Why am I posting about winter running at the end of February you might ask?? Well, it looks as though we have a bit of a winter still to go and I've had more questions in the past week about winter running than I have the rest of winter combined. Go figure! For all of you runners wanting to brave the elements but not sure how, read on.
I have been winter running for 5 years now and I've done more long runs than I can count in colder than -20°C and my coldest run ever was -34°C (-37°C with wind chill). Of all of these runs, I have only been traumatized by the cold once and it was bad! It was 'only' -18°C but I seriously contemplated stopping mid run, somewhere in a local provincial park, laying down and keeping my frozen fingers somewhat crossed hoping that my husband would come looking for me and rescue me. Lesson learned about underdressing! And I'm most definitely still traumatized from it. Now let me help you not make the same mistake.
Here are my tips to get you enjoying those cold, wintery runs:
1) Invest in winter running gear.
Head to your local running store or a place that sells cross-country ski gear and buy a warm pair of pants and a lined jacket. Be prepared to spend $100-200 on each piece. I know, I know, a bit pricy! Worth every penny, I promise. You only need one of each for the first season until you start acquiring new gear over the coming years. I spent the first 2 years of running wearing one pair of pants and two tops… over and over and over. But it got the job done and I was warm.
2) Layers, layers, layers.
I’ve been known to wear 4 tops and 2 pairs of pants on a cold run (-30°C) which feels a bit silly but gets the job done. For most winter days, 2 layers on top will be sufficient. A good base layer will keep the sweat off of your body and keep you warm as well. That layer, combined with your warm jacket, should keep your top warm for most cold days. Simply add a layer if you find yourself too cold. As for the bottoms, your warm pants will do the trick on most days, but you might need to layer up with a second pair of pants. My cut off for the 2nd bottom layer is around -15°C. I also know someone who wears shorts if it's -5°C and up (I can't even, my legs would fall off) so clearly this is a personal preference and I enjoy being slightly overdressed and am clearly a big wimp.
3) Mitts and Toque
I might be in the minority on this one, but I have had major success with spending very little. My warmest mitts and toques each cost $10 (they were on sale, but still!). They’re bulky and don’t look that great, but I know even on -25°C days that my head and fingers will be fine. I have running specific gloves too but find they only go to -7°C or so and they cost a lot more and only get put into use on mild days. My toque is a heavy fleece and does the job perfectly. The other piece that fits in here is a neck warmer. I have light buffs for mild days and heavier neck warmers for the really chilly days. The trick here is to pull the neck warmer up over the back of your toque as it provides extra warmth and covers more of your face this way.
4) Light in the Dark
Often if you’re running in the winter that also means running in the dark. Get yourself a headlamp and make sure you have some reflective strips on your clothes and you’re set. When I run I like to assume that no cars see me and be extra cautious when crossing streets. I learned defensive driving as a 16 year old and now practice defensive running. That might seem a bit extreme but this thought process has kept me safe more times than I can count. Also, if you’re listening to music or a podcast (my fav!), consider using only one ear bud so you can be more aware of your surroundings.
5) Fueling Needs
Heading out on a long run and need fuel? Water? Put your pack/waist belt/bottle as close to your body as possible and definitely beneath your jacket. This way you'll have water for longer than 3km before it freezes. I'm embarrassed to say how long this one took me to figure out.
Now go out and enjoy the beautiful, frosted winter days! There is a quiet, peacefulness that comes with running after a fresh layer of snow has fallen that is a true gift to experience. Also, you’ll feel super tough (and kinda badass) when you get back from a run on a day when most people complain about even having to step outside and get into their cold car.
Tag us in your winter running photos. We’d love to see you out there embracing the weather! @iloendurance #iloendurance
K’s Best Winter Running Clothes
Jacket - Salomon and MEC
Pants - Lululemon and
Base layer - Lululemon and MEC
Neckwarmer - Lululemon and Buff
Toque and Mitts - Joe Fresh
Headlamp - Black Diamond
Socks - Stance