Never thought I would be writing an article on cold weather running in Houston but here it goes. I am a native of Buffalo, New York though so I am more than qualified for this assignment. Nothing like today’s rare Houston snowfall to spur this on. For those of you reading this in northern states you can start holding back your laughter now.
Houstonians pray for cool or cold temps when we race but we rarely get a chance to train or race in sub freezing weather. With the proper gear and preparation even a cold weather run can be rewarding. I have had some of my best running memories running in the cold and it does wonders for pacing because you really don’t want to stop much. So here is a rundown of a few tips that should make that next cold weather run more comfy.
It’s All About The Gear
Dress for the occasion and even a long distance cold run can be comfortable. The secret here is staying warm and layering clothing so if you heat up or the temps increase you can easily peel layers of clothing off. Many running jackets have ventilation built into the back so heat escapes. Just leaving your jacket or vest on and unzipping it a bit can help dissipate heat on the fly. Whatever you do avoid any type of cotton clothing and stick to micro-fiber, moisture wicking materials. Here is a quick shopping list of clothing and accessories you may want to invest in for those rare Houston cold runs. You may not use them much but it sure helps having them in the closet when you need them. I would recommend going to your local running store specialist like Fleet Feet Sports. Running stores clerks have much more running knowledge to share with you than sporting goods stores and carry gear that is runner specific. If you are starting to look like a superhero after you put this stuff on you are doing a good job.
Cold Running Gear Essentials
- Skull cap or head band – There are some great new lightweight skull caps out by Nike, Brooks and other shoe companies to keep those ears from freezing.
- Gloves – along with keeping ears warm keeping your hands warm is essential. Pick a glove that fits comfortably especially since you will be wearing it for a while during a long run. Many new gloves now have small pouches built in to stash your car key, a gel or money to buy snacks along your route. A new model by Brooks called the Vapor Dry 2 is Ipod friendly with a thumb that opens up to make it easier to adjust your Ipod controls
- Tights or Running Pants – Yes real men do wear tights. You would too if it was 20 degrees outside. Tights keep the leg muscles warm, compressed and can minimize cramping and injuries when it is cold out. If you aren’t into tights most running companies also have a line of running pants. These are usually looser fitting and lightweight.
- Moisture Wicking Undergarments, Long Sleeve Ts & Tights – A tigher fitting moisture wicking under garment like those made by Under Armour are great. Slap on a long sleeve dry fit on top of that for added layering. Long sleeves with a short turtle neck are great too to keep out the wind
- Socks – Once again make sure they are not cotton. There are some great wool blend socks by DeFeet which are thin but very warm on the feet. You can also find “high top” versions of some running socks so they cover the skin up to the bottom of your pants or tights. As long as you keep moving you would be amazed how much the feet stay warm.
- Jackets & Vests – There are tons of great jackets and vests to meet your needs. Most jackets have some type of ventilation and are either water proof or water resistant. When it dips into the 20s and 30s I like wearing a vest over a dry fit T or tights so my arms are not as restricting in movement.
- Arm & Leg Compression Sleeves – One of the hottest new trends in running are compression sleeves. Most assume that this are only for cold weather running but many runners use them in warmer temps also. These were first made famous by elite UK runner Paula Radcliffe. These are not just trendy additions to the runnign scenes but help compress muscles, aid with heating muscles up and improving blood flow. Check out the line of great compression products by Zensah at your local running store available in tons of great colors and styles.
Body Comfort Aids
- Nip Guards – For the males Nip Guards are a must to prevent nipple chapping or bleeding. Sold in a 10 pair tube, Nip Guards stick on your nipples to avoid nipple friction. I sell them on my website at this link.
- Bodyglide Lubricant -This is our top pick for chaffing prevention. Body Glide is a non petroleum based lubricant that you apply like a roll on deoderant. Apply it right on the skin where you usually have added friction like inner thighs, where clothing elastic meets skin etc. I highly recommend coating your feet with Bodyglide before putting your socks on no matter what the weather is like. Make sure you apply some between your toes as well. This will prevent blistering an rubbing especially if your feet get wet during a training run or race.
- Vaseline & Lip Balm – To protect the face from cold and wind apply some Vaseline to exposed areas. I also like Vaseline’s lip balm in a tube to apple to lips to prevent chapping and cracking.