Finally after several days of running abstinence I was able to get back to running, despite the sub-zero (°C) temperature. It’s still winter here in Ohio and although we don’t have several inches of snow on the ground we barely break 0°C during daytime, in fact the warmest temperature we’ve had these past few days was 2°C and the coldest was -14°C. We usually have flurries at night but a lot of it melts during daytime when temperatures exceed 0°C so we don’t have much buildup, but if you walk around you’d see a lot of ice deposits. There are also a lot of man-made ponds here and most of which are frozen (a few inches thick) but they usually don’t allow people to skate on it.
During my early days here I was frustrated to run—I don’t have any thermal clothes that I can use to run outdoors and it took me several days before I was able to get one. Unlike in the Philippines you really need a car to get to the stores and malls so visiting a sports shop that caters thermal pants can be difficult. Finding one was also a challenge since stores are transitioning from winter collections to spring so I really have to travel more than 50 miles to get my gear.
Here’s my complete winter gear: a runner’s beanie (or bonnet) as headgear, a normal t-shirt and windbreaker as top, a pair of windproof gloves as hand protection, Under Armour thermal tights as bottoms, regular Nike Dri-Fit socks and New Balance 811 trail running shoes as footwear.
I started my winter run on a treadmill in the hotel before I got my thermal pants. You may use your denim jeans when running but wearing one isn’t really ideal so I settled for a treadmill for the time being. When I got my thermal tights things started looking up—the “barriers” that hindered my outdoor run were no longer issues.
Winter Gear Explained
Let’s start from top to bottom. Exposing yourself in freezing and windy air for sometime hurts your ear so a beanie is a need. I think it differs from a bonnet that the latter is normally loose and big while a beanie is more fitting and sporty. I got a thermal one so even if it’s almost an exact fit it’s very warm.
When I started running outdoors for the first time I was wearing a t-shirt, a fleece jacket, and a windbreaker as top. Outside temperature then was -3°C so I was still testing my tolerance limit. This was later reduced (a few minutes after I got warmed up) to just the tee and windbreaker as you really get warm and even start to sweat despite the freezing temperature. A windbreaker is needed because of wind-chill—it tends to feel colder than it actually is because of the wind (e.g. it could feel like -14°C but in actuality it’s only -6°C because of the wind), and where I’m at it’s very windy, most of the time.
A water-repelling wind-resistant pair of gloves are useful to prevent your fingers from getting numb. It’s not as comfortable and convenient as a free hand but in cold weather it’ s a necessity.
For the bottom I was wearing thermal pants and my regular running shorts (a Nike football short to be precise) but that was more for aesthetic purposes and later during that initial run I also removed it to test if it was warm enough, and it was. Note that the tights that I got is thermal—it is specifically designed for use in temperatures below 55°F so it’s warm enough that you don’t need extra layers especially since your legs also get warmer when running. It keeps you warm without sacrificing weight and performance so tights were the perfect solution for running in the midst of winter outdoors.
Any socks may be used in cold weather; it just depends on how warm you’d like to be. For me a regular Nike Dri-Fit cushioned socks is warm enough and the NB 811 is not as “meshy” as other running shoes, plus since it’s for trail running it’s extra useful when running on ice which are especially slippery. There’s a thing they call “black ice” that is the same color as the pavement (especially asphalt) so you don’t see it—you’d just slip on it, so the extra traction that trail running shoes provide is really useful.
I had planned on sharing this experience for several days now but it’s only recently that I got the chance. As of press time I had already ran at least 20K outdoors, normally in the afternoon and on -3°C temperature. The warmest run I’ve had was earlier this afternoon, 5.25K on 1°C.
I look forward to more runs while winter is still here. Pretty soon it would be spring and even before that my US trip would come to an end. Don’t let some obstacles hinder your plans to run. If you really will it, you can. I was born and raised in the warm tropics (and spent most of my life between 17°C-35°C) and here I am running outdoors in USA in the middle of winter. If there’s a will, there’s always a way, otherwise all you got are excuses. Takbo hangga’t may lupa, kahit pa nagyeyelo!