Let’s Talk About Runderwear … for Men!

OK, let's all pretend that this is my body, mkay?

Let’s all pretend that this is my body, mmmkay?

It has been nearly a year since I wrote about whether or not men should cover up their running tights, getting into numerous aspects of consideration. And suddenly … here we are back in the early days of winter, with a couple dozen sub-freezing mornings and even a couple of sub-zero wind-chills already behind us. And my post from last year is getting more attention, but this year … I am prepared!

There are plenty of posts around about runderwear for women, but not really so much for men. There are plenty of resources about running shorts, but not so much about what to wear under your shorts or tights.

Fortunately there are some companies – Under Armor, Roadrunner Sports, Brooks and Runderwear among others who make boxers (and briefs) specifically for male runners … and a couple of them are specifically wind blocking!

Assumption #0 – you have decided you want to wear something under your shorts/tights for reasons of comfort, coverage or wind protection. If not, um – you’re fine as you are!

Here are things I considered buying some runderwear for myself:

1. Comfort – this was a key reason for me to look for something new: using compression shorts last year ‘worked’ but was far from optimal, as they were really meant as external shorts.

2. Fit – You are wearing something underneath *tights* … does this really require further explanation? Seriously – ill-fitting runderwear is like the worst chafing of your life just waiting to happen. Fortunately most of these things are very fitted and compressive and snug. But part of this is getting the right size – too small and they are uncomfortable … too large and you are back to chafing.

3. Tech fabric – Also because you are wearing a double layer of clothing next to your skin, it ends up being critical to get that sweat layer away as quickly as possible. Because the moisture will gather up and cause rashes and chafing – so you need a tech fabric that will deal with the moisture.

4. Breathability – This is a bit weird, but basically you want to remain warm but not overheat; to block the wind while allowing some natural radiative cooling. My heavier tights are the Under Armor Extreme Coldgear Infrared, which reflect heat back inward from the surface. So I want my base layer to provide just that – an added layer. And based on what I have read about the heavier runderwear, they are also quite breathable.

5. Wind Blocking – I didn’t end up going with the heavy duty wind blocking shorts as they seemed much thicker and I was looking for a very thin set of runderwear. But I loved reading about some of the heavier versions and might check them out. Pretty much anything with a ‘double-fabric front’ is going to provide a decent amount of wind blockage, which for me proved perfect even on sub-zero wind chill mornings. For colder weather, heavier winds, there are stronger specific wind-blocking models.

5. Price – I saw some sets of shorts up to $60 each. Um, no. Most of what I looked at was about $20 per pair, and I was able to get a 2-pack of Brooks runderwear on sale for $25 (can’t find an online link) , and after a bunch of wearing they have proven their worth!

So there you have it – we are entering the running tights season, but there is no reason to suffer wind chill below the belt, nor any reason to wear bulky shorts over your tights! Runderwear is affordable and will keep you protected, provide added warmth without chafing, and is easy to wash and quick to dry. Check it out!

So guys – how about it … runderwear?

Motivation Monday – Just Do It


I got a number of great comments on my Sunday post, and loads of kudos on various social media sites about getting out there and running this week. To be honest, I didn’t think I had a very good week – but a good friend at work put it to me simply: you get out there, you are out running in weather that makes people skip trips to the gym … that is an accomplishment.

And I got what they were saying – even though at times all I can think is how much it sucks running in sub-zero temperatures. And to be sure – I long for those mornings when it is just a joy to quickly toss on shorts and a tech shirt and breeze out the door. And this record cold winter has made sure I will appreciate every minute of those runs. But for now – it is all about getting in the runs. So here are a few quick tips that work for me:

1. No Bad Weather, Only Bad Clothes

Yes, I scoffed at this in the Runner’s World article I cited on Saturday, but the reality is that with the right clothes and shoes you can go out in pretty much any weather.

But Sub-Zero running is nothing to joke about. OK – let’s be very, very, very clear … winter running can be DANGEROUS. Cold weather can get you into trouble FAST. So PLEASE make safety your first priority.

Along those lines, things I have said before: plan your route for an easy exit home, monitor yourself constantly to be sure you are OK, hydrate and ensure you have proper coverage.

