Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon
Flying Pig Wellness Team

Getting Ready for the Cold

Bob Roncker

Everyone knows how quickly the weather can change in our area this time of year—sometimes, it can change from the time you leave for a run, to the time you get back. So how do you prepare to face the changing conditions? Bob Roncker of Bob Roncker’s Running Spot and a member of the Flying Pig Wellness Team, has suggestions on how you can dress for success on your workout:

A lot of people just throw on a sweatshirt to stay warm—what should they be wearing instead?

Our comfort during cold weather depends to a large degree on how we manage moisture. Wet skin loses heat significantly faster than dry skin - up to 23 times as much. Traditional sweatshirts, when used during running, are fine for keeping us warm for short periods. However, the act of running causes us to sweat and the sweatshirt gets wet. It stays wet because cotton loves water. It soaks it up and it retains it. This wet clothing next to or near our skin, keeps the surface of our body damp.

It’s more comfortable to wear, next to the skin, a base layer garment that is water hating. These materials serve as very good conduits towards moving moisture away from the exterior of our bodies. When the surface of our skin is dry, we are able to better utilize the heat that we generate during our activity. It is surprising, at times, how little clothing is required in order to remain comfortable

You mentioned a base layer. How important is layering your clothes to keep comfortable?

It is critical. The ability to adjust what we wear is very important. During cold weather, conditions often vary during the course of a given walk or run. The sun might disappear behind clouds or the wind direction will change. If all you have is a heavy sweatshirt or jacket over a cotton tee, you have a limited ability to adjust to these altered weather conditions. Layers enable us to put on or take off clothing as needed.

What about a hat or a cap? Lots of people feel they get too hot wearing one of those. What’s an alternative?

From the neck on up we can lose a lot of body heat. Wearing a hat or cap is an easy way to stay warmer. If we begin to overheat, there are a few solutions. The simple one is to temporarily take the hat or cap off. Or, you can wear an alternative piece of headwear. Ear bands are popular. My favorite cold weather item is called a HeadGator. It is a very simple piece of wicking material, in the form of a tube, that stretches. It can be easily folded or manipulated to become six separate types of headwear. I typically start off with it over my head. As I warm up, I then pull it down around my neck. I love it.

Don’t forget the feet—do I wear different socks (or even different shoes) to keep warm?

For socks remember that, “Cotton is rotten.” Wet socks become damp rags within your shoes. This creates an environment that helps cause blisters and other nasty things. Invest in nice moisture moving socks. The same sock will keep you warmer during cold weather and cooler when it is hot. Your feet will adore you for it.

For very unpleasant weather conditions there are running shoes lined with Gore-tex and other waterproof laminates that keep wind and water out. However, in most cases, the good shoes you wear for nice weather also suffice for when it is colder. During extreme times, you may wish to put on a second pair of socks.

It gets rainy in the fall—what’s the best kind of outwear to keep dry in the elements?

An outer shell material that is either water resistant or waterproof works well. This keeps rain or snow and wind from penetrating to you. As you run, it’s almost a given that you will become damp due to perspiration. So, something that is waterproof is not necessary. You want the vapor that forms from your sweat to be able to escape rather than pool under your garments. That is why a breathable outfit is needed. You also want something that is going to shed water. A nylon type material is normally the fabric of choice. Preventing wind and water from reaching your skin helps keep you comfortable. If you plan on being outside for extended periods, something waterproof, yet breathable, may be preferred.

What else should I consider when facing the elements?

Be wary. If you notice that when exiting the door for a run or walk that you are initially warm and comfortable - stop! Being toasty is an indicator that you are over-dressed. Go back inside. Shed some clothing and start over. The first couple of minutes of a run should be a bit uncomfortable due to the slight chill that you experience. As you continue, your body will warm up. You will reach a nice equilibrium where the required clothing matches the weather conditions. Then, you will find the run to be quite pleasant.