running in the winter: actually good

This morning, I logged my second run in the snow of the week (thanks, moving to Boston - this was maybe an annual experience in DC). I recommend running in the snow for the looks you get from pedestrians and people in their cars alone. The best way I can describe it is a cross between "that girl is crazy" and "I hate you as a person for running right now."

I actually really, really love running in the snow. As long as the sidewalks aren't too slippery (which usually isn't an issue if they're treated with salt), it's a really peaceful experience. It's also the prettiest a city will ever look in the snow- right at the beginning, before it turns into brown slush and/or snow banks that you have to climb over just to get out of your front door.

A few people have reached out recently after seeing my posts on Instagram about snow running because of one other consideration: staying warm. I'm not shy about professing my deep preference for running in the winter over the summer. I would always rather run in 17 degrees than 70. And running in the winter is really doable, as long as you layer properly. The upside is that getting into your running clothing often serves as a great warm-up stretch. The downside is that the amount of laundry you have to do after a run increases significantly. 

My friend Sarah recommended I publish the list that I sent her on winter running gear. (So you can blame her for this post). I've tried to round up below my favorite gear, as well as the temperatures they coordinate with. 

Starting from the bottom up...

  • Thermal Base Layers

When it hits 20 degrees and below, I always start with a base layer of thermal gear. This doesn't have to be (and for me, isn't) expensive running clothes. In fact, I get my thermal layers at Uniqlo, from their Heattech line. It's really inexpensive and really works. I'm virtually never cold when I start with these layers.

  • Winter-specific running gear

As soon as it hits 30 degrees or below, I reach for winter-specific running gear, rather than just regular leggings and tops. The best I've found, by far, is anything from Under Armour's HeatGear. I own a lot of their gear - from the leggings to the half-zip tops to a sweatshirt that is almost too warm. I overheated in it once and had to tie it around my waist for the second half of a 12 mile out-and-back (not recommended). When it's in the 30s-20s, I'm usually good with one or two tops (the second of which would be the above mentioned thermal layer) and just one bottom. Once it dips below 20, I layer thermal gear underneath my UA tights.

  • Third top layer

This is the Holy Grail of running in freezing temps. Any time it goes below freezing, I add on a third layer. Here, you can go with a warm running jacket or a warm running vest. I tend to overheat when running (especially when running distance), so I go vest over jacket. I have one from UA that I love, but my favorite is a Sprint Insulated Vest I got from Moving Comfort (sold out at the link I found, but probably available somewhere online). It is so thin you'll swear it won't get the job done and then you will never be warmer in your life. I once ran 17 miles in 5 degrees with that vest and never once felt cold. (My water froze, though.)

  • Misc.

There are a few misc. items to remember when you're running in the cold. The first are hat and gloves - always really important once it gets below freezing. Sometimes I tuck hand warmers into my gloves, too. I tend to buy running gloves with the tech fingertips (easier to work my phone) and I usually go with a headband over a hat. UA makes HeatGear headbands that keep your ears really warm.

Wool running socks exist and they are a godsend. I've yet to struggle with keeping my feet and toes warm when wearing those.

Lastly, I've never needed one because I don't tend to get this cold, but I know runners that swear by neckwarmers in the really cold, biting temperatures. 

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Happy winter running!