Once you have that done, work on a layering strategy based on falling temperatures – sub-zero temperatures are NOT something to jump into without knowing how your clothes will perform (OK, so I did that, but I could have been home easily after 1.25 miles if there was a problem). Wicking is key, as are clothes that keep the heat in. I have become a huge fan of Nike Pro Combat and especially Under Armour Extreme Coldgear.

2. If You Have Time to Read This …

One of the biggest complaints/excuses about exercise – I don’t have the time.

One lesson I have worked with my kids on, is that when you take an hour to do a job that should take 15 minutes (between tweets/texts, dawdling, chatting, whatever), you have just used 45 minutes of free time. Obviously this came in response to them talking about not having any free time – and it is a message I am constantly driving home – but the same is true for almost anything.

Think about your routine every day – could you find 30 minutes? I bet you could. And I am not even talking about going outside for a run! On icy days I do something from the BMAX bodyweight exercises. Megan talks about simple ways to integrate exercise in daily routines – stuff like exercise during commercials is a great idea to sneak it in.

Bottom line – make a list of the things that suck time out of your day and leave you ‘no time to exercise’ … and kill some of them!

3. Forget the Plan

For many people, the start of a new year is either ‘Resolution’ time or they start training for a marathon or other event. In my opinion that is about the worst possible idea! I mean, after Christmas we are still in that ‘new winter’ glow where white is beautiful, the chill is acceptable, and we have renewed energy. By February … we are just done.

So if you are thinking “my resolution was to run 5 days a week … I am lucky to do 3” or “I haven’t hit my training plan mileage in 5 weeks” – STOP. Because those thoughts are the path to giving up. Think instead – in THIS weather I AM getting out 3 days a week; I am still training for my race. Switch your negatives to positives … because this winter has been HARD for the majority of the country (and for those where it is NOT true … we’re glaring at you).

So forget the plan, and just do what you can TODAY.

4. Leave The GPS Behind

Funny thing last week – one day I forgot to start my GPS. And two other days I just didn’t bring it at all. And yet, by the time I was running Saturday I realized that I had really been pushing the pace on those very cold days because of how my thighs felt. And every time I check my paces, they are pretty average with my summer paces – even if it feels like a slog.

But even if my times were abysmal … I was out there. When it gets THAT cold, stop worrying about splits and intervals and easy/moderate/hard and tempo and … well, anything but getting in the run.

5. Just Do It

This isn’t meant as a brag, or even a humble brag … but here are the numbers. 61 days in 2014, and I have run 53 of them (yes that means as many rest days last 2 weeks as the previous 7). Of those 53 days, 35 have been sub-zero temperature and/or wind chills, and only 5 days have been above 20F. That leaves 13 days in the 0-20F range … with 9 of the days between 0-10F, and only 4 ‘normal winter’ days with temperatures in the teens.

THIS is why my basic goals for winter running are:
– Get out there at least 5 days a week, and put in at least 30 miles.
– Get one ‘run with purpose’ per week. Essentially, that is ONE ‘training run’.
– Rely on my ‘old standard’. The reason you constantly see 6.75 miles on my summaries is because it is a route that is easy and I could run in my sleep and lends itself perfectly to slogging through day to day. There are easy ‘outs’ along the way if I need them, but by the time I get there I have more than two miles in … and am motivated.

In other words – I set myself up to succeed. So even when I feel like I have a crap week (like last week), in reality I am doing OK. This morning is a great example – the temperature was -2 with a -9 wind chill, but all I could think was ‘not bad’. Maybe I made a mental leap since Friday, who knows … but it was so motivating to feel great rather than slogging – now I can’t wait until tomorrow!

So what are YOUR tips for dealing with the ‘winter workout blahs’?

Running Tights for Men – To Cover or Not to Cover

Running Tights Instagram1

A couple of weeks ago I bought new running tights – Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared, to be precise. I shared a selfie on Facebook and Instagram, and on Facebook got a rather snarky reply … which was a reminder that for women tights / yoga pants / leggings are a staple and running tights are pretty much standard issue for female runners, but when it comes to men the subject of running tights is often viewed as TMI. If you share that opinion, you might as well leave now – I’ll be talking about men, running tights, ‘man parts’ and everything involved with men wearing running tights!

Note: as we start the 2014/15 winter I have written about what to wear under tights in a post on Runderwear!

