by Chris Hague
Extreme temperatures and meteorological conditions can sometimes leave runners sprinting to the treadmill. However, with the proper prep work, it is easy to remain outside on the roads year round. Compared to swimming and biking, running, in my opinion, is the easiest to prepare for when it comes to how to dress since, with running’s almost full body engagement, the majority of the body warms up after about 10 minutes. Nevertheless, there are some considerations to keep in mind so that your run becomes not just bearable but enjoyable.
Like the bike, wind and rain can play a crucial part in how we feel. The thermometer may read 65, which normally may feel balmy, but it feels icy when it is raining or when the wind is blowing straight in your face. Also like the bike, covering the extremities/limbs is more important than the core. In general, hands are the most perceptible to the cold since many runners tense their arms and shoulders when they run, reducing blood circulation and thus making them feel cold and turn that nice purple color. Proper head gear is also important both in the heat and in the cold. When the sun is beating down, a good hat or visor protects the head from the sun’s glare and thus allows cools the body down; moreover, they can be used to hold cold sponges or rags when racing. While in the cold, a good knit cap traps heat in prevents our ears from getting frost bite.
Regardless of the temperature, I hope the below general guidelines helps you break the treadmill chains to find freedom on the roads and trails.
80° and above: In this upper temperature bracket with little wind and the sun beating down in addition to heat radiating up for the ground, you do not need much covering but any clothing that you do wear make sure to opt for light, white, or neon colors instead of blacks and grays since the these absorb the heat instead of reflecting it. Arm coolers like those sold by De Soto may also be a good choice depending on how large you are; the larger the athlete the harder it is for the body to cool itself. Another option would be to wear an Under Armor Heat Gear shirt which absorbs the sweat better than most tight fitting or technical shirts and thus allows your body to cool more efficiently.
55°-80°: I find that this is the perfect temperature to run in and needs the least amount of thought and preparation. A male can just wear running shorts or a tri jammer, and, depending on your local nudity laws and your own security with your body image, a running t shirt. For women, a running bra, shirt, and shorts will do fine. If the temperature is on the lower end of this frame, it may feel uncomfortable or chilly to begin with but you will warm up shortly.
45°-55°: Typical for the Fall and early spring this brisk temperature range requires a few more clothes than the previous one but nothing extreme. I usually wear either short or ¾ tights (commonly referred to manprees), a long sleeve technical t shirt, a pair of light gloves (dollar store cotton gloves are great or, if you want to look more “professional” Brooks also makes a great pair), and a head band that covers my ears like that made by Nike.
35°-45°: Not too much changes from the previous attire except that I may wear a full on running hat, wear warmer gloves, and instead of just a long sleeve technical running shirt I wear an Under Armor Cold Gear compression shirt or a similar base layer shirt (many base layer clothing for skiers also works great for runners).
20°-35°: Here is when proper clothing choices makes a huge difference and is needed to prevent swelling and other unpleasantness. I typically wear long sleeve tights, a base layer shirt as described above, a running fleece, jacket, or pull over, mittens (warmer than gloves since your fingers stick together) and wool socks.
0°-20°: Follow the same procedure as above but add another pair of gloves (preferably wind bocking like ski gloves), a balaclava to cover the face, or a running scarf because when you breath the warm air will also warm your face instead of automatically dissipating. Depending on the wind, two layers of tights, although constricting and annoying, maybe wise.
Sub 0°: I have joined the polar bear club and run in sub 0 temperatures. It is doable but not recommended. Be careful though and ensure that you cover places like your fingers, toes, and ear lobes to prevent frost bite.
Although spring has unofficially sprung across most of the country, take advantage of this time to take advantage of some awesome deals on winter clothing and begin planning for the heat of summer. Stores are clearing our their winter inventories right now to make room for spring attire, so think ahead and save not only money but also your next season by being able to train outside year round regardless of what Mother Nature, Heat Henry, and Jack Frost throws at you.
Chris Hague is the assistant coach for triswimcoach.com and competitive triathlete in both the half and full Ironman distances. For more, check out http://triswimcoachonline.com/tri/about/