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Revel Sports Guide to Winter Running Gear

Winter Can Be a Running Wonderland When You Dress Right

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Revel Sports Guide to Winter Running Gear

Wausau, WI (January 9, 2012)

RE: Dressing of Winter Running

Revel Sports Guide to Winter Running Gear

Running stores are full of clothing choices in many brands; each one touting that there’s performs better than the others making it difficult to sort through it all. Here is a simple how-to common sense way to dress for winter running.  Dressing in layers is nothing new but it is of utmost importance to choose the right layer combinations. 

 

Base Layers:  The base is the lighter weight clothing that directly touches your skin. The base layer’s prime function is to actively transfer perspiration away from your skin. It is important to own at least a couple sets (if not numerous sets) of base layer tops, bottoms, underclothes and socks.  Owning at least two or more sets helps to ensure that you always have a clean dry set for each time you head outdoors for a workout.  If you attempt to wear the base layers twice without washing/drying there is a chance the clothing is holding sweat/dirt/moisture that will not allow the technical apparel to perform at optimal levels.

 

Not all base layers are created equally.  There are an abundance of names for technical wicking fabrics.  Often these fabrics are specially designed with one or more of the following synthetic materials:  polyester, spandex, and/or Lycra.  The highly technical part of the material is not just the material used but even more important is the highly technical knitting processes used to accelerate the wicking process.  Some garments are treated with a chemical spray to provide the wicking properties.  Repeated washing will eventually wash out these chemicals and the wicking properties will be lost or greatly diminished.  Generally speaking, when you pay more for technical athletic clothing you are getting a better quality garment that will perform and endure better and longer. 

Wool, Wallaroo�, merino wool is a natural fiber that provide natural wicking properties as well as thermal properties to keep provide warmth.  Many people still think that wool is itchy and some wool continues to be itchy.  However, there are new varieties of wool and new ways of processing wool so that many folks would have no idea that those soft cozy socks are actually wool.  Sugoi’s Wallaroo�, is an example of these newer softer, better performing wool options.

Graduated Compression Garments can be an ideal base layer for several reasons.  The transfer of moisture occurs where the clothing is touching the skin.  Loose base layers garments may be inefficient when there isn’t sufficient skin contact.  However, there is a significant difference between general “tight” compression and “graduated compression”.  You will want to look specifically at labels for the words “graduated compression” or “progressive compression”.  This researched and highly technical designs offer not only great skin contact but much more!  These garments are designed in such a way to promote blood flow and circulation resulting in the removal of carbon dioxide and lactic acid.  Thereby also providing better thermal regulation!  Also, targeted muscle groups are isolated, fully encapsulated and supported resulting in reduced muscle vibration, fatigue and risk of injury.  Research has demonstrated that the unique feature of a true progressive compression garment offers performance enhancing muscle support for race, training and recovery.  Sounds like an ideal base layer to me!

 

Insulation Layers:

The next layer of clothing is one that will add the right amount of warmth along with additional moisture transfer.  The sweat that was pulled away from the skin at the base layer needs to go somewhere.  Ideally the next layer will continue to pull the moisture further away from the skin preventing any pooling of the moisture and providing needed warmth.  You will want a variety of insulation layers that provide a variety of degrees of warmth.  Pick and choose these layers depending on the temperature.

 

3.      Protection from the elements (wind, rain, snow, etc.): 

The role of the protection layer is to protect from the elements; wind, rain, snow, sleet, etc. while allowing for air circulation and temperature regulation.  Pick and choose your protection layer depending on the weather conditions.  A light windbreaker may be sufficient if it is somewhat windy without any rain or snow.  However, a steady rain can make a cool down downright frigid and the risk of hypothermia is dangerous.  The presence of rain or light snow will require one to wear a jacket that is water resistant.  The presence of a steady rain or heavy snow will require a high-tech performance running jacket that is waterproof.  It is important to also recognize the presence of wind and the wind chill.  The warmest and highest performing running jackets will also offer a wind barrier that goes performs beyond a light windbreaker.  