Last month at RunBlogger Pete brought up the (seemingly) age-old debate: if you wear running tights, should you wear shorts over them? It spurred a lively debate, but ultimately for me it came down to three things – temperature, wind and modesty. Let me take those apart for a second:

1. Wind

The original reason for the post at Runblogger was that Pete was out running on a cold and windy day and found that his running tights did an insufficient job of ‘protecting his man parts’.

Well, I started this draft actually the week before after coming back from one of the LEAST pleasant runs since I ‘got my groove’ in April 2012. The reason? Temperature was around 20F, but the wind was nasty and frigid, and well … ‘man part discomfort’. Ugh, sorry.

OK, TMI alert again … The bottom line is that a large number of men wearing running tights don’t wear anything underneath, and that most running tights do an inadequate job of providing wind protection.

I have said it again and again – wind chill is a royal pain and I find it much worse than cold temperature. So as much as anything this year I have really focused my clothing choices on what the winds are like as much as the temperature.

2. Temperature

I used to have a motto – when below 20F in the mornings I would put on running pants over tights. This year when I did that I really didn’t like the feel – I found it was bogging me down considerably, but not in a ‘harder to run through snow’ sort of way. It was just bulky.

But the question remains – how do you handle layering when it gets colder? At a certain point you need to pretty much throw everything at the problem! But like you top layer, on the bottom you start at shorts, go to tights, then to your heaviest layers. In between, shorts over tights give coverage and help with wind blockage as well.

3. Modesty

Here’s the thing – as noted many runners don’t wear anything under tights. And tights themselves can be a bit … um, revealing. So – for some runners wearing shorts on top has absolutely nothing to do with warmth or comfort and everything to do with coverage. In his post Pete mentions running through the college as one of those times, and I understand that.

Some runners feel that we have earned this body so who really cares, and if someone is going to look … so be it. Some people get downright incensed about others wearing shorts over tights. Personally I think that whatever works for you, go for it. When I tried it, Lisa told me I looked dorky with shorts over tights – and that is the only opinion I need. 🙂

My Solution

As I noted before, my first run in tights was just after Christmas 2012, and it was quite a leap outside of my comfort zone to even wear them. But they were INCREDIBLY comfortable, much lighter and easier to run in than running pants, so I was quickly hooked. As mentioned, throughout 2013 I ran with pants over tights when temperatures got too cold, and kept warm as a result.

Warm Morning Run 12-135

After that one fateful ‘freezer burn’ run (sorry again!), I knew I had to do SOMETHING … and I realized that had a great pair of Under Armour compression shorts I had worn to run the PA Grand Canyon Marathon … so I put those on UNDER the tights!

Hooray – it was perfect!

Suddenly I had that ‘in between’ option that could take me beyond the normal range of the tights. And when I got the Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared tights, I had yet another level. But for -20F wind chills or -15 air temperatures? Then I needed more.

So when I talk about my layering strategy for the bottoms at -15, it comes down to compression socks, Under Armour shorts and Extreme Coldgear Infrared tights. And that is it. Nothing else – and I have yet to feel cold anywhere but my hands!

What do you think about men in running tights? And for men – what is your strategy? Have you struggled with wind and cold?

Anatomy of an ‘Extreme Sub-Zero’ Runner – The $750 of Gear That Keeps Me Safe and ‘Warm’

Arctic Blast Gear_a

As I mentioned on Saturday, I loved Amanda’s post at Miss Zippy about how to make running more affordable. After reading it I was thinking through just how expensive all of my gear is … and then Laura posted about not being able to afford being an Ultramarathoner at And This Is Thirty.

I recounted my cost estimate of what I wore out to run in -15F weather – putting the cost at an estimated ~$750 … not including my iPhone. I thought … that is worth breaking down for a post! Follow along through my breakdown or head straight to the botton to see the actual total!So here goes.

Inner Gear_1

1. Headlamp – $30 – I have a great multi-beam P-Tec lamp very similar to this one at Amazon

2. EMS Thermal Hat – $25 – OK, my great blue EMS hat is now old enough that I can’t find anything similar, but the closest I could get was this one.

3. Brooks Balaclava $25 – I got this for Christmas 2012, and it is the same one found at Roadrunner Sports.

4. Nike Livestrong ‘Pro Combat’ hoodie – $80 – The LiveStrong brand is pretty much dead thanks to the fall of Lance Armstrong, but this hoodie is just amazingly light and wind/weather resistant. Based on what I know it once cost it is most comparable to this one at East Bay

5. Nike ‘Pro Combat’ Hyperwarm heavy base layer – $50 – Another one from Christmas 2012, pretty much the same as this one at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

6. Nike ‘Pro Combat’ fitted base layer – $50 – Got this from my brother for Christmas 2013, most similar thing I can find is this one at Amazon.

