Layer Up for Winter Running
Running in the snow is personally my favorite season to run. It’s so calm and peaceful. The problem is those frigid temperatures, and the often-blustery winds and elements that accompany it, can mean a certain level of misery if not prepared for properly.
In my years of experience, layering has been essential during the cooler seasons in order to feel comfortable.
There’s more to it than just adding on extra shirts though. No one likes running around feeling puffy and weighed down with pointless layers. The system that I use is simple and has a little science behind each of its three layers, making it efficient and comfortable. Better yet,
I use a simple acronym that we can all remember the help describe each layer from the inside out- V.I.P.
Ventilation – Your base layer is probably the most important and often the most forgotten about. A good ventilation layer is next to skin (snug but not restricting) and made from a good moisture wicking material (NOT cotton). It’s not necessarily “the warm layer” so don’t worry about something heavy or thick. In fact, something thin and breathable is still preferred. The idea with this layer is to reduce heat loss by taking that dormant moisture and wicking it off the body where it can evaporate without chilling the body. To be honest, a simple base layer t-shirt and good comfy “run” derwear can get me through most of my winter runs without a problem.
Insulation- Here’s the layer that really focuses on the warmth. It can also change drastically depending on the conditions and temperature. A half-zip thermal long sleeve tends to be the layer of choice for most people and I like the idea of being able to unzip the shirt a bit to release some heat if the sun comes out or I’m working particularly hard for that section. There are lots of options to choose from though and you should focus on finding a couple different pieces of different weight and warmth factors since 5-10 degrees ambient temperature can change how warm you feel quite a bit. This layer, for me, is often a lightweight long sleeve on top of my ventilation layer. Those two combined can get me through some serious weather ranges.
Protection- This is the final piece to puzzle. Protection layers are for adverse weather conditions, where the insulation layer is more focused on warmth and ventilation is moisture management. That’s not to say that they can’t be combined in pretty extreme situations. My protection layers tend to focus on keeping me shielded from the elements like wind, rain and snow. Each of which can really be detrimental to your core temperature if not handled properly. Keep them off the body with windproof and water resistant/proof layers. If it’s raining, you’ll want full coverage with no skin exposed. A light snow or a little wind and a running vest can be just fine at keeping the core warm and elements at bay. Also included in this layer are the accessories like gloves, hats, gators, arm warmers, etc.
Make sure you have some form of each layer on your body when you need it. And as I mentioned earlier, some layers can combine as a two-fer. Thermal base layers can add both warmth and ventilation. Most heavy winter jackets can add insulation and protection to them if they have WINDSTOPPER® or GORE-TEX® layers built in. Most of the time, my SHAKEDRY(™) jacket is my favorite piece when I’m layered up right because it’s easy to shed, super light to carry and warm without being too warm. Get out there and enjoy your runs and never be afraid to head #intotheelements!