Monday, January 2, 2012

Want to run more this year?

So you've made your new year's resolutions and one of them is to run more (or at all!).  But as soon as you do that, the weather turns frigid. It's just not fair, right?!?  But you made the resolution, so you begrudgingly dig out what you think is "just enough" clothing to get the job done.  You know, that fine line between freezing your patootie* off until you warm up and then hopefully not so much that you boil in your own sweat.  It's a tough one.

(* Patootie is a highly technical term, sometimes referred to as your "tuckus", "tushie", or the Englishman's "bum.")

A common method that helps with this is to wear a jacket or sweatshirt that you can remove once warm and then tie around your waist.  This is often referred to as "dressing in layers."  This has its own set of problems (from fashion nightmare all the way to the potential for it falling off and tripping you and causing death-by-faceplant).  Nope, not a good idea.

One possible scenario here is that you push through it with as little as you can stand in the clothing department and avoid becoming a patootie-popsicle.  But you get warmed up, run for a little bit, and then start to get too warm.  You fight through that for a while, maybe do the dangerous sweatshirt-turned-skirt trick, and ultimately change your running route so you can quit early.  Yeah, that's right, you went to DEFCON-SCREW-IT.  So much for that resolution since it's going to be even colder tomorrow.

But there are alternatives.  I've recently started doing what I call "dressing in segments."  Now, I'm fairly lucky in that I seem to have no problem getting the lower half of my body covered in such a way that I don't need to change it during a run.  Thin Smartwool socks are the norm for me no matter the temperature (because let's face it, I don't have to exercise in sub-20F weather in NC very often, if at all).  Anything below 48F or so and I wear CW-X running tights (light insulation), but above that and it's just running shorts.

But it's the upper half of the body that's the troublesome part.  Above 48F and I generally just wear a dri-fit shirt and headband and suffer a little until warmed up.  For 35F to 48F is where the segments begin.  At this point I usually wear a Smartwool short sleeve shirt, insulated running gloves, and Smartwool arm warmers.  On the upper end, I may still wear just a dri-fit headband, but on the lower end I switch to a dry-fit type (or Smartwool) full head cap.  I've recently considered putting a headband in my pocket to switch to if the full cap gets to be too much (which means it's soaked in sweat).  On the upper end, that's all I need.  On the lower end of this range, I wear a fleece vest on top of all that. 

With that setup, I can generally be pretty comfortable at the beginning of a run.  As I get warmed up, generally I notice my hands are starting to sweat and at that point I remove the gloves and put them in my pocket.  Depending on the temperature, at some point my arms begin to get warm.  If it's far into the run, I might choose to push up the warmers a little, but generally it happens early and I remove the arm warmers while running and put those in my pocket.  I usually find a point where I also start to unzip the fleece vest, and even move to unzipping it almost all the way.

But what about below 35F?  At this point I think it's good to have a thicker cap on the head, but carry a thin one to switch to.  I would also probably just go with a long sleeve Smartwool and a thin or thicker sweatshirt depending on just how cold it is.  And the fleece vest over that.  I'll still use the gloves, but often I still need to remove those, even pretty far below 35F.  But at this point the arms are usually fine.

So none of this is rocket science, but the big revelation for some may be the arm warmer trick.  That's something that mostly only cyclists use, but I think they're great for running, too.  And notice that everything I've mentioned should be things you can easily stuff in pockets rather than having to tie things around your waist.  I'm just not a fan of that, but if it works for you, great!

Hopefully this helps you keep that resolution and stay out there running this winter!


Em said...

Interesting. Never tried arm warmers. I'll have to look into them. I'm definitely all about the cwx running tights, gloves, a hat, etc and we even run in sub 20s.

Donnie Barnes said...

One thing that occurred to me was that Smartwool is pretty expensive. I think it's worth it. That said, long sleeve Smartwool shirts are a good bit more than short sleeve, so if you already have short sleeve and just get the arm warmers, you can do that combination even on colder days as your base layer instead of investing in long sleeve shirts as well. Just another cost-savings thought.