Outer Gear_1

7. Reflective vest – $20 – not exactly the same thing, but fairly similar to this Nathan vest at Amazon

8. Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared Gloves = $40 – I have gone on and on about these things (currently sold out at Under Armour and elsewhere), but the reason is that my hands are my ‘#1 cold point’, so how well these work for me is just … incedible.

9. Under Armour Compression shorts – $45 – The ones I wear are apparrently not specifically for running, but are similar to these ones at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and are a great set of shorts – I ran the PA Grand Canyon Marathon in them.

10. Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared Fitted Running Tights – $70 – These tights are incredible … on sale at Under Armour now, they are the only outer layer I have worn in the very coldest weather. And never gotten cold.

11. 2XU Compression Socks – $45 – I started hearing about the benefits of compression in 2012, and after talking to my doctor last year she suggested trying compression socks to maintain blood flow in my legs. These are similar to the onesfrom Amazon, and I have not run without them since Christmas.


12. New Balance Minimus MR10 shoes – $100 – Some would debate the wisdom of shoes that allow so much slushy water into them, but I am loving how quickly the water also gets OUT of them. Shoe prices are variable, but MSRP remains at $100 at Running Warehouse and Joe’s New Balance Outlet, where they sell for $70 on sale.

13. Lock Laces – $7 – After getting these for Christmas I have now decided they are absolutely essential. Why? Once you have your laces untie in the middle of a sub-zero run and you are actually contemplating how bad it would be to NOT re-tie them … you will understand!

14. SpiBeltRunning belt – $20 – the one I have is not exactly the same as this one from Amazon, but having a belt to carry my phone and maybe a couple of GU packs is essential.

15. Magellan Echo GPS – Yes, this isn’t exactly ‘required’, but I have found tracking and accountability to be critically important, and my favorite setup right now is Magellan Echo just like this one at Amazon.

MY TOTAL? – $807. Of course, I could cut that by $100 or so based on buying stuff on sale and using coupons and so on … but it puts in perspective just how much it can cost to keep safe and protected during winter runs.

One thing missing – YakTrax, selling at Amazon for ~$25. For snow/ice running they are definitely worth checking into!

Comparison to ‘Summer Gear’
Of course, if I go back to last July, my cost would plummet – $25 shirt, $35 shorts, $10 socks, $100 shoes, and $130 watch – to $300. OK, so maybe ‘plummet’ isn’t the right word!

So what do YOU wear as essential gear for YOUR runs?

Just Another -20F Run Day …


Lisa had a very succinct summary of her feelings about my ‘Polar Vortex run’ two weeks ago: “If the kids are getting a 2 hour school opening delay due to dangerous wind chills, and you are going out for a long run, you are an idiot”. Hard to argue with that logic, really.

While some parts of the east coast were blanketed with snow, we had just a dusting but I am looking at -8F on our outdoor thermometer as I started writing this. The forecast continues to call for near zero temperatuers for the next week or so (and actually the extended forecast keeps extending the deep freeze!) … which means loads of sub-zero running for me!

Fortunately as I found in my ‘clothes challenge’, my running clothes work great down to below -20 wind chills. My only issue was my hands – which is pretty much universally true for me. Last night Chris and I went to the Verizon store and I didn’t wear my gloves … and my hands were cold and my fingers white for about a half-hour after getting home.

So for today I decided to ‘double glove’. What I really need is some over-sized mittens, but I had bit fleece gloves, so I used those. My goal was to prevent the wind getting my hands cold to the point where I would be thinking about quitting due to cold. I wasn’t worried at all about any other part of my body.

Turns out that was pretty much the perfect strategy.

Did my hands get cold? YES! Especially my right hand, but at nearly the same two exact locations as before I found my hands were cold, but I was much less ‘panicky’ about it and was able to power through.

I would like to think that I have mentally ‘conquered’ running in this sort of weather, but that would be a lie. Today I got up, and was out without too much dawdling, and worked through my default 6.75 mile route. Tomorrow? Who knows.


