I’m super excited to introduce you to Mommy Runs It’s first regular contributor: My Dad! We don’t always see eye to eye, but he knows his stuff and is my running hero! I hope you learn something from his tips on running in cold weather. – Sharon
Running in Cold Weather
I am honored that Sharon has asked me to share some of my thoughts on running with her readers. I started running in 1964, so some of my ideas and thoughts may be old fashioned and not consistent with current methods. But they have worked for me and that’s why I’ve stuck with them. Perhaps they’ll work for you as well.
Turkey Trot Time
It’s Thanksgiving, and today Turkey Trot runners throughout the US had the opportunity to race in cold weather. Here in south Florida the wind chill temperature was 37 °F. That seems like a perfect reason to have a discussion about running in cold weather. The information that I’m providing is based on an extensive research and testing program, in which I play both the mad scientist and the test dummy. Keep in mind while reading this article (or any other article about running in cold or hot weather) that the general concepts apply to everyone, but the specific details depend on the author. You will need to adjust them to suit your own tolerance for cold weather.
I recently came across an article on cold weather running published by NYC Running Mama. It is well written and provides a lot of good information on this subject. I’m not going to repeat that information here, but I’ll expand upon it and add my own thoughts.
Running in Cold Weather: What (Not to) Wear
The conventional response about how to dress for running in cold weather is to wear layers. I would modify that to say stagger your layers. For me, my wrists are the first body part to get cold. That’s followed by my fingers, arms, ears, and lastly legs. Two other key points:
1. When deciding how to dress, the layers should be based on the wind chill temperature, not the actual temperature.
2. Dress to feel comfortable (not warm) 10 to 15 minutes into your run.
If you’re comfortable at the start of your run, you will be sweating and possibly even colder later on in the run. There is an exception to this rule. If you are in a race and you will be standing around at the staging or starting line for an extended period of time you should dress a little warmer, but be prepared to shed your extra clothing when the race begins.
When the temperature drops to 45 °F, I’ll add a long sleeve shirt under my t-shirt. Nowadays, many experts will recommend a non-cotton shirt that wicks away the sweat. However, I’m old school and set in my ways, and I usually wear a long-sleeve cotton shirt that I received at one of my winter races.
I’ve read that the human body loses 80% of its heat through the head (for the geeks among us I think it has to do with hair providing more heat transfer surface. Does that mean that balding guys like myself lose less heat?). I usually wear a ski cap, but I don’t pull it down over my ears. At 40 °F I add in mittens and pull the ski cap over my ears. Mittens are better than gloves because the body heat from each finger can help warm the others, unlike gloves where each finger is isolated.
Now, while I say “mittens,” I actually use a pair of sweat socks (less expensive and easier to find). Also consider that when you run in the cold, it’s likely that your nose will be dripping. The sweat socks can double as a handkerchief and afterwards can be tossed in the wash. I have been asked about the use of handwarmers. I haven’t used them, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t work.
I cover my legs when the temperature drops below 30 °F. In my younger days I would wear a pair of women’s tights These days I usually wear a pair of sweat pants. At this temperature, I’d also put on a second pair of socks. Once it gets below 25 °F, I’d add a second top. Below 20 °F I would add a full ski mask. When we lived in an apartment building in Queens, NY. I once came back from a run wearing my ski mask and did not take it off when I got into the elevator. I scared the daylights out of the old women who got on the elevator with me.
Snow, Wind, and Ice
Cold weather running means snow and ice. If you’re running on these types of surfaces you need to be extra careful. Shorter strides with a slower leg speed are a good idea. Avoid running in wet snow or puddles. Frost bite is a real danger in cold weather and you need to make sure that you take the proper precautions.
One more additional tip: The cold weather will dry out your skin. I recommend applying Chapstick or Vaseline (or a similar product) to your lips and cheeks before you go out for your run. I also recommend applying a moisturizing lotion to your hands after your run. These applications can prevent skin damage.
Do you want my dad’s two cents on your running question? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Albert Ugelow is the proud father of Mommy Runs It’s owner Sharon Wilhelm. He has degrees in Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Florida and is also certified as a Project Management Professional. He started running as a sophomore in high school (Oct 1964), and never stopped. In high school and college he was a middle of the pack runner. He hit his peak as a runner in the first 10 years after graduating college. Though never achieving a champion performance, he ran some decent times (5K – 16:58, 5 mi – 27:07, 6 mi – 33:00, 10K – 34:58, 13.1 mi – 1:36, 20 mi – 2:20:51, marathon – 3:37:48). Currently he runs primarily to maintain a level of physical fitness. He hopes that when he retires in a few years he will be able to increase his training and return to competitive running. His secret (not so secret any more) ambition is to be a high school track coach; not to produce champion runners, but to instill the love of running in these young people and pass on his experience.