Saturday, January 26, 2013

Baby it's cold outside

It's January. In Chicago. 
Which only means one thing...IT'S COLD OUT!

I'm not a treadmill runner, never have been and more than likely never will be. These days I don't even have access that dreaded rubber-belted machine that I've learned to loathe so much, and I couldn't be happier about that.

In my non-professionally-scientific opinion, there is no need for me to EVER be on a treadmill. I run races, 100% of which are never indoors on a treadmill in a controlled climate. So that means everyday, rain or shine, I'm outdoors to get my mileage in. No excuses.

This time of year is my favorite time to head out the door. The chill in the air makes my legs feel spunky, and more often than not there are no other runners out to share the roads with. It's just me, the coyotes and deer, and the crazy suburban drivers...I love it.

Lately, I've seen a lot of blog postings and Facebook S.O.S. status updates about winter running attire that have made me realize I'm in the minority for my winter running love. Yes, it's cold and can be difficult to keep warm. But if there is anything I've learned in the nearly 17 years that I've been running it's that in order to survive outdoors in the balmy Midwest winters one NEEDS to invest is quality gear.

Believe it or not, you don't need 2 bottoms or 6 tops to keep warm unless you're buying your gear from Target.

I get the Target athletic gear appeal. It's cheap. But honestly is it? When you have to buy 4 $25-30 tops to keep warm instead of investing $80 in 1 quality top are you really saving money? I don't think so because these kind of items don't usually last for more than one season.

When you're buying quality technical gear, you can get away with 3 top layers and 1 bottom layer on days when the windchill is in the negatives. Promise. There should never be a need for 2 bottoms...is that even comfortable, I've never tried it???

NEEDED:

1 quality base layer

Pictured here is the Mizuno crew

That goes for top AND bottom. The base layer should be tight where it is as close to the skin as comfortably possible. Some of my favorite base layers this winter are:
The key to keeping warm on any cold run is for those base layers to be your best pieces. They are well worth the investment. Mizuno's Breath Thermo technology actually generates a heat with the sweat it is pulling away from your skin. It's not anything drastic, but gives that toasty feeling against your skin. They make tops and bottoms with this technology. If you aren't familiar with Craft, I can tell you that although these pieces are a bit more of an investment they are worth every penny. That Zip Mockneck is body mapped and doesn't hold any moisture and the PR Thermal Tights actually have a butt warmer. I could head out the door in 20 degree weather with that Mockneck on as my only top layer and be comfortable.

1 quality mid-layer


This is the Mizuno Breath Thermo 1/2 Zip. This layer has the same functionality as the base layer where it generates that warming sensation, but also has that little collar which can make all the difference for the neck. This layer should be something that mimics a pull-over where it is a bit more heavy duty than that base layer on days that the mercury generally dips below the 30 degree mark. This layer isn't always needed when you've invested in that quality base layer.

The quality outer layers


Depending on the conditions, you may or may not need a lined wind breaking coat. I generally don't wear lined coats because they get really warm. A quality jacket that is vented will create a greenhouse effect on the interior of the coat which will keep you warm without holding any moisture in. My favorite outer layers currently:
The gloves are really where you shouldn't skimp any money. Cold fingers can make any runner crabby and turn what could be a great run south really fast. Brooks makes these awesome 2-in-1 mittens that have a fleece mitten which get covered by a full wind breaking mitten. And contrary to popular belief, Smartwool socks ARE NOT itchy. 

And that's my 2 cents on cold winter attire. 

Everyone is different, but I can assure you that investing in those quality layers will make all the difference in your run and will be well worth every penny as long as you wash them with care according to the labeling...it'll also cut down on the amount of laundry you have to wash. Save those Target bargains for the summer.

Any other favorite winter running gear from this season that I haven't listed here?

26 comments:

  1. This is a huge help! This is my first Chicago winter as a runner and I'm scared. The treadmill isn't doing it for me - so this great advice.

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  2. Great advice. I'm from Chicago and I also refuse to run on a treadmill. I have the brooks gloves and I love them. I bought the lululemon jacket and this is a really great piece. It has vents on the sides which are great. Thanks for the advice.

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  3. A treadmill for when its in the negatives. LoL :)
    You are right though, invest in a couple quality pieces for those really cold days and you are set! I buy Target stuff for my basics like sports bras and capri pants but that's it!
    ~Ang

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  4. Hehe, I wrote a post with the same title a couple of weeks ago :D I do agree that quality clothes are worthwhile if you want to enjoy the sport. It doesn't get *that* cold here very often, but it's good to know about those Mizuno base layers...and a built-in butt warmer?? That sounds like the best invention ever!

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  5. I also LOVE winter running. I prefer 20F to hot summer temps any day! I've also found it perplexing that people seem to think it's not possible to stay warm enough during the winter. I am completely sold on wool baselayers - the new wool technology is SO warm and soft; they can be expensive but it is seriously worth it. I love Smartwool's microweight for the first layer (also love Icebreaker's lightweight) and for a midlayer Smartwool's Next to Skin midweight is GREAT. They also have great ultra light wool running socks that are if anything thinner than my normal socks so I can still fit into my normal shoes but have the warmth from the wool - I swear by them! http://www.amazon.com/Smartwool-Womens-Outdoor-Ultra-ReliaWool/dp/B0027DR060/ref=pd_sbs_sg_4

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  6. Agreed! I love to run outside, this week I ran inside three times but we do our speed work on an indoor track and I promised a friend I would run on the treadmills with her, but other than that we are outside! We ran today and even in 11 degrees I was hot!

    You just need the right clothes, shoes, traction equipment and a good attitude to run outside!

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  7. Hey! Don't knock the Target clothes completely. I still wear a Target base layer shirt and I got through -10 degree runs two years ago with it and a general wind breaker! ...and I'd still sweat through the jacket.

    But the true running companies do make better materials and items. I still never do three layers though unless I'm out for a recovery run in VERY cold conditions.

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  8. I've had to toss other shirts but have had my Nike combat cold weather top for 3 winters now! Love it that I bought two more this winter which should set me!

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  9. I have a pair of cold gear fleece lined Underarmour tights but my butt still gets cold. I'm going to have to check out these "warming" items...

    I actually wore two bottoms today. A pair if capris and a pair of tights. Didn't even notice I had two pairs on!

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  10. I use a robbers mask;)..aka 'balaclava'. It has been so dang cold in Utah that it really helps. Hand warmers too... those have been my favorites lately for negative temps.

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  11. I love my smart wool socks, but with a munchkin I never get outside to run, so all of mine on the the tready.

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  12. I LOVE running in the cold.

    It doesn't get nearly as cold here in RIchmond VA as it does out in Chicago...I always wear one pair of tights and then a tank top covered by a quarter zip. Plus EAR WARMERS and GLOVES (those are the key to staying warm.) I can't stand tons of long layers, makes me feel claustrophobic.

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  13. Thank you for this! Last winter was my first one running outside the whole time (previous winters I either ran on the treadmill or gave up altogether and stopped running). Anyway, last winter was mild and I was able to survive with Target gear, but this winter not so much. And now I realize I should invest in some good winter pieces.

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  14. Today I was went running in Chicago (felt like 6) with my cousin who runs about 2 minutes/mile slower than me. I love running in the winter, but would rather be overdressed than underdressed. I wore an underamror, fleece vest, and running jacket. On my legs I wore a pair of regular ole dress tights and my running tights on top. I felt great the whole run except the last half mile in the shade, I was cold. I also had on gloves and a hat. It was a great 6 mile run!! Cheers to running in the cold Chicago winter!!!

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  15. Britt! I feel like you wrote this post just for me. Thanks for the helpful tips and information. Looks like I'll be heading to my local running store again soon. I definitely need the Brooks mittens.... my dollar bin Target cheapies are NOT doing the job ;)

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  16. I love running in the cold too, I would take it over summer running anyday. I do like two layers on the bottoms when it starts getting below 10 degrees, especially if the sun isn't shining and it is windy. I will have to check out those bottoms, they sound really great.

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  17. I have been dreading running this winter and I know I just need to bite the bullet and buy some base layers and quality running tights. Thanks for the recommendations!

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  18. While I hate running in the cold like we've had this past week, I am totally on board with you. We've had crappy weather every day this week and I have NOT stepped foot on the treadmill. I too think it can be avoided and dressing isn't all that hard for the conditions. That said, I need one more pair of good warm tights--I really only have one heavy duty pair and I'm tired of doing laundry!

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  19. I have come to love running in the cold. I run my best when it's cold even though it's pretty brutal for the first 2-3 minutes, once your body is heated up, it's smooth sailing! I actually hate, I mean dread, the treadmill. I only use it for dire situations like speed work or crazy rainy weather.
    I very much prefer running outside too!

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  20. I am with you on running outdoors year round. I cannot take the treadmill and was outside running on the coldest days this week. All those posts on Facebook inspired me to make a little diagram for what I wear (posted on Facebook) - quality base, jacket, tights, but yes - sometimes a layer over - my quads get cold. That is the only difference between us. I just wear fitted capris over the tights ;)

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  21. I do not mind winter running in terms of the weather - I dislike the fact that unless I go on the road, there isn't anywhere to run. When it is snowing, going on the road is a no-go.

    I wear mostly MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop a store in Canada) gear!

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  22. I'm so happy to see that someone else understands that there are certain investment pieces that are always worth splurging on. I absolutely couldn't agree more with you! While it's easier on the mind to buy a sweater that costs $25 as compared to $85, the reality is that quality matters and often makes a big difference.

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  23. LOVE your outfit and the matching mittens/socks :) Couldnt agree more with buying quality layers to avoid looking and feeling like Staypuft marshmallow man (or the michellin man) hehe There is absolutely a difference in the quality layers vs the cheap ones- which I never realized until moving here :) Alas, when its less than 30 outside, I'd still rather wear shorts and a tank on the tread...

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  24. That is one of those outfits that are much warmer than they appear. Once on you feel better than those who are bundled up. :)

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  25. Great info. I hadn't heard of the craft brand, and it seems better priced than some of the other brands. I have some nice Nike layering tops (expensive, but they were gifts), a nice Athleta top (also a gift). I love my cw-x tights for winter running, but holy cow they are expensive! What I need is a windbreaker of some kind...that craft jacket could be it.

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