Let me start this post by saying, what is laid out in this post is completely based off an experiment of one. Everyone is different. Find what works for you and stick with it!
I am a trackaholic. While I never enjoyed math or numbers in school, it’s in training that I have found my addiction. It started off with the basics: miles, time, pace… Then it branched into many other things: PSI while on bike, weight, all things weather related during sessions. After all that could be tracked was being tracked I was at a loss as to where to go to find that next “tracking fix.” One day after freezing my tail off on a ride it hit me, “I should write down what I wear during each training session so I can compile a list of ‘what to wear’!” So what you’ll see below is a simple chart I’ve created for myself. This is my standard running gear based off what I’ve discovered works for me. Some of this may not ring true for you, i.e. I wear gloves at much warmer temperatures than most because I have abnormally cold hands.
Having the knowledge of what to wear before going out for a session is a HUGE help, because it’s one less thing that can cause stress, and it gets me out the door just a little quicker, which, as the days get shorter, is a huge bonus.
There is a very fine balance between staying the right temperature for a run and swinging too far in one direction. Dressing too warm in the winter is especially bad since as you sweat it will get all your clothes wet actually causing you to be colder than you would have been if you had worn less clothes. It’s always better to start a run off a little cool and warm up than to be sweating in the first 5 minutes and be freezing by the end of the run because of wet clothes.
Below you’ll see what covers everything from my experience of running in over 100º all the way down to 14º (the coldest temperature I have ever logged a run in). I’ve found that I don’t pay much attention to the “feels like” temperature, that no matter what my Weather app says it feels like, my clothing for the actual temperature is still the same.
*Until it gets well below freezing all of my runs are done in a visor for protection from elements, e.g. sun, rain, sweat.
Over 55º: shorts and a t-shirt. Quick and simple, just get out and run!
50º-55º: shorts and a very light long sleeve tech shirt. I have a long sleeve Under Armor shirt that is insanely light and even has a full mesh back. I find it’s just enough to keep the chill off but not so much I over heat.
45º-50º: shorts, very light long sleeve shirt, light gloves. My wife is perfectly fine running at these temps without gloves, but as previously mentioned my hands get abnormally cold. A light pair of gloves is perfect for me on days like this.
40º-45º: shorts, ^shirt, light jacket, ^gloves. The jacket adds just one more slight layer of protection against the wind and elements. Also, some much needed visibility as the darkness rolls in earlier.
35º-40º: non-insulated tights, shorts, a *slightly* thicker long sleeve shirt, ^jacket, ^gloves. I am not man enough to run in just tights. Plus the shorts add a little more warmth against the wind.
20º-35º: non-insulated tights, shorts, Under Armor Cold gear shirt, ^jacket, ^gloves, ear warmer (over visor). Once the temperatures reach freezing the clothes really make a difference. Having a good “thick” shirt that is also moisture wicking is a must in my opinion. The UA shirt offers virtually no wind protection, but paired with a good jacket to fight the wind it’s perfect. I find that once the temperature gets to these points it’s just cold. Period. I’ve found the bare minimum that I can run in and be marginally comfortable without causing myself to sweat, there by making my clothes wet, which would make me cold.
Under 20º: tights, shorts, Under Armor cold gear, fleece pullover, ^jacket, ^gloves, ear warmer, full hat. I’ve only done a below 20º run once, the temperature was 14º. Because of my experience and clothing log I was ready for it. After the run the only thing I noted was that my face was insanely cold, so next time i’ll wear something to cover that, and also that I wish I’d had thicker tights and gloves, but even those weren’t completely necessary.
Hopefully this gives you a baseline and ideas of what to wear so that, as the temperatures begin to make huge swings, you can take that first step out the door having the confidence that you won’t have to worry about trying to figure out where to stash your jacket for when you pass back by or wishing you had thrown on just one more base layer to keep you warm on that long run.
Now that you are on the right track with apparel, how about some help with your strength training? Download your free copy of Strength and Mechanics for Runners.