Layer It On And Keep Warm This Winter

It may feel like an icebox outside, but it’s no excuse to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.

The old running adage, “There is no bad weather, only bad running gear,” stands true in cold weather running, as the key to staying warm and running comfortably in frigid temperatures is to dress in layers. It’s easy to add or remove layers as needed, and is also more comfortable than wearing one heavy garment.

Layers retain warmth while evaporating moisture, and many technical fabrics are designed to wick away sweat to avoid that wet, clammy feeling.

We caught up with Kevin King, marketing associate for Gore Running, for tips on how to properly use layers.

How many layers do runners need?

One to two layers gives you the optimal freedom of movement while still remaining lightweight, but two to three layers is the best way to achieve the right heat balance. When using the three-layer system, clothing needs to fit correctly where each layer fits snugly over the next, as layers should be functional and lightweight to minimize weight and bulk while still offering appropriate freedom of movement.

What are three layering clothing items runners should invest in?

1)   Base layer: It’s best when it’s made out of quick-drying, man-made materials such as 100 percent polypropylene, 100 percent polyester or other good blends to move moisture away from the skin. It’s also naturally comfortable so it won’t irritate the skin. Look for odor-control and anti-bacterial items that are mildew and soil resistant.

2)   Mid-layer: Find loose-fitting items that insulate but evaporate the moisture from your base layer away from your skin.

3)   Outer-layer: If you are in changing weather or west conditions, then it is advisable to have a second outer shell such as lightweight running jackets that are windproof and waterproof. Something that’s packable and can be easily folded is a bonus.

What layering accessories are recommended?

Accessories for the hands and head are often forgotten. Wet head and hands plus cold weather equal a high level of discomfort. Our head and hands perspire more than we realize. That creates lots of opportunity for wetness and heat loss.

A good hat has to do more than just lock in warmth. It should also let perspiration escape so that your head stays dry. Of course, it should also be waterproof in case of rain. To keep you comfortable all day, gloves must lock in warmth, allow perspiration to escape and be waterproof so that external sources of moisture don’t seep in. What’s equally important is they must not interfere with dexterity. Ever had to take off your gloves to adjust your shoelaces? You weren’t wearing the right gloves.

What are common layering mistakes?

People often overdress when it’s cold out. After running for a short amount of time, the body begins to generate additional heat that needs to transfer to the environment in order to maintain thermal regulation and comfort.

If there is too much insulation at the beginning of the run, discomfort followed by unnecessary sweat build-up within the clothing will occur.  The runner’s performance will degrade as the body attempts to deal with excessive thermal regulation demands in conjunction with high muscle activity.

The value of breathable clothing in cold weather conditions is easily overlooked.  Your clothes are able to transport generated sweat to the external environment effectively, moisture buildup is reduced and dry-out can occur more readily.

Also, clothes that are too loose let cold airflow in. Especially the base layer and mid layer should fit snugly on the body to prevent cold air from reaching the skin.

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