 

Technical fabrics, strategic venting, wind barriers and other high-tech design features can make a performance running jacket costly.  However, once again, you get what you pay for and all of those apparently little technical details add up to a much better running experience when running in harsh winter weather.  Consider paying the price.  Whatever you do, don’t try running in your winter coat or raincoat.  You will overheat just like my college roommate.  You don’t want to overheat the way she did!  Check the weather, the temperature, the wind, rain and other elements when you choose your protection layer.  If it’s a beautiful mild winter day you may be just fine wearing your base layer and a mild to heavy base layer.  Everyone is different so experiment and learn what works best for you.

 

4.      Accessories:

When choosing your accessories utilize the principles of layering discussed above.

-          Gloves: Lightweight moisture wicking gloves are usually sufficient.  However, there may be times when you’ll need a warmer glove, gloves with wicking liners or gloves with wind, rain, or snow protection.

-          Hats:  Usually a lightweight wicking hat is sufficient.  However, there may be times when you prefer a warmer hat or one that protects you from the elements.  On mild days some people prefer a headband to cover the ears or no hat at all.  I recommend always at least carrying a hat in your pocket, just in case the temps drop or the wind picks up.

-          Neck Gaiter/Buff:  A neck gaiter is a great accessory on colder windy days.  The gaiter can be used simply for warmth around the neck, pulled up over the mouth and face if necessary, or even pulled up over the head like a hood.  It is very versatile and also can easily be stowed in a pocket if no longer needed following your warm-up or if the wind settles down.

-          Face Mask:  It’s not uncommon to develop a dry hacky cough after running outdoors in cold, dry air.  Using a face mask or a neck gaiter up over your mouth helps to warm the air before it enters your lungs.  This is may be especially important for those with asthma.

-          Wind Boxers:  I have been told these are a “must have” for men who regularly run in cold, windy weather.  

-          Eye Protection:  First of all it is important to protect your eyes with sunglasses any season but winters can be the most important if there is significant snow glare where you live.  Also, I have heard horror stories of contacts freezing to the eyeball and people developing frostbite on their cornea.  My first recommendation would be to leave the contacts out and run with non-metal polarized prescription sunglasses.  This will ensure that your contacts will not freeze to your eyeballs and the glasses will provide some wind protection for your eyes.  In extreme situations it would be prudent to consider wearing goggles.

-          Hydration/Energy:  Remember that if it’s cold enough the water in your water bottle will freeze.  If you plan to use a water bottle choose and insulated one.  Also, you will be burning more calories and needing more energy when running in the cold.  You may find that you’ll want or need to carry your favorite source of quick energy with you.

-          Visibility:  Synonymous with winter is shorter days and running in the dark.  Remember the importance of being seen.  Consider wearing reflective, day-bright clothing as well as considering using a headlamp.

 

5.      Yaktrax Pro:  There’s nothing that ruins a run more than getting an injury.  When running on snow or ice we recommend pulling a pair of Yaktrax on your running shoes and you are good to go.  Last summer they were redesigned to be stronger than ever and makes running on ice and snow a snap.  There are also other similar traction devices.  Choose one that works best for you and your circumstances.

Dressing for winter running is really pretty simple but it helps to understand the basics.  Purchase your clothes with these layering principles in mind.  Keep track of weather conditions and clothing choices in you running log to learn what combinations work best for you.  Of course, you will usually start out feeling a little chilly starting out but once you get moving you will heat up quickly.  It is always a good idea to run with a friend and carry your cell phone in case of an unexpected accident or emergency.  Of course, emergencies rarely happen.  What happens most often is that you once again are reminded how much you love to run, any season, any reason.

 

Generally speaking it follows the general rule that the more expensive the clothing the better the quality and function.  Cotton on the other-hand can feel nice and soft but is not recommended for any part of your winter running wardrobe.  It holds onto the moisture thus making a person chill somewhat like an air-conditioner.

 

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