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Ask Mario: How Should I Dress For The Cold?

Senior editor Mario Fraioli explains how to layer for cold-weather runs.

Q.

Mario,

I started running this summer and I’m HOOKED! I want to run outside through the winter but I’m not sure how to dress for colder weather. I live in D.C. What do I need to do?

Thanks for your help,

Alyssa G.

 A.

Alyssa,

As a New England native, winter is one of my favorite seasons to run outside. Call me crazy, but there’s something about the cold air and adverse conditions that gets me excited to head out the door!

In the winter months it’s important to take an inside-out approach to dressing yourself, meaning to start closest to your body and work your way out from there. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if it’s 10 degrees warmer than it actually is outside. Once you get moving, you’ll warm up quite a bit. If the mercury is above freezing and the winter winds are calm, a mid-weight long sleeve top and lightweight pair of tights is a good place to start. If the wind is blowing, or you get cold easily, throw on a light jacket to add another layer of protection and keep the cold breeze off your torso. For your head and hands, a pair of gloves and a lightweight hat or headband should do the trick. As far as shoes and socks go, you shouldn’t need to make too many adjustments if the air temperature is above freezing. If you typically wear a thin or no-show sock, you can always experiment with something a little thicker or with a higher ankle cut if your feet get chilly.

When the mercury dips below freezing, however, layering becomes even more important when you’re running outside. Get a moisture-wicking, tight-fitting base layer that will serve as your primary means of insulation over your legs as well as your upper torso. Above the waist, wear another thick long-sleeved shirt and/or a wind- and water-resistant jacket. Same goes for the legs: Start with long tights and, if necessary, layer over them with a wind-resistant pair of pants. Make sure your clothes—especially your socks—are made from moisture-wicking, technical materials so they don’t freeze when they get wet. Wool blends are becoming more and more popular and will do a great job keeping you warm in the winter months. As for footwear, your everyday trainers might be OK, but arctic air can cut through thin mesh and cause your feet to be cold. Many brands now make all-weather versions of many of their popular trainers which feature a more weather-resistant upper (and outsole), which can help protect your feet in the winter months. Lastly, cover your noggin! Get a thicker hat and/or headband to cover your ears and head and if it’s really cold, a face mask or balaclava to cover up any exposed skin that might be susceptible to frostbite.

Keep in mind: Once you start moving, you will warm up! Experiment with various layering options and find the combo that keeps you most comfortable in whatever conditions you are running in.

Have a great winter of running!

Mario

Ask Mario appears monthly in Competitor magazine and weekly on Competitor.com. Have a question for Mario? Submit it here.