Dressing For the Elements
By: Terri Rejimbal, RRCA Coach
How do you dress for a run that has you feeling chilly at the start, overheated at the end, and is sprinkled with rain showers in between?
In a lot of places all over North America, the weather can change by the hour, so it is a challenge to know the right combination of clothing to wear. Over-dressing by wearing too many layers, or too few, can make for a miserable run. When dressing and layering, keep in mind that you will heat up as the run goes on, and you don’t want the under layers to become overly damp and sweaty.
We’ve had some days when it’s rained all day, putting a damper on motivation to get out the door.
Personally, I love running in the rain. I like the clean, crisp air, and the satisfaction I get of having accomplished my run in less-than-desirable elements. All I need is a bar of soap to finish off the run!
The key to dressing in the rain is to never wear cotton. Wear water-resistant/repellant fabrics, a hat with a brim, and nylon water-repellent wind mitts to keep hands warm on chilly, rainy mornings.
Prevent chafing by applying products like Body Glide or Vaseline. You can also take Vaseline one step further and use it as a water-repellant. When you spread Vaseline on your skin, the water runs right off and holds in some of your body heat.
If you’re prone to blisters, carry an extra pair of socks to change into, this can be very helpful if the rain stops during your run. Socks wick moisture from your feet and the shoe’s upper should help with evaporating the moisture from the socks. However, when you’re running in the rain, your socks become saturated, the uppers stay wet, and that dampness creates the “perfect storm” for blisters and friction abrasions to form.
Be safe running in the rain by wearing bright and reflective clothing that makes you visible to anyone in your path. Drivers often have poor visibility in these conditions and may be less likely to expect that runners are also out on the road. Running in the rain is perfectly safe; however, running during a thunderstorm is not. No run is worth the risk of getting struck by lightning.
Once home, change out of your wet clothes quickly and into dry ones to minimize hypothermia. To help your shoes dry, remove the insoles and stuff the shoes with newspaper.
When winter sets and cold days come around that means it's “decision time” for runners! Tights or shorts? Long or short sleeve? A light jacket or no jacket? Gloves? Hat? Bandana? Wearing the right clothing is key to being comfortable, and this varies with each person depending on your internal body temperature, how fast or slow you run, how much you sweat, etc.
Even though the tendency is to step outside looking like the Michelin Man, a good rule of thumb is to dress as if it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer outside since your body will heat up quickly once you get moving.
Take these suggestions for running in different cold temperatures:
Cool (40-50 degrees): Long or short sleeve top, shorts or tights, hat/headband, and gloves are optional.
Colder (10-30 degrees): Heavy long sleeve top or maybe 2 light long sleeve tops, jacket, thick/brushed lined tights, gloves/mittens, hat, and optional neck gaiter.
Really Cold (0-10 degrees): Long sleeve top, fleece, jacket, thick tights, wind pants, gloves with mittens over them, hat, neck gaiter.
TOO COLD (below 0 degrees): 1-2 long-sleeve tops, vest, jacket, heavy warm tights, wind pants, gloves and mittens, hat neck gaiter/scarf wrapped around mouth or a balaclava. If you have the option to run inside, do so.
Depending on the day’s temperature, wind can help keep you cooler on a hot day, or have a rather chilling effect even on a “cool” day. When dressing, think of sleek wicking layers to keep you warm without overheating. Avoid anything baggy, so you don’t drag in the wind. Don’t forget your hair if you wear a ponytail. Try a braid or a tight bun to keep hair out of your face and tangle-free!
A side note … Regardless of the temperature, don’t fear the wind; embrace it. Because of the additional effort it takes running against the wind, think of it as resistance training and the more you do it, the stronger a runner you’ll be.
Running in windy conditions also gives you a mental edge. There will be races where it will be windy, and you will have a mental advantage and strategy to deal with it.
About the Author
Terri Rejimbal is a competitive Masters athlete, a 3-time winner and 8-time Masters champion of the Gasparilla Distance Classic half-marathon; 6-time Disney Masters marathon winner, 6-time Florida USATF Athlete of the Year, and a New Balance product tester. Terri is a RRCA certified running coach and is available for consulting or coaching services. Contact Terri at , on Facebook/terri.rejimbal, Twitter @trejimbal, or Instagram@bayshorerunner.