It wasn’t so much a question as it was a look of disbelief.

“Exactly how cold does it need to be for you to NOT go for a run?”

Honestly, I have no idea. I know it’s never been that cold around here so I don’t really worry about it. Sure, I’d rather run when it’s 60 degrees, shady and with a little breeze, but we live in NEPA and it’s winter so get over it. You have two options, go outside or hop on a treadmill. The latter just isn’t my thing. I know a lot of runners who dig or at least tolerate “dreadmills,” but I’m not one of them.

So the next question is how do you dress for a run when it’s in the single digits … or, like today, lower. Well, I have some answers that work for me and maybe you’ll find them helpful, too.

If you have spent any amount of time hiking or running in cooler temps you already know layering is the key. I want to be a little more specific about what I wear. The general rule of thumb when going to a run is to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is outside. That way when you get warmed up you don’t overheat and can run comfortably.  The mistake most people make (myself included) is they freak out when the cold air first hits them and then add another layer.

I’m headed out for a run right now and the temp is zero and likely quite a bit colder with wind chill. Here’s what I’m gonna wear. I’m going to do about 4 miles or maybe less, which will take roughly 35 minutes. Any more than that probably invites actual problems.

Feet
1. Merino wool socks (These only come up to my ankles, which is probably going to be a problem. I really should have calf-length socks on but laundry doesn’t do itself and this is what I have.)
2. Altra Torin (shoes)

Legs
1. A pair of Patagonia Capilene tights.
2. A pair of Nike running tights.

Top
1. A Patagonia Capilene top
2. A 100-weight fleece pullover.
3. A hooded windshirt.
4. OPTIONAL (I have a lightweight down jacket, and zero degrees is right on the fringe of when I would wear it to replace the windbreaker, but you need to understand you will likely overheat and that’s a quick way to ruin a run.)

Head and neck
1. A Buff that goes on my neck to cut any cold air hitting my neck.
2. A thick wool ski hat.

Hands
1. Gloves. (They are just a cheap knit pair but they help immensely)

Here’s the test I use to know if I’m dressed appropriately. If I step outside and feel comfortable, I’m dressed too warm and need to shed a layer. If I’m cold, it’s probably right. Make no mistake, the first mile sucks until the blood gets pumping and a little sweat gets going, but after that I’m reasonably comfortable and certainly not in danger of frostbite or anything silly. I just try to keep the mileage really short and save the 10-milers for slightly warmer days.

UPCOMING POST: How to treat frostbite.

And when I was done … hot chocolate.