How To Choose Winter Kit

The secrets of staying warm and dry on the run


Posted: 2 November 2009

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Keeping warm and running strong through the winter is a case of doing – and wearing – the right thing at the right time. And it's not just the cold you'll need to contend with – winter running also means facing wind, rain and darker evenings. These head-to-toe tips will help you head out prepared and look after yourself when the temperature drops.

Weather Watch

The weather outside might be frightful, but remember - once you start running your core temperature will rise, and stay high. A good rule of thumb to avoid overheating is to kit yourself out as if it were 10ºC warmer.

Wind  affects your body's ability to control its temperature by sweating, so wrap up warm on windy days. A buff will shield your face and keep you breathing easy, while a generous slathering of lip salve or Vaseline will stop lips getting chapped or sore.

Running in the rain can feel colder than running in crisp winter weather - water conducts heat more quickly than air, so the heat you generate quickly disappears. A light, breathable rain jacket will keep you dry (while still wicking sweat away); wearing a peaked baseball cap will also help keep rain off your face.

Layer, Layer, Layer

Clever layering will banish sweat and hold in heat, keeping you warm and dry all winter .

Base layer This layer should wick moisture off your skin to stop you getting chilly. The best base layers are lightweight and fit snugly against your skin. Plump for synthetic wicking materials rather than absorbent fabrics like cotton.

Middle layer The middle layer insulates the body even more by creating additional air-space, so you'll only need one if it's very cold. Although this second layer might be a bit heavier than the first, it should still be a loose-fitting technical top that'll wick moisture away.

Outer layer This protective shell will protect you from the cold, wind, rain or snow while still allowing sweat to evaporate. It's best to pick a jacket that sits loosely over the other layer(s) to keep your outfit's wicking and insulating efficient. It'll need efficient ventilation - a long front zipper, for example, will allow you to control your temperature. Gilets with zip-off sleeves are another flexible winter stalwart.

Three layers should be ample for even the coldest British winter – more than that, and it'll be too bulky and uncomfortable.

Your legs don't lose as much heat as your upper body, so thinner nylon tights and capris are fine for cool autumn days. But when winter starts to bite it's time to wrap up warm - full-length tights with a brushed lining are a sensible choice.

Before A Race

Race starts can involve lots of waiting around - stripping down to your club vest and shorts prematurely can be a recipe for disaster.

Instead, think about donning a binbag or a cheap tracksuit to keep you warm until the gun goes. That way, you can drop off your kit bag in good time before the start and you won't mind dumping the extra layers once you've set off.

Head To Toe

Your body will always prioritise keeping your brain warm, so if you get cold, heat will be drawn from other parts of your body (such as your hands and feet). To reduce the amount of body heat that escapes through your head, try wearing a hat or headband (or both). You can always slip them off if you heat up later in your run.

If your hands are still cold, mittens are perfect - the air pocket around your fingers and the shared warmth of your fingers will keep you warmer than gloves. However, light, breathable gloves are great for mild days. Either way, look for a pair made from wickable fabric.

Technical running socks will wick moisture away from your feet to stop them getting damp and chilly. Look for socks with a high wool content - air pockets within the wool will trap air and keep your feet toasty warm. It's not necessary to layer socks; one pair is plenty.

Bright Lights

As the nights draw in, it's worth investing in some effective reflective kit. Although fluorescent colours are perfect for getting noticed during the day, at night, white kit shows up just as well in motorists' headlights.

Most high-tech winter kit includes reflective panels but you could also customise existing kit with adhesive high-vis strips. Stick them onto the busiest parts of your body (such as your lower legs and arms) to get noticed.

Hometime

As soon as you stop running, your core body temperature will plummet. You won't be producing as much heat, and the heat you do generate will be lost to the cold air.

Wearing wet kit is no fun – and it could even lead to hypothermia - so change into warm, cosy clothes as soon as you can after a run, and put a towel or hat over wet hair. Having a hot drink or soup will also help boost your core temperature.


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Super helpful and good information there, I love the magazine and the online articles do not disappoint, thanks!
Posted: 27/11/2011 at 22:53

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