It was actually quite beautiful out there this morning, with a light dusting of crystalline snow barely traveled that crunched underfoot; the only sounds were my footfalls and the wind – and the tree limbs straining against the wind and extreme cold; just after I started running the clouds cleared and the sky was beautifully starry and moonlit – which is a reminder of how nice it is to live someplace without much ‘light pollution’.

To be honest, I was much happier running when it was 25 – 30F last week, but I am glad that I have the proper gear for dealing with these temperatures. Of course friends at work laughed at me, saying they thought of me from the warm comfort of the treadmill at the gym.

How about you – are you experiencing heavy snow or a deep freeze? How have you adjusted your workout plans?

Oh, and for those who didn’t immediately get the ‘earworm’ that entered my head as the title of this post came to me about a mile into my run … here you go, a taste of what I was watching on reruns (now called ‘syndication’) when I was a kid (though I always preferred Lost in Space):

Throwback Thursday – Thinking About Named Storms

Blizzard of 781

So I complained about the incessent need to name storms and weather events, and it got me thinking about storms in general through the years. This week in addition to the historic cold, in New York we’ve had portions of the NY Thruway west of Buffalo and route 81 from Watertown to Syracuse closed for extended periods due to the extreme cold and wind from the storm.

For me, when I think of a major named storm I always go back to the Blizzard of ’78. Anyone who was around back then in the northeast marks that as the storm to measure all other storms. When we lived in Townsend MA later, we would get at least one snow dump of 3 feet or more every winter, eclipsing the snow total of the 1978 blizzard – but not the impact. In that snow-belt area, the heavy snow would just be an incnvenience, and I would still head to work after working my way through the snow.

In contrast, in 1978 the entire region was shut down for about a week – the image shows my dad, older brother and myself a couple of days later just shoveling out. There was no school for a while, and without cell phones people who were stranded on the highway had trouble connecting with their families – I remember waiting for my dad to make it home down 128 – it was a tense day!

I typically pull out this picture in February (when the storm happened), but it seemed appropriate right now. Here is a remembrance marking 30 years from NOAA, and one from the Taunton National Weather Service. Boston.com had a great slideshow as well.

My ‘Polar Vortex’ Running Clothes Challenge!

Polar Vortex Run

Is it just me or does the incessant naming of storms make them all lose their meaning? I don’t remember when news stations started naming storm events like ‘January Juggernaut’ and so on … so while I suppose having named arctic storm systems similar to tropical storms is better, it all just gets lost after a while. At least ‘Polar Vortex’ has an actual meaning, even though I think the best part was having Danny dancing around the living room pretending he was a new comic book super-villain named ‘Polar Vortex’ loaded with bad puns!

While I had planned to take Tuesday off as a rest day due to the ‘Polar Vortex’ driving temperatures to -30F wind chills, the forecast had Wednesday morning being in the 10F range with greatly diminished winds. Well, apparently the polar vortex had other plans and it became clear that Wednesday morning was going to feature near-zero temperatures and sub-zero wind chills.

Of course I had myself determined to go out running.

Whether that decision was strong, stubborn or stupid depends on your point of view, to paraphrase Obi-Wan. I’m going with stubborn, whereas Lisa made her opinion clear this morning – and basically, considering the kids DID have a two-hour school delay due to dangerous wind chills, it is hard to argue her point.

Anyway. So I went for a run this morning. My iPhone told me it was 2F and -12 Wind Chill … but looking outside at the branches I thought it might be colder (OK, I was prepared for -20 wind chill).

First, there was a great deal of mental preparation involved, in terms of what to wear and also what route to take. The route was important because I wanted to be sure I had an ‘easy out’ at all times – fortunately the way my general runs are routed I have fantastic access back to my house and am never more than 0.75 miles away.

How long did I plan to run? At least 1.5 miles, based on how I started out. After that all bets were off.

I call this a ‘clothes challenge’ because I was going to wear some things I had never worn and others that had never seen these temperatures. That made my choice of route more important – because with this level of cold you are dealing with a serious time factor.

So what did I wear? Let’s start from the ground up:
– New Balance Minimus shoes
– 2XU Compression Socks
– Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared running tights
– Nike base layer
– Nike ‘Pro Combat’ top layer
– Nike Livestrong ‘Pro Combat’ tech hoodie
– Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared gloves
– Brooks balaclava
– EMS Hat
– Magellan Echo watch and heart-rate monitor

OK, so now to the nuts and bolts: how far I ran and how I felt.

