With the first real blast of cold air from the north, what suffices for winter has arrived in Central Texas. In some ways, that’s a good thing for folks who are in the middle of marathon training. It’s simply easier to run long and hard in cold, dry weather than in the warm, humid temperatures we experience for so much of the year.
But quite obviously, running in cooler weather also means dressing differently on training runs than in the warmer months. Dressing properly for the winter conditions is extremely important for a safe and enjoyable run, especially long runs. Wear too little and you’ll be cold and miserable. Wear too much and you can roast. Wear shorts or a shirt that chafes and you’ll suffer every step of the way.
Fortunately, running clothes have come a long way from the days of cotton sweats. Today’s new materials are light, breathable, protective, warm—and comfortable. There’s almost never a winter day in Texas when the weather’s so bad you can’t go outside for a run.
Here are some guidelines for cold-weather running, especially doing long runs, in Central Texas:
If it’s cold (below 40 degrees), you’ll need to wear:
A running jacket. Lightweight and breathable, these jackets are ventilated and many come with detachable sleeves if you get too warm while on the run. Unless it’s really cold and windy, the bigger problem after just a few miles will be staying cool. Get a jacket with wind protection and water propelling materials. It also helps if it has reflective material so you’ll be visible to motorists in the early morning or late afternoon.
Tights. Sweat pants will not work. Tights are warm, but light. If they get wet, the materials will wick away the moisture from your skin. Most tights come with draw strings and zippers on the legs so it’s easy to get them on and off. If you’re modest or self-conscious about your weight, there are some fully-cut tights that aren’t quite as tight or as revealing.
A hat. Every runner needs a hat for cold-weather running. You lose so much body heat through your head that you will need to wear some covering for your head. Usually in Texas winters, a baseball cap is fine. If it’s near or below freezing and windy, you’ll need to protect your ears so wear a light knit cap.
Gloves. Absolutely essential. If your hands are unprotected, you will be sorry. In Texas, a lightweight pair of gloves is usually enough to keep your hands warm enough. Get a pair of cheap gloves that are disposable. If it’s near or below freezing, you may need to wear a pair of gloves under some mittens. Or you can even wear socks under mittens. Some runners wear tube socks on their arms in cold-weather races.
Shorts. Your normal running shorts are fine in cold weather. Wear under your tights, never over. Mid-shorts that extend to your thighs are also great.
Socks. Your normal running socks should be fine—unless it’s extremely cold. If it is, some runners prefer woolen socks.
Layer. In cold, wet weather, layering is essential. Under the tights and jacket, you’ll need to wear a long-sleeve shirt. Usually any long-sleeve race shirt will do, but a technical, base-layer shirt is even better. It will trap air close to your skin and keep you warm without getting wet.
Don’t overdress. The biggest mistake Texans make in cold weather is wearing too much. If you feel comfortable when you step outside and in the first few minutes of a cold weather run, chances are you’re overdressed. You will heat up so much during a run (especially a long one) that if you have worn too much, you will roast.
Post run. You should have dry, warm clothes to change into immediately after finishing or you’ll freeze. Especially after a long run. You can certainly wear too much on a long, cold run, but you can’t wear too much after.
Warm up. First chance you get, jump into the shower and blast the hot water to get your core temperature back up to normal.