Sub-Zero Running

Ice Beard

Aaron’s brother after a sub-zero run. Wear reflective clothes after dark!

Can you handle running in the frozen wasteland? Of course. Unlike winter biking, there is little controversy as to whether running is a year-round sport. The conversation gets interesting when runners debate just how cold we can go. When it comes to cold weather, I am a giant wimp. I make no claim to being “tough”. Rather than battle the elements, I have just figured out exactly what I need to wear in order to be “comfortable” running— even in sub-zero temperatures.

A fundamental principle is that motion generates heat. Be careful not to over-dress. Today I ran in 11 degrees + wind-chill and by mile 2 I was sweating through my fleece. Even at cold temperatures, it is amazing how much heat you can trap just by wearing a couple of layers and a hat. In cold weather, gloves just spread out the fingers so they can freeze in isolation. I wear thick wool socks on my hands over light gloves to provide the greatest balance of warmth and breathability. In temps lower than 10 degrees I switch from light to heavy wool socks to protect my delicate toes.

With even a slight breeze at sub-zero temps, frostbite becomes a real concern in less time than it will take to get a workout. I leave no skin exposed. I use a fleece hood with a built-in face-mask that warms the air before it enters my lungs. I also like to protect my valuable, delicate eyes, so goggles are a must. Speaking of protecting valuable and delicate parts, I strongly encourage the gentlemen to wear compression shorts to keep everything tight to the body.

Also realize that it take the body a few days to adapt to breathing that cold air, so try to be consistently outside as the seasons change. The goal is not to “tough it out” but to be as comfortable as possible so you can enjoy exercising outside year-round.

2 responses to “Sub-Zero Running

  1. I have never worn goggles while running in the cold. Do you know how different temperatures/wind affect the eyes? Should I be more careful?

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    • The goggles are not necessary for normal running conditions. I will wear them if it is in single digits or if it is particularly windy. If you feel comfortable without them, then it is not cold enough to worry about tissue damage.

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