Let’s start with distance – I ran 6.75 miles, and grabbed the picture right as I got home.

As for how I felt, let me say ‘it varied’.

What does that mean? Well, for 95% of my body I felt great – cool at times but never cold, and never overheated. As I got to the last couple of miles I could feel a bit of a chill around my knees just above where the compression socks ended, but nothing even remotely cold. I knew I was a bit sweaty on my bottom layer, but again nothing that I felt when I turned into the wind. So for 95% of me it was a total success.

The other 5% of me almost sent me home twice. I have remarked how my hands get cold easily, especially for the last 5 years or so. Just pumping gas in my car and Lisa’s was enough to get them really cold last night and this morning. I have also noted that the Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared gloves leave your hands a bit cool for the first mile or so … and that was absolutely true this morning.

In fact, after just over a mile my hands were cold, and I nearly headed home. In fact, I actually turned around twice as I was heading up the hill about 1.25 miles from the start – which would have resulted in a 0.25 mile run home. But I made a deal with myself – I would finish that neighborhood loop and if I was still cold I would head straight home, which would then be around 3 miles. One important thing I knew was that I was just cold – not dangerously cold because I was covered and moving. I kept my hands and arms in constant motion, and by the end of that loop I felt great – so I kept going.

Around 4.5 miles my left hand was feeling cool again – but not as cold as before, so I made another deal for the breakpoint between 5.75 and 6.75 miles. As it worked out, I was warm again, and felt pretty good for the rest of my run, to the poi nt that I took off my gloves in my driveway to stop the Magellan.

As I mentioned, Lisa was annoyed and thought my decision to go out was stupid and that I could have gotten hurt – and she is right. Wind chills low enough to delay all of the area schools should really have been my cue – and although I have run in colder weather, the lack of bad results doesn’t make a decision any less risky.

Which gets back to my #1 goal for running – making sure I can get up to run tomorrow. And while certainly there is always a risk of injury when doing almost any activity, it only seems logical to avoid a situation that unnecessarily increases that risk – like days where the Weather Channel has a big read ‘severe wind chill alert’ across it and schools are delayed to keep kids safe.

What do you think? What are your temperature/ wind chill limits?

Some Days Are Just Meant to Be Rest Days


We have known for more than a week that today was going to be bitterly cold with brutal wind chills. As a result, I have been planning a rest day. I know some people were thinking ‘I wonder if Mike will be out in this weather’? I mean, I have run with very strong winds, and was even out running when the air temperature was -12 with no wind … so I can see it as a legitimate question.

But the answer is ‘no’!

I run outside because I love to run outside. I have been a New Englander since birth, and loving the seasons means dealing with some bitter cold. As I have said many times, my hands get cold easily and I hate that – and it has been worse the last 6 years since my Thyroid ‘died’. That is a big reason I was so excited about the Under Armour Coldgear Infrared gloves I got from a ‘Secret Santa’ and part of the reason I wrote the ‘keeping warm vs. not getting cold’ post – they didn’t warm my hands immediately, but I didn’t get too cold and my hands slowly got warmer.

Running in the cold isn’t a ‘macho thing’ for me, and for those who know me well that prospect would be laughable. I have never been a ‘guy’s guy’ in the traditional sense, so I have never felt the need to do something to appear tough. SO when I run in sub-zero wind chills, I make sure that I have all of the proper gear to keep myself safe, and if I ever feel discomfort I make sure my runs are routed to allow me a ‘quick exit’.

So I tailored my workouts to allow for a rest day today, running more than 20 miles in the last couple of days and more than 100 since my last real rest day. And today I fully rested – as in sleeping in and relaxing, and not even rushing too much to get to work. The boys had the day off – every school in the area was closed due to the dangerous wind chills – so there was no rush getting them going.

The weather is going to warm up more slowly than originally indicated, with the forecast indicating about a -10 wind chill tomorrow morning. I will be out there running, fully geared up and ready! Because to quote Monty Python … I may be an idiot but I’m no fool!

Everyone who does anything outdoors today, please be safe!

Keeping Warm vs. Not Getting Cold


Across much of the east and north there was some really significant cold this week along with a dump of snow. This morning it was a bit of a ‘warm up’ – it was 6F when I headed out for my run and 9F when I returned, but with no wind. Somewhere between the extreme cold and the snow and my various outfits I thought about the differences between Keeping Warm and Not Getting Cold and dressing for each.

