmill.  Lucky me, that’s why they invented wind-resistant running tights and an awesome little thing called “the buff.”  Read on for my take on how to run in serious cold without injury OR ending up like Ralphie.


Unlike my last, fashion-oriented posts today it’s all about function WAY over form – although at least my jacket (Athlete approximately 1 million years ago, before they were bought out) is cute.  When the windchill is minus zero and you plan to go hang out in it for an extended period anyway, style isn’t so much the concern as, you know, avoiding hypothermia and frost bite – as well as general s–k factor.

To that end: light layers, wind resistance, and wicking fabrics are your friends.  As a bonus, I recommend sunglasses for wind-blocking as well, even if it’s not very bright out – otherwise the skin around your eyes is totally exposed and I personally find an eyeball full of icy air especially unpleasant.  I’d say “because rule #1” (always look cool) but cool is kind of the opposite of what I want and as you see I’m well on the way to my goal – but at least I avoided the treadmill!


I actually was on my way out the door towards that treadmill when I changed my mind, and grabbed the wind-resistant tights, sunglasses, and “Buff” instead – these things had a long vacation during the time I lived in the South but they are back in action up here.


Keeping with the “no exposed skin” theme, my usual low-cut smart wool running socks had to switch out for my wool boot socks – I have some smart wool ones but this fox river version is better for running because the foot is more closely shaped.  If they’re good enough for a 15 mile ruck, they are certainly good enough so an afternoon run!


I absolutely cannot tolerate the feeling of a scarf or neck gaiter holding steamy, oppressive breath-heat (eww, even sounds gross) around my face, but the beauty of this silky little thing is that it’s just tightly woven enough to cut the wind and maintain some warmth, but still breathable.  No glasses fog, and I was able to glamorously mouth-breathe right through it on the run.  It was a gift from my mom* during my land-of-fake-winter years so this is actually the first time I have used it and really, it’s the key piece that made this run happen.



Likewise, I almost NEVER run in a hat.  Even if it’s 20 without the crazy windchill, I’m reluctant to put a little headband over my ears.  I can’t say why, I just don’t like the feeling.  On a day like Saturday, however, there was no messing around – out came the tightly woven ski ski hat, and the mobile-technology friendly gloves made way for the “I’d like to avoid frostbite on my fingers, please” big honkers.  Being able to fiddle with my pandora at stoplights is night and all but fingers are some of the most vulnerable extremities – small, bony, and generally exposed to the wind.  I am that person who runs in a tank and gloves when it’s in the 50’s because my bony hands are cold, so some heavy duty protection was warranted.

And that’s it – once I was full on robo-copped up, out I went for a surprisingly comfy run.  Bonus – unleashed, overly bark-y dogs and sidewalk crowding at a minimum.

Bonus round: if there’s a lot of snow and ice, don’t despair – Yaktrax are there!  Yak what?  Basically snow chains for your feet.  I used them while marathon training over the winter in New York, to get through a few blizzards, and they really do work.  You may be slower, but you’ll be outside.  The only drawback is that they work best when the snow and ice are everywhere – they can get damaged and are rather uncomfortable over patches of bare paving.


*Speaking of my mom, how awesome is she:


Icy barbell + gloves + space heater = getting it done garage gym style, and with stylish tights!

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