Dress for (Running) Success
Wherever you live, the weather can affect your running. Indoors or out, how you dress can set you up for great performance or can cramp your style. Choosing the best apparel for conditions is critical to staying cool and comfortable in the heat or warm and protected in the cold.
Athletes create a micro climate around body when active. Fine-tuning that micro climate to meet your specific needs is the secret to successful performance. Great apparel choices make sure you get that atmosphere dialed in perfectly regardless of conditions.
A multi-layer approach is key to the comfort that will lead to best performance. This layering approach starts with the layer next to skin, the base layer, which should be chosen to move moisture off of the body…for cooling in the heat, but also for retaining heat in the cold.
While the base layer is the first step, an insulating layer may also be necessary in cool conditions.
When contending with rain, snow, or strong winds, you may need to add a protective layer, like a vest or jacket, to the mix in order to properly regulate your body temperature. These guidelines apply to accessories such as gloves or hats, as well as to shirts, pants, jackets, and the like.
Why synthetic fabrics? Though there are some exceptions, like wool, most natural fabrics absorb moisture and hold it close to the skin, which can trap heat next to the body in hot conditions, or cause it to lose heat in cold conditions. Also, natural fabrics have a tendency to bulk and gather with active movement, creating a potential for friction and blisters. High quality synthetic fabrics do a better job of moving the moisture away from the skin and creating the best conditions for evaporation. Synthetics tend to be much lighter than natural fabrics and have flat seams that do not create hot spots or friction points.
Why move moisture? Keeping the skin dry is critical to regulating body heat for optimal performance. Technical synthetic fabrics move the moisture quickly & use capillary action to spread the moisture across the fabric, which promotes evaporation. They also minimize saturation, where moisture can be driven back into contact with the body. Lower quality synthetics can start out feeling comfortable, but don’t keep pace with high-movement activities or extreme conditions.
Why Insulate? An insulating layer will protect you from cold conditions. It has loft built into the fabric that will trap some of the body heat you generate, allowing you to enjoy longer periods of exposure to cold conditions. It is typical to layer more heavily on the body areas where muscles are not highly activated. So you might layer more heavily over your torso for warmth than you do on your legs when running. Lighter layers on your legs promote maximum mobility.
Why Protect? Sometimes it is also necessary to protect yourself from the elements. A breathable protective layer, which may be windproof, water resistant or water proof, will complete your layers. Sometimes a windproof layer may be enough. As fabrics increase in level of water resistance, they typically will trap more heat. And you will get additional protection from moisture in the environment, like rain or snow.
In hot or warm weather, focus on staying cool and relatively dry. Your body temperature increases when highly active and your ability to dissipate heat through sweating is critical for a comfortable and efficient run. High humidity will inhibit evaporation. Lighter, more breathable fabrics are key. Don’t overdress.
Winter running is about warmth which starts with staying dry. Moisture will cool the skin, so keep it moving away from the body by using a technical base layer and a protective layer that will allow the moisture to breathe. You should dress for comfort levels after completing your warm up. If you dress to be comfortable in the first 10 minutes of your run, you will be overheating on the rest of the run. If you don’t like being cool at the start of your run, you can zip up your jacket and do light warm up activities before you head out. This will start to generate and trap some body heat so you feel comfortable at the start. Layering is the best way to adjust for the outside conditions with the most flexibilty.
What should I wear? Follow the chart below to wear the appropriate clothing for each season!
It’s cold out there! Wear subzero tights and lots of warm upper layers. Thick gloves — perhaps even two: one thin, one thicker — and a hat/ear warmer. Look into a face mask it necessary — check the wind chill temperature to avoid frostbite!
Cold, but manageable 10-32°F:
Subzero tights, warm upper layers, gloves (thicker is preferable) and a hat/ear warmer. Wind chill is still a factor at these temps!
Cold, but not too bad 32-45°F:
Midzero temperature tights, thin gloves and a hat/ear warmer. Layer with a nice warmer top. The thermometer might say “above freezing” but dress with the wind chill temperature in mind.
SPRING & FALL
Layer, layer, layer!
Fall and Spring are unpredictable with varying temperatures depending on the sun and wind.
Wear a thin shirt with a thin or thick jacket and shorts, light capri tights or tights depending on the weather and your personal comfort.
Just be prepared for being a little too warm or a little too cold once you get going!
Enjoy the sunshine! But try to avoid running during the middle of the day — don’t risk dehydration and heat stroke.
Wear light-weight non-cotton material and don’t forget those tech socks that don’t get wet when you sweat.
Add sunglasses, a hat or visor and sunscreen for protection against the sun.