Dressing properly when training or racing is one of the key ingredients to running or walking a successfully. It is tempting to get out the heavy duty winter clothes at the first sign of a cool morning. Be a smart athlete, and don’t fall prey to this mistake.
Overdressing just leads to too much perspiration and the risk of dehydration. Of course we all have different levels of tolerance to heat and cold, but these tips should give you a basic guideline.
The best indication of whether you are dressed properly is how you feel when you step outside. If you are comfortable on a cold day right at the start, you are most likely over dressed. If you are slightly chilled and feel you need a jacket… you don’t! Once you get moving, you’ll be glad you left that extra layer behind. Shorts and a short sleeve running shirt should get most people through comfortably if the temperature at the start is 58°-65°. Any warmer than that a singlet is probably best.
From 48°-58° shorts and a long sleeve running shirt will work for most, while some will want tights (long or capri length) once the temperature is below 50°. A short sleeve shirt and arm warmers make for a great solution. Simply take the arm warmers down as you heat up, and push back up should you get chilled. At the low to mid 40’s you may want to add a thin vest or jacket over your shirt. Thin gloves should be added to the wardrobe when temps dip below 50°.
As it gets colder still, long tights or running pants, a vest or jacket, gloves, and a hat or ear band come into play. It is really important to keep your ears warm, and remember that you lose a great deal of body heat off the top of your head, so don’t forget that hat! Warm mittens over thin gloves or glove liners keep the fingers warm once it gets below 30°. Sock liners or thin socks under a second pair help keep your feet warm when the temp is down in the 20’s. On a really cold day, pantyhose (yes guys, for you too) is a great first layer. They keep your feet and legs warm without adding bulk. Shirts with a 1/2 zip work very well on a winter’s day. Adjusting the zipper up or down to let in or restrict cold air is a great way to regulate your body temperature as your run progresses. The key to cold weather comfort is layering so you can remove items as you get warm, and add them back as you cool down. You want to make sure that the layer closest to your body is not cotton in order to keep warm and dry. (OK, you really don’t want cotton for any layer as it traps moisture.) Also remember your sunscreen no matter the temperature.
One last tip for asthma sufferers, and applies whether your asthma is exercise or allergy induced. Particularly cold, dry air can make breathing difficult when exercising outdoors. Wear a thin scarf, and cover your nose and mouth to create more humid air to breathe. Then take it down and put it back up as needed, or simply breathe into your gloved hand.
It comes down to this simple tool: DRESS FOR THE HEART OF YOUR RUN – NOT THE START OF YOUR RUN!
With these basic tips in mind, you will be able to train comfortably. Dressing for success when you train will make you a success on race day!