Next month marks 25 years since I started running – and the image above from Real Genius is very representative of a ‘track suit’ from the 80s that would have been seen everywhere. Running in the cold back then meant layers – thermal underwear with sweats and perhaps more top layers over that … all made from cotton, and all of which STUNK after a couple of wearings.

Yesterday I ran with a thin base-layer and another ‘base layer’ on top, with running tights on the bottom. I had a hat and my new Under Armour ColdGear InfraRed gloves. And in spite of the appearance of not wearing much I was never cold, and by the end was warm enough to take off my hat for my final half-mile dash! I ran a great 12.5 miles including hills and flats and felt the cold on the exposed areas of my face by the time I was within a few miles of home – and my hands felt the chill as I started the run.

For many people one of the toughest things about winter running is stepping out the door into the nasty cold temperatures. But if you ask people who actually DO get out there, they will tell you that once they are running they warm up and enjoy the run.

So what is the difference between the two?

Keeping Warm:

If you are going to watch a football game, go ice fishing, or otherwise pretty much stand around outside in the cold for an extended time period, you want to keep warm. Typically we do this with heavy clothes, thermal socks, heavier shoes, thick insulated gloves and hat, and a jacket that uses a combination of bulk and thermal materials such as Thinsulate to trap body heat.

This is why the term ‘bundling up’ is used – you want to have systems in place to trap all warmth inside and minimize loss, for one simple reason:

You will NEVER be as warm as the moment you leave the house.

Since you will not be very active, you will not be generating much warmth, so the goal is to keep what you already have from escaping, which is tricky since some portion of your body is likely exposed, and there are likely parts of your clothing that leak heat (have you ever used a thermal imaging camera to check this? A few old work friends and I did once). As a result you end up jumping around, shaking, and so on in order to regain some warmth … or deciding that perhaps ice fishing isn’t for you after all!

Not Getting Cold:

When you are going for a run, the conventional wisdom is to dress as if the temperature was 10-20F higher than the thermometer says. I tend to go more by the wind chill because I find that has a greater impact on my comfort.

But what does it MEAN to dress for running? That is a tougher one – because everyone feels different in the cold and heats up to a different extent while running. As I said I dress for wind chill – which can be a problem if the wind dies down or is erratic.

But regardless of your ‘temperature target’, modern athletic ‘tech’ fabrics mean that you are working with thin layers that are designed to wick moisture away from the skin and keep your body warmth in. I’ve mentioned Coldgear Infrared from Under Armour, but all of my Nike stuff does the same basic thing, as do clothes from Brooks, Reebock and so on.

I mentioned going running yesterday morning, and what I was wearing in 6F temperatures was the equivalent of two t-shirts stacked on top, thin thermals on bottom, basic socks, thin hat and light gloves. And yet running nearly an hour and a half I never got too cold.

I started off a bit cool – especially in my hands – but as I ran I warmed up, and my clothes made sure to keep that heat trapped inside so I would be comfortable. The sun was a major factor, because when it went in I felt the air cool down, and when it came out I was warmer.

My hands are my worst point in terms of getting cold – and I would have been miserable with cold hands for a long run, but after a couple of miles, all of that thermal energy was reflected back.

As I was completing my run the wind was starting to come up a bit, and I could feel it – which reminded me: these clothes are there so I don’t get cold, NOT to warm me up. Sure my goal is comfort, but it is important that I don’t overheat.

Implications for Runners:

I had started and planned to write this on Sunday, but am finishing it Monday night after a very long couple of days for various reasons. This morning I headed out when it was 50F at 4AM, and I could tell it was windy. Since I knew the brutal cold was coming I over-dressed a bit – I wore shorts and a thin top, but wore light winter gloves and a light winter hat. And I am glad I did – at first I was a bit warm, but neither the hat nor the gloves are very efficient at trapping heat, they are more about basic warmth.

So I ended up with my hands feeling colder in 50F temperatures this morning than at 6F yesterday, because the gloves are more about ‘keeping warm’ than ‘not getting cold’.

When it comes to clothes for running, be sure to understand what you are buying and what the basic function is – is it going to bock wind, wick sweat and trap heat, or is it just part of ‘bundling up’?