10 Essentials for Running in the Cold
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10 Essentials for Running in the Cold

If you’re like me, then you’re not a big fan of running in cold weather.  I spent last winter (one of the coldest winters we’ve had in a while) training for the DC Marathon.  I did most of my longer runs outside, meaning hours out in the freezing 20 degree weather.  How did I do it?  I bundled up! 

Here are 10 running essentials that got me through the cold miles…

1. Headband or hat:  I must have a dozen headbands from over the years…5 or so are from high school cross country, but my favorite is my Nike headband.  The best part is that you can always take headbands off and put them around your wrist if it gets too warm.  I don't usually run with hats, but it's all about your preference.

2. Gloves:  Having a good pair of gloves doesn’t have to mean dropping big bucks on “running gloves”.  I have one thicker pair that really keeps my hands toasty even though they weren’t made for running.  I use thinner gloves for when it’s not as cold or for when I may want to take them off and carry them.  I wouldn’t have made it through the DC Marathon in March if I wasn’t wearing gloves.

(A little bulky but they serve their purpose.)

3. Reusable hand warmers:  My mom got these for me last Christmas and I’m obsessed with them!  I use them all the time…even when I’m cold in my office and want to warm up quickly.  The heat lasts about 20 minutes so they’re not ideal for an extra long run unless you carry two pairs.  I’m always trying to reduce, reuse, and recycle, which is why I really love these.  To use them, you crack open the metal piece in the middle and it releases something that solidifies the gel.  To reuse them, you simply boil them in water for 5 minutes until all the powder substance goes back into the metal piece.  Sorry, this isn’t a very scientific description, but instructions are on the packs!  Mine are from Earth Therapeutics.  I couldn’t find them on their website, but these are similar. 

4. Thick tights: I have to emphasize THICK tights, because thin tights just won’t do.  I have a pair of tights that feels like I’m not wearing anything…my body does not enjoy running when the cold air is creeping through the thin material.  My favorite workout pants and tights are all from Nike.  I have one pair from Pro Compression, but they’ve been discontinued.

(Not my normal running tights - just too lazy to change after yoga.)

5. Windbreaker jacket: I didn’t have a windbreaker when I was training last year, but we got an awesome Brooks finisher jacket from the marathon.  I’ll never run in the freezing cold without it again - it blocks the wind and keeps me warm.  Here’s a similar jacket from Brooks or you can hold out until Run Life Co. starts making jackets.  Give us another year or two...

6. Moisture-wicking socks:  As we learned from Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, dry socks can be the difference between life and death.  Okay, maybe it isn’t THAT serious when you’re out running, but dry socks are pretty high on my list of winter essentials.  Even though it’s freezing outside, your feet are still going to sweat, and once my feet are wet and cold, I won’t think twice about turning around early and heading home.  Find a whole list of them here.

(These are from Feetures, but are a little thin for running in the cold.  Try finding socks from made Merino wool.)

7. Arm sleeves: I actually don’t own arm warmers for running, but they are my next investment.  I’ve substituted with calf compression sleeves in the past (living the frugal life).  If you don’t want to wear long sleeves and it’s a little too chilly to wear shorts and a tank top, arm sleeves might be the solution.

(The calf sleeves that I've substituted as arm sleeves.)

8. Face moisturizer with sunscreen: My skin gets super dry during the winter months and the last thing I want on a long run is dry, itchy skin.  Using moisturizer with sunscreen is part of my daily routine, but sometimes I’ll put on a second layer if I’m going outside for a run.  We forget that UV rays are still out there during the winter, and they’re especially harmful to us runners who spend a lot of time outdoors.

(I use one of these daily.)

9. Chapstick: I always carry chapstick with me on long runs during the colder months (even during my races).  You should probably use chapstick with SPF in it as well, but this is my personal favorite:

10. A good playlist:  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it one more time.  A good playlist can make or break your run, so make sure you have a good one to distract you from the cold!

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What are your essentials for running in the cold?

Ever try reusable hand warmers?  What’d you think?

What’s one song that will be on your winter playlist this year?

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