{Running & Fitness: Tips on Winter Running Part One}

Fall is here, but for anyone who has lived in Calgary, we know that winter is always quick to follow. October and November are popular months for races, so I thought it would be fitting to discuss My Tips for Winter Running . I had my first real experience with winter running this past January when I started training for my marathon in May. There were times I was running in -20C temperatures, YES, it is possible as long as you prepare and dress appropriately. So for my first post I will discuss what to wear.

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1. Dress in layers – the key to success with running in the cold is LAYERS. You’ll find the order of layers is similar to how you would dress if you were going out snowboarding or skiing. If done properly it will trap your body heat while allowing sweat and excess heat to wick through the layers and evaporate. (Tip: Dress as if it’s 10C warmer to prevent overheating)

Your first layer should be a breathable wicking base layer, made of a synthetic material (such as DryFit, Thinsulate, Thermax, CoolMax, polypropylene, or silk). This will help wick the sweat off your body which will keep you dry and warm, which is important because you want to avoid excess sweating in cold temperatures which can cause severe chills when you cool down. DO NOT wear cotton because it will just absorb the sweat and stay wet. For me, this is a long sleeve shirt, I like the ones with thumb holes on the sleeves to keep my shirt from riding up my arms as I run and a zipper in the front to adjust as my body temp changes.


The second layer is a looser breathable insulating layer, which I only find necessary in really cold temperatures (more than -15C or so). This should be made of fleece. This will wick moisture away but at the same time trap some body heat to keep you warm. Other materials that are suitable are: Akwatek, Dryline, Polartec, polyester fleece and microfleece. I have both a fleece vest and a long sleeve zip up that I wear according to how cold it is.

The last layer is a wind resistant and water proof/resistant layer. It will protect you from the chilly winds and keep your other layers dry from cold rain or snow. It’s good for this layer to be a zip up so you can adjust the zipper up or down according to your body temperature. Good materials for this are ClimaFit, Gore-Tex, Microsuplex, nylon, Supplex, and Windstopper.

I have an all season water proof jacket from Lululemon that I love. It has a nice high collar and a big hood that can be folded and zipped into the back collar when it’s not needed. It’s also thin and lightweight so I can use it both in winter with more layers underneath or just over a tank top in rainy spring weather. Another advantage of it being light is you can take it off if you get to warm and tie it around your waist as you run (I got this on sale for half price from an original $2oo something.. score!). Yep.. that’s me in my pajamas..

One of my favourite features is the cuffed sleeves and overhang of the jacket to keep the rain/snow out..

..as well either side on the underarm area there are zippers that can be zipped down to let out excess heat/moisture out. There is also mesh venting in high sweat areas in the jacket.

This running pullover is a good option too from Lululemon..

For the lower body, invest in some good running tights or pants. Your legs generate a lot of heat so you won’t need as many layers for your lower extremities. Make sure it’s a synthetic material and if it’s particularly cold I wear a pair of running tights and waterproof pants overtop, like track pants. I’ve got a great pair of thick synthetic leggings with taper at the bottom to prevent cold air from entering as well as a pair of running pants that have a waterproof material on the front of the leg for those snowy days and are lined with a fleece on the inside to keep my legs nice and warm. This pair also has zip ups with mesh vents on both sides to let out excess heat/moisture..

Another important item SYNTHETIC SOCKS. Again, cotton is the enemy when it comes to running in warm or cold weather. Synthetic socks will wick moisture while cotton absorbs all the moisture which means your feet will be prone to friction which means BLISTERS. Acrylic, coolmax or wool are great materials. I do find them more pricey than cotton, but it will all be worth it in the end. Believe me.

Shoes: If you are going to be running on icy trails, invest in some winter ice grips that you can put over your running shoes. These cost me about $40 at the Running Room and have saved me from many potential falls while training on icy terrain. If you stay on the bike paths in the winter, they are usually cleared of ice and snow, so these are not as necessary. Warning: if you run with these on regular pavement it makes this horrible scratching sounds that reminds of me scratching on the chalkboard… shiver….

Finally, the head-gear. I have a variety of different hats for various temperatures. In the summer I wear a mesh cap with a large brim to keep out the sun’s rays and in the winter I have a couple wool toques and a spandex cap that I can put underneath if it’s extra cold. A headband that can cover your ears is good too…You lose up to 50% of your body heat through your head!

A neck warmer is essential too when that chilly wind comes gusting your way. This can be pulled up or down as you like..

..or if it’s really cold invest in a balaclava in a sweat wicking fabric…this one is from the Running Room
..and to keep those digits warm.. a pair of thin running gloves and a pair of thick mittens to go overtop in those extreme temperatures (my mittens are DaKine ones I use for snowboarding). Mittens are better cause you can curl your fingers up to retain heat better than if you just had gloves alone.
Places in Calgary I like: Lululemon (my choice for running clothes), Running Room (place I get my shoes), Tech Shop (gait analysis testing in store to make sure you get the proper show), Gord’s and Strides.
Tune in tomorrow for tips on getting started: warming up, techniques and some things I’ve learned from personal experience..

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