Winter Gear Update
What to wear? It’s the perpetual question. I hear it everywhere, in my daily life, online in the groups, I get messages, calls, and beyond as to exactly what to wear or what I wear. So far I have written two posts about what to wear. The first Cotton Stay Away is probably one of my most popular blogs written to date. I followed it up with Winter Race Gear just before a certain 24 hour race in December. Admittedly, the race in December was my first true winter race and I learned, well, a lot! So as it seems now as we inch closer to March winter has finally hit Vermont and I can write with more confidence about racing and training in the winter. This post is dedicated to training in the winter.
1. Dress in Layers
You probably will not need half the layers you are currently wearing. Yes it’s winter, yes it’s cold but once you start moving you will realize you are wearing too much! When I am coaching skiing my kids laugh at me because I love layers and have been known to wear 7 or 8 while downhill skiing. When nordic or running I still love my layers but stick to 3 or 4.
Ok, so when I say I wear 3 or 4 layers I am not wearing three parkas. I have a basic winter uniform and stick to a few simple rules. I have been out in single digits in these outfits and have stayed warm while moving. The queen of layers delayers when it comes to training and running. The advantage of layers is when you are wearing too many you can always take one off!
The base layer is any winter athletes best friend. So many great choices to choose from in this department. This layer is probably the most crucial in your outfit. Why? Simply this is the layer next to your body so how it handles perspiration is critical. So what makes a good base layer, NOT COTTON. In the winter even more than the summer it’s critical to have a base layer that wicks.
Currently, I like my UA Mock Cold Gear top. I actually have about five of these thanks to racing in December. They are great next to the body and I wear them pretty much as tight as will fit, for me that’s an XS. Then over that I wear my CW-X Conditioning Wear Insulator 3/4 zip top. This is my personal favorite piece of clothing for training. The top is super warm and if I could get away wearing it everyday everywhere I would. If it’s warmer I might wear only the CW-X layer with a tank underneath it. However, standard for me in the winter is pairing the two.
This is the layer I wear next. I lovingly call it my blue ninja top to the rest of the world it is EMS’s Women’s Powerstretch Full-Zip Hoodie. Now if you know me you know I wear this top not only to workout in but it also transitions to my office frequently. It not only is a great layer but also is one of my favorite pieces of clothing. I can wear it on a run then again to work and then out to the bar. Yes it’s that great and I am completely aware that I wear it too much.
This is the layer I often change up depending on the weather. If it’s not that cold I just put on a my Isis vest. Sometimes you really don’t need a lot of layers. Remember you already have three on if you decide to dress like me. If it’s really cold I put on my soft shell from Cloudveil this gives me another layer without the bulk. But most importantly it blocks the bitter winds of the winter. If it’s snowy or this winter rainy, I add my Cloudveil windbreaker. It just gives the extra layer. Finally, if it’s stupidly cold I wear a combination of the three or all three.
The bottom layers are easy, I always have on a pair of my CW-X Compression Wear tights. In the winter I grab my Stabilyx Insulators. If it’s not terribly cold (read single digits) this is all I need. When it’s really cold I’ll add another pair of tights on top. I happen to have a pair of long winter biking tights which have become a favorite for me as they help block wind and add the needed warmth without the bulk. So that’s it for the bottoms.
All the Other Stuff
The last things we tend to think of as after thoughts are the socks we wear, the hat on our head and the gloves we are suppose to be wearing. For years these things were all afterthoughts, until this year. For gloves, I go minimal I really like my Seirus gloves. The pair in the picture even lets me use my phone without taking the gloves off.
My hat and socks I covet as well. Both I am happy to say are made here in Vermont and both are awesome companies. I know I have an affinity to Vermont, but if I can I buy local and we are a small state so every dollar we can keep in state or get into this state makes a difference! My socks these days I have swung toward Darn Tough. They make incredible socks and hold up really well. If you have Darn Tough or not it’s up to you just make sure you aren’t in cotton socks! Remember cotton kills.
Finally, Skida makes the colorful hats I am constantly wearing in all the pictures this winter. For years these hats were sort of a ski industry and more specifically ski academy “best kept secret”. Today they are popping up in stores all over the country. The founder Corrine Prevot, is a current Middlebury student and former Nordic ski racer. So she knows about a good fitting hat, which is hard to find. Not only do they look great but more importantly they FIT! She does short runs on fabrics so if you see one you like you have to get it right away as design runs are small. The added bonus of that is you don’t normally see someone with the same hat as you! I own several of her hats and love them all. This is my favorite of the other stuff.
2. Have Proper Equipment
It’s winter and if you live in Arizona you can ignore most of this section but for anyone in a snowy climate running on trails in the winter becomes exceedingly more difficult as the snow falls. So having the proper equipment in the winter is critical to success if you want to stay off the roads.
Snowshoes are a friend of any trail runner in the winter, well at least for this trail runner. Yes, it slows everything significantly down but it allows me the opportunity to get out and explore in the winter. It is truly amazing how different a trail can be in the winter than the summer. When looking for snowshoes to run in I highly recommend looking into Dion Snowshoes. Dion Snowshoes is a company here in Vermont, but that’s not why they are great. The greatest part about them is they are completely customizable. You pick the pieces you want and they assemble and send them to you fully put together. Cannot say enough good things about them.
I learned the hard way as much as Camelbaks are great for running in the winter they fall short. I even have the insulated hose and still on a twenty mile run I found it frozen and having to turn my run short by a couple miles. However, I have found my Hydration Belt or as my sister calls a fanny pack works much better. For me the Nathan Flurry Hydration Belt has been the winner this winter. It’s not so much the belt but the bottle cap that has been the key. The Nathan bottle cap doesn’t freeze.
The days are short and my time to train is limited so if you can’t go long you might as well go hard. So for most of my workouts this winter I have added some weight, not much between 10-20% of my body weight. It has been a great addition to my training arsenal.
Finally, use your head when heading out in the winter. Let someone know where you are going. As someone who trains alone a lot, let at least one person know where you are. If something happens in the winter and it’s really cold hypothermia is no joke. I lived through it this December and it took me days to get my body regulation back.
Check the weather! Look at the weather before you head out conditions can change quickly and getting stuck in a whiteout is much different than getting stuck in a rain storm in the summer. Also for us in the north the days are short, sometimes it feels really short. I have a headlamp with me almost all the time with an extra set of batteries. So I guess the Wilderness EMT in me is telling you to be prepared, bring calories with your (snacks) and if you are in the woods have extras for the just incase moments!
Finally have fun and get out! The winter doesn’t mean you need to be stuck on a treadmill feeling like a hamster. Try something new snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, take a leap of faith and get on the mountain ski, snowboard, telemark. Just get out and explore!