Yes, you can run in the (very, very) cold.

by John Schrup

When it is THIS cold out–you know THAT cold: The cold that freezes the dog’s water bowl and most of the motivation you have to step outside the door–running outdoors becomes a bit more of a challenge. We are lucky here in Austin. Most months, we can walk out the door in a tank or tee and shorts and dash, trot or lope around the streets and trails with little concern And then in the height of the summer, we are running in so few pieces of gear that we might as well go streaking through the quad.

But those few days each year when the temperatures drop to ridiculous, painful, stupid cold, we Austinites are often unprepared, mentally and sartorially.

The rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer than the current air temperature. So for example, this morning, it was 18 degrees, which means that you are well prepared if you are dressed for a balmy 38 degrees. Wind chill is a factor, as even a slight breeze can make a relatively moderate morning feel as if you’ve just stepped onto an Arctic ice flow. And effort becomes a variable too? Are you doing a recovery run, jogging easily? You might need an extra layer since you won’t be working very hard. If you are doing reps on the track or a hilly tempo run, you might get fully dressed for the cold and then shed one piece of winter gear once the workout begins so you don’t overheat.

So you have to get your layers on. When it gets down below freezing, generally 3 layers will do.

(First, of course, you need a really good beanie that covers the ears and well insulated, wind resistant gloves. Several companies now make gloves that have a retractable wind resistant mitten that you can roll back and stow in the pouch on the back of the glove should it get suddenly balmy. We’ve found this glove/mitt combination to be the best choice for keeping your fingers warm when the air is not. Whoever invented that glove/mitt combo should get a Nobel prize or something.)

And now, the layers: A base layer of a short sleeve technical tee will work well to transfer moisture off your body, so you don’t get that lovely cold, clammy feeling. A thicker long sleeve 1/2 zip as your second layer will provide the majority of the warmth you’ll need. The most important layer, in our humble opinion, is a wind resistant shell or jacket. Keeping the wind off your torso can keep an absolutely frigid morning almost…pleasant.
For the legs, we find that a pair of half tights under a pair of tights under a running pant or wind pant will do well to keep the legs warm and the muscles loose. It is maha important to keep the legs extra warm. Your torso generates much more heat, and that little calf or hamstring thing that’s been bugging you really won’t like the cold.

And two pair of socks will help keep the toes from falling off inside your shoes. They’ll still get mighty cold, but at least you’ll be able to feel them come lunch time.

Whatever you have to put on, put on enough that will help you get out the door. It’ll make you tougher. Everyone’s doing it.

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