Fitness

How to Adjust Your Running Attire for Any Season

Sometimes the worst part of running outdoors is the weather. Here's how to be ready for anything nature throws at you.

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Running can be an all-weather activity. Many runners don't mind exercising in the cold (or rain or snow or heat) as long as they're prepared for the weather. I never considered myself an all-weather runner until this year, when I had to train in the dead of winter for a spring race. Despite being a long-time runner, this was the first time I truly understood there isn't such a thing as bad running weather, just the wrong attire. The only exception is if there's a weather advisory warning, which you can't dress for.

Whether you're running through the dog days of summer or in frigid winter temperatures, comfort is key. With the help of running coach Kara Dudley of Mile High Run Club, we've gathered the best ways to dress for a run no matter what time of year. 

Don't just check the temperature

Checking the weather app on a phone indoors
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Weather always plays a key role when deciding how to dress, but when you're dressing for a run, you have to change your tactics: It's important to dress as if it's 10 to 15 degrees warmer outside to keep from overheating. For example, if it's 60 degrees outside with no wind chill, dress for it to feel closer to 70 or 75 degrees. According to Dudley, another aspect to keep in mind is the feel of weather, which includes temperature and wind chill. 

I found this to be true when dressing during my winter runs. A 30 degree day without a wind chill felt significantly warmer than a 30 degree day with a 10 degree windchill. This meant I would dress like it was colder on the days that a windchill was significantly present.  

Some of Dudley's favorite activewear brands include Gore, Outdoor Voices and Lululemon because of their versatility. However, she says affordable clothes found at Walmart, Target or Amazon can function just as well.

If you're running a race, Dudley says to consider that it will be colder in the morning before you toe the starting line. "I always recommend bringing clothes you can donate or throw away to the start line and then stripping them before you start," she suggests. Additionally, she advises runners to wear less on race day because you'll warm up as you get going. If you're too warm it can easily affect your performance, because you'll be too preoccupied about how you're feeling.

Running in cold weather

Three people run on a country road dusted in snow

Running in the winter is possible as long as you dress in the right layers.

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It's easy to be deterred from running outdoors in the colder months, but it's much simpler to dress for winter runs than you'd think. Dudley recommends keeping fleece-lined leggings, hats, gloves and an insulated layer on hand. "After that, add a vest if it's colder out, and if it's super cold, I'll put on either a running jacket or sweatshirt or quarter zip, plus the jacket on top," she says. Adding a vest also keeps your midsection warm without causing you to overheat. From personal experience, I've found that a vest is the perfect addition to keep you warm while keeping your arms free. 

Dudley warns that if it's cold outside, avoid wearing cotton because once you sweat into it or get rain or snow on it, it will actually make you colder because it won't dry quickly. Instead, she suggests wearing a moisture-wicking fabric, like polyester or nylon.

If you're concerned about keeping your face warm during freezing temperatures, a ski mask is a great option. "You can get one that covers your neck up to your nose – if you feel like you need a break from it or start to get hot, you can always pull it down and wear it like a buff around your neck," Dudley explains.

Dudley advises the following if you're dressing for the winter and unpredictable cold spring weather: 

Under 40 degrees: Add gloves and a hat

Under 30 degrees: Add an extra top layer such as a quarter zip up

Under 20 degrees: Add a jacket 

Under 10 degrees: Add a ski mask

She adds that when it's cold, you can't go wrong with wearing a hat and gloves since your head and your fingers are the first place to lose heat. "If it gets too hot, I like to wear leggings or a jacket with pockets in them so I can take these items off and carry them along," she says.

Running in the heat

A man and woman smile at each other while running in the sun

Avoid overdressing in the summer to prevent overheating.

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The warmer months can be tricky for runners, because even wearing minimal clothing can feel like a lot, especially if you run later in the day when the temperature is at its highest. Having trained for a marathon in the summer, I'd recommend avoiding running later in the day and instead doing your runs at dawn when it's cooler. 

Luckily, unlike in winter, you don't have to worry about wearing multiple pieces of clothing. If it's over 80 degrees, Dudley says that the less clothing you wear the better because you want to prevent overheating. She recommends wearing shorts and skipping a shirt, instead going shirtless or with a sports bra. If you end up wearing a shirt and getting hot, you can tuck it in your shorts.

In weather over 50 degrees, but less than 65 I've felt comfortable wearing a tank top and shorts or capri tights, or a sports bra and shorts. This is based on personal preference and the feel of the weather. 

In addition to wearing the right clothing in the heat, it's important to stay hydrated as well. The Road Runners Club of America recommends drinking 10 to 15 ounces of water about 10 to 15 minutes before running, and drinking water every 20 to 30 minutes during your run. It's especially important to have water with you if you plan on going for a run that lasts longer than an hour.

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How the wrong gear can affect your run

The last thing you want to do is be underdressed or overdressed when you're out for a run. Although it's much easier to strip off layers if you overdress, if you underdress you can put yourself at risk for hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia may include shivering, confusion, stumbling, and exhaustion. If you're overdressed and start to experience signs of heat exhaustion, that can look like goosebumps on your skin in the heat. You may also experience dizziness, fatigue, nausea, weakness, and headache. Dudley advises, "It's always better to prioritize safety first if you feel any of these symptoms coming on, so stop what you're doing and get someplace warmer or cooler respectively, as soon as possible."

Not only can over or underdressing compromise your health, but it can also take away from optimal performance. There's a difference between powering through a run and putting yourself at risk. Dudley says if you're planning on running in extreme weather like heat warnings or snowstorms, it's better to air on the side of caution and either switch the day of your run or take it to a treadmill. She adds, "If the weather is super bad, you won't get all the benefits of the workout anyways if you're struggling through it because of the weather." 

Most importantly, Dudley advises to stock up on the proper running gear if you're training for a race and you know you're going to be spending extended periods of time running outside. Having the right gear will relieve any added stress about the elements because you'll be prepared for anything.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.