Dress for Winter Running Success

Posted by Filed Under: Gear & Apparel, Outerwear

We’re pleased today to bring you an article from guest writer Joe Ely from Run With Perserverance. Thank you Joe!
I hate being uncomfortable. I am a cheapskate. I love to run year round. I live in Indiana. I am an engineer.

Put these five facts together and, over the years, I’ve developed a system that tells me exactly what to wear while running year round. It minimizes the stuff I need while keeping me neither too hot nor too cold in any condition.

Caring for the head, hands and legs is easy. Under a certain temperature, I take along gloves and, at a lower temperature, I go to a winter cap that covers my ears. Only when it gets below 38F do I pull on the tights.

The torso, on the other hand, presents a bigger challenge. Too many clothes and I sweat too much, get soaked and chill easily. Too few layers and I never warm up, obsess about how cold I am and don’t enjoy the run. Then there is the motivational factor; if I don’t know for certain that I’ll be comfortable out on the dark chilly streets, it is way too easy to burrow more deeply in my cozy bed and avoid the run altogether.

I have found combinations of a mere six upper-body clothing items sufficient to keep me comfortable the bitter 10F of winter to the searing 85F of summer. The six are:

  • Sleeveless technical shirt
  • Technical T shirt
  • Technical long-sleeve T shirt
  • Mid-weight technical long-sleeve shirt
  • Sleeveless nylon shell
  • Nylon shell

That’s it. And you can get these cheaply. I’ve found all of these at discount stores. The mid-weight shirt is usually available at a good price at hunting stores, often labeled as polypropylene. I’m especially proud of my sleeveless shell. I bought a nylon shell for $3 at a garage sale our company had to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims. After cutting off the sleeves, my wife laughed and hemmed the armholes for me and sewed on some reflective strips. It works, for a lot less than $60 at a store.

I built the attached spreadsheet whereby, for each 2F increment in temperature from 10F up, I know exactly which combination of the six items to wear and precisely how to layer them. I’ve learned to trust the system. I have a thermometer and the chart right next to my gear. I get up, look at the temperature, look at the chart, put it on and head out the door. And it works.

Now, you may find that my range of comfort is different than yours. So feel free to adjust the temperatures up and down to find out what works for you in your locale. But I do suspect that the sequence is accurate for most of us.

The reward is there, daily. During the winter, I always feel a bit chilly when I step out the door. But there is a spot on my daily run about a half mile from the start where I usually feel a wave of warmth come across my chest. I smile and know the chart worked for another day. And I enjoy the run and don’t “sweat” the weather.

I hope you find this helpful as you persevere through the long winter and keep piling on the miles.

  1. Dave on November 9th at 5:33 pm

    One alternative, of course, is to move to California, where you can run year round in shorts and a tank top! 🙂

  2. Dawn - Pink Chick on November 9th at 6:52 pm

    Heh Joe, I too cut the sleeves off of a cheap nylon jacket once upon a time. Hubby laughed at me as well but it worked and you’re right twas a lot cheaper.

  3. Ben Lawson on November 11th at 7:55 pm

    This will be my first winter of running, I’m thinking along similar lines.

    My differences: I put on tights a lot sooner, I want to keep those muscles and joints at the right “operating temperature”. Also I’ve had chafed nipples a couple of times already, so I wear a snug fitting top against the skin to keep the friction between layers and off the skin.

  4. booyaa dot org» Blog Archive » Link roll estravangza! on November 18th at 5:26 am

    […] Joe Ely (guest writer) has come up with a spreadsheet that determines the correct amount of layers to wear based on the outside temperature. […]

  5. booyaa dot org» Blog Archive » Link roll estravangza! on November 18th at 5:26 am

    […] Joe Ely (guest writer) has come up with a spreadsheet that determines the correct amount of layers to wear based on the outside temperature. […]

  6. anna@maxi dress on October 26th at 6:18 am

    Hmm,not every body is organized as you are .I always find myself in the middle of confusion about what should i wear to protect myself from cold .That is my dilemma.