Pace Points: You’re ready to run, now what should you wear?

I’m getting really excited because this Saturday is the kick-off of the Marathoner In Training (MIT) 2012 Winter/Spring Session! If you’re new to my blog and don’t know, MIT is my passion! It was created here in Columbus in 2000 by a group of individuals who wanted to pursue their passion for running. Since then, MIT has grown to become one of America’s foremost leaders in endurance training. Today, MIT utilizes 45 dedicated coaches and trains runners and walkers from all levels of experience towards the successful completion of their goal race. MIT is not just for marathon training, whether your goal is a 5K, half or full marathon or even a multi-sport event, MIT will provide comprehensive training in a supportive atmosphere that will enable you to meet your goals and make plenty of friends along the way.

I trained with MIT in the summer of 2009 and went from being inactive to completing my first half marathon with my friend and training buddy Chrissy. Since then, I have made countless friends and companions through MIT, some of who have helped carry me though one of the darkest times in my life. Now, running has become my lifestyle and the people I train with have become my family.

I can’t wait to welcome all of the new faces (and welcome back the old) at our first workout on Saturday! This year, I am once again coaching the 13 minute per mile group with co-coaches Duane and Judi. We have a lot of great things in store for our runners, and I know I will have awesome stories to share with you.

Part of my job as a Pace Coach is to help newer runners find and navigate the wealth of information that exists about running and answer questions. I also hope to blog about some of this information in hopes that it can offer advice to my readers and followers.

So, without further ado, let’s get this thing going!

One of the most common questions asked by cold-weather runners is what to wear for your workout. Below are some tips that I have found helpful to dressing smart for wintery workouts.

One of the most important things to remember is not to overdress. Even though it is going to get cold outside and snowy, you should keep in mind to dress as of it is 15 – 20 degrees warmer outside than it actually is. You should be a little chilly outside when you first start running. If you are hot before you even leave the house or take a step, you are overdressed. A lot of mornings, I will get dressed to run and then take my dogs out. If I am warm just walking to the yard, I have on too much!

To stay warm and dry in winter weather conditions, be sure to dress in layers of breathable fabrics. Do not wear cotton – it is not breathable and holds in moisture. When you sweat, the moisture stays against skin, potentially making you uncomfortable and cold. Instead, you want to wear what are referred to as technical fabrics. These are breathable fabrics that wick perspiration and moisture away from the skin. You should look for fabrics that are 100% Polyester or otherwise described as “wicking” or “technical.”

It is also important to dress in thin layers. This allows moisture to be removed from the bottom layers and away from the skin, keeping you warm and dry. Dressing in layers also allows for freedom of movement when you are running and you can remove the outer layers if you do get too warm. In terms of the top half of your body, the minimalist approach is the way to go, especially with milder temperatures like we have been experiencing. For example, you may wear a long sleeve technical shirt and then a windbreaker or similar running jacket. You can find technical fabrics at specialty running shops or regular department stores like Target, Old Navy and Kohls. Champion makes a good, inexpensive technical line with a variety of styles that you can experiment with if you are just starting out. In terms of the bottom half, leggings or tights can be beneficial because they are not too suffocating and allow for increased freedom of movement. I have a pair of Brooks thermal running pants if it is going to be extremely cold outside. You do not generally need to layer up on pants because it can be cumbersome. Keep in mind to look for technical bottoms as well.

Also, don’t neglect your feet! I highly recommend getting fitted at a specialty running shop for footwear. I shop at Fleet Feet Columbus. Generally, a running store staff is experienced at assessing your gait, pronation and running form to fit