Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Winter Running Essentials

I don’t handle the cold very well, so it might surprise you that I absolutely love running in the snow. I think of trail running in the snow like running on the beach; it is peaceful, dynamic, and challenging. The scenery is just a little bit different. To make a snowy run fun, it is important to have the right gear.

Here are some of my favorite winter running essentials:
  • Base layer. Starting with a good base layer is essential for days when it is below freezing. Any good pair of long underwear will do, just as long as it will fit under your next layer. If you tend to get super warm while running, you may not need a base layer.
  • Head gear. No, not the kind you have when you have braces, but the kind that keeps your head warm. A thin ear warmer works well on days when it is not snowing, but if it is snowing or really cold, you may want something to cover your head. If it is EXTRA cold, like single digits or below, you may want a thin face mask to cover your nose, chin, and ears. I use the one I bought for skiing, because it is thin and I can put it in my pocket if I don’t need it.
  • Hand wear. I have one pair of lighter running gloves for warm(er) days or for layering on cold days. On those extra cold days, I usually wear my fleece gloves over my lighter gloves, and then take them off when I start to warm up.
  • Foot wear. In effort to prevent your good running shoes from getting wet and ruined, always keep an old pair on hand. You’ll also want a pair of taller socks to keep the snow out of your ankles. You will absolutely want some Yaktrax, they are essential for winter running or hiking. While wearing them, I never have to worry about variable conditions or slipping on ice. They are the second best running investment I have ever made (and they aren’t that expensive!), next to a good pair of shoes. 
  • Wind resistant/proof running pants. These will protect your quads from the wind chill, and are absolutely essential. Ideally, you’ll be able to layer long underwear underneath them on the days when it is close to zero degrees.
  • Quarter zip pullover. This is a great second layer over your long underwear, a tank top, or a tee shirt. They keep you extra warm without a lot of weight.
  • Down vest. These are awesome! They are light, don’t interfere with any arm swinging, and keep you warm…but not too warm, because you can always roll up your sleeves.
  • Wind-proof jacket. I only wear this one on the extra cold and snowy days (like today). It doesn’t have much weight or warmth to it, but it keeps the wind chill out, which will keep your sweat from freezing. I like having the big pockets in case I want to carry my phone or take off my gloves or hat.
While having the right gear helps, having a buddy also helps make it fun. Don’t limit yourself to the treadmill during the winter months! All of these items would also work for winter hiking, snow shoeing, or cross country skiing. Be safe out there!

Do you run in the snow? What is your favorite piece of winter running gear?

About the author: Lauren Larson is a graduate student in the Master of Science Coordinated Dietetic Internship Program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. She plans to have a private practice that focuses on planning and preparing more healthful meals at home, managing food sensitivities and allergies, and sports nutrition. Read more about Lauren's recipes and obsessions at