PSA: How To Run Outside In The Winter

>> Saturday, January 19, 2008

Updated 1/21/08 at the bottom

I’ve decided to do a winter series of Public Service Announcements, so I thought there was no better place to start than to give advice on how to run outside in the frigid Minnesota winter. It’s not that I know it all; in fact, I’ve made some horrible mistakes. Because of my mistakes, I have wisdom to share. Hopefully, I can get you out there to enjoy this great winter!

You can’t be afraid of nasty temperatures. They’re just numbers that tell you how many layers to put on. Here’s what I’ve learned you need to do:

Lesson 1: Homework

How cold is it? How strong is the wind? Is it slick? You need to step outside or turn on the local news to figure out where to start. When I was getting ready for a 7.5 miler on yesterday, the T.V. was telling me this:

Yep. Three below. With twenty-four below wind chill. That qualifies as "titties cold." But it's still do-able.

Lesson 2: Layers

Once you’ve assessed the day, start getting dressed. You don’t need weight, you just need layers. With winter running, zippers are your friend. Zippers can be zipped up tight when you start out and are a little chilly, and zippers can be unzipped once you get going and get a little warm. And yes, it’s possible to get PLENTY warm in 24 below wind chill.

I’ve also become a “mittens” person since I’ve started winter running. Mittens are a great place to hold your keys, a few bucks, and some Gu. Here are all my layers laid out:

Sub Lesson 2A: Layers in “Special Places”

Ladies, watch those nipples if you’ve been “blessed.” Fellas, you GOTTA pack some extra layers over your junk. In case you’ve forgotten, it was just over 1 month ago that I nearly froze mine off.

I normally have 2 or 3 layers on top and pants on the bottom with 2 or 3 extra layers over my man parts. Notice in the photo above that I still wore boxers over my Under Armour for extra protection.

Here I am, ready to head out:

I was plenty warm after 5 miles, and the zipper on the hoodie was unzipped a ways, and the ski mask was off.

Lesson 3: No Glasses

On longer, colder runs, I have to wear my contacts. My glasses will fog up like nobodies business. So if it’s colder than 10 degrees, or I’m running more than 4 or 5 miles, I put in my contacts.

Lesson 4: Get a Grip

If you’re going to be running on a day that there could be packed snow or ice, consider investing in a pair of slip-on spikes of some sort. I have a pair that looks like this:

These are pretty intense, and have 6 replaceable spikes on each foot. They hold up pretty well, but slide a little to the outside of my foot over the course of a run. Many runners love “YakTrax,” but I’ve never tried them myself. It’s essentially springs wrapped around some rubber tubes to give you some grip:

Lesson 5: The Prize

If you need some motivation, plan accordingly. To get through a chilly run, I remember what’s waiting for me at home. No, not naked Pharmie. I’m talking about food:

Recoverite, pizza, and York Peppermint Patties. Yum.
Nevermind the fruit in the background; I don’t eat that crap.

Lesson 6: Warming Up

When you’re done and get home, you’ve GOTTA get out of your clothes pretty quickly. The clothes that you’ve just run in will be sweaty and will cool you down in no time. Here’s my hat, eye-brows, nostrils, and girlishly-long eyelashes covered with sweaty ice crystals:

You need to take off your clothes to get warm. And this isn’t my ploy to get you naked. It’s just the truth.

Did I miss anything? Comment if you have some useful suggestions that I missed here. Let’s share them with others that could be running but are a bit timid!

Oh, there is a completely different way of dealing with running in the winter. This way is easier, but less affordable: move to Panama.

Coming Soon: a PSA on how to remove unwanted body hair. It will contain product reviews and helpful tips. I bet you can’t wait.

- Ironmin noted that she wears a turtle fur and rotates it around to a dry spot as it gets too wet from breathing through it.
- Jameson commented on something that I didn't mention specifically: no cotton next to the skin. It will get wet with sweat, and then it will get cold!
- Dana also commented on something that I forgot to mention: CHAPSTICK!!
- Lastly, the idea of wearing mittens to store things in was Pharmies. She's been doing that for years!


Jennifer P 9:04 AM, January 19, 2008  

That's a wild wind chill, even by my standards. I swear by yaktrax. I tried the spikes and they're just no good. I have a pair of sugoi mitts that are only lined on top which is awesome because my hands sweat like crazy.

Bill 9:33 AM, January 19, 2008  

Now there's an excellent PSA!

Can't say anything about the Yaktrax. Doesn't get icy enough around here for them.

But excellent points all around. Especially the stripping down immediately afterwards. Isn't it amazing how fast you can go from very hot to freezing in your own living room?

For gloves, I buy the cheap Walmart $1.99 for two (ladies section). My hands heat up and sweat so fast that I'm always peeling them off at mile 2, no matter what the temp. So my hands end up being my first temperature regulator.

But I haven't tried that at a -24 wind chill.

Keep the boys covered!

Doug 9:38 AM, January 19, 2008  

Nice run down, Steve!

The most important goal in winter running is to keep your testicles from turning into test-cicles!

brendaj 9:58 AM, January 19, 2008  

The last time I ran in freezing weather outside - high school on the east coast - we just piled on huge sweats. Completely non-technical clothing and it weighed a million pounds. I guess that's what not to do.

IronMin 10:35 AM, January 19, 2008  

Great PSA! My favorite was seeing all of your layers spread out on the rug. With 2 cats and 2 dogs, I can't get away with that. The cats steal clothes and the dogs lay on them, so I'd be furry before the run. My own tip: In the super cold weather, I like to wear a turtle fur around my neck and up over my nose rather than a balaclava, because as I breathe in the cold and out the warm, it gets wet and crystallized. I then just rotate it so I have a new dry spot to breathe through. Prevents a chapped nose for me! Man, you are tough for running in that wind chill!

Anonymous,  12:48 PM, January 19, 2008  

Great info...thanks!

I also enjoy the zip pockets on my jacket to stash my gloves or hat in later when I warm up.

One good thing about winter running is on a long run if you wear a fuel belt, no need to chill or put ice in your drink. Last weekend I went out early to get my LR over with, and after an hour my gatorade was slushy with ice chips...yum! (It would probably totally freeze up there!)

Marcy 1:15 PM, January 19, 2008  

I can't wait for the next PSA :P

Tri-Dummy 1:35 PM, January 19, 2008  

Very good PSA. Holding stuff in the mittens is brilliant.

The only "issue" I have with this PSA for me personally...too many bottom layers. You got the tight undies, the loose undies, tights, AND sweatpants.

I get done with a run with ALL that gear and my butt crack feels like a chocolate pudding snack pack. Yuck.

21stCenturyMom 1:41 PM, January 19, 2008  

Oh you crazy mid-Westerners.

This post was so timely for me - so very timely. You have made it offical - I'm a wimp!

jessie 2:22 PM, January 19, 2008  

Have your eyes ever froze open? I had that happen momentarily and it was scary...

Otherwise, I layer very similarly to you.

And the getting naked part after the run is an absolute necessary, cold wet clothes are probably more dangerous than running in this crap.

Jameson 4:34 PM, January 19, 2008  

1) Looking forward to the hair removal PSA. I'll be going sleek and smooth this season.

2) I'm ALL about multiple thin layers rather than a few thick layers.

Also, I refuse to wear cotton boxers/gloves/shirts (anything directly on my body when I run in the cold. It gets too heavy and looses its ability to keep me warm once I cover it in sweat.

kt 5:13 PM, January 19, 2008  

Nice, this is exactly how we do it here in Nebraska. I actually don't wear anything over my face which doesn't seem to be a problem for me except that when I get home I can't smile or say the letter "b". Try it next time you get home, not easy!

Dana 7:17 PM, January 19, 2008  

Well I'm definitely one of those "blessed" females. Thanks for the "tip"..;-) I do have a tip to add,"layer" your lips w/ the lip balm of your choice. Trust me the lips WILL get chapped something fierce this time of year. Nothing hurts worse than peeling lips. If you're running during the day,use one w/ SPF15.

Rainmaker 8:47 PM, January 19, 2008  

Wow...that's impressive. I like running in the cold. But I haven't had the opportunity to do it when it's a negative number. Hard core. Doesn't get cold enough here. :(

Nice PSA!

Sensationally Red 8:44 AM, January 20, 2008  

You Minnesotans are the winter running gods of the universe. It's cold here too in Ohio, but I turn into a big baby when it gets to single digits. I agree with the mittens...mine have a convenient flip top for instant dexterity! I have the same exact pair of rubbers!

SWTrigal 10:09 AM, January 20, 2008  

I'm right there with you buddy! I finally realized the eyewear is futile too. Your eyelashes look frozen like mine got too-ha!

Allison 3:18 PM, January 20, 2008  

You're a brave man. I've been kickin' it on the treadmill. Bleh.

Tea 3:28 PM, January 20, 2008  

I swear by snowshoes. (If you have alot of snow most of the winter like we do). I also coat my face with aquaphor (eyes, nose, mouth). I know, sounds gross, but what's a little vaseline-type protection among friends? (don't answer that.) When the winds get really bad, it prevents windburn.

Jumper 2.0 4:19 PM, January 20, 2008  

Or you can do what I did.

Flight to Phoenix.

I have been enjoying the Scottsdale weather for quite a few days now (absent a trip to Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam) and gotta say if it wasn't for so many awesome Minnesotans, I'd be moving here.

57 beats -7 anytime.

CoachLiz 3:07 PM, January 21, 2008  

Oh Yeah!!!

York Peppermint Patties are the ULTIMATE recovery food.

Feel the Chill!!! Ha!

m 11:22 AM, January 22, 2008  

See you lost me at the tv screen. It's telling me that I forgot to buy life insurance for my third child. Then I get to the weather bar and worry about about my heating bill. Running hasn't crossed my mind yet.

Then I read your post and realize I haven't had a peppermint patty in awhile. Nor an outside run for that matter. I guess I could run to the store and get a peppermint patty. I could, but will i?

Erin 3:38 PM, January 22, 2008  

Vaseline also works well on hands and face (and dogs' paws if you have one of those) to cut the wind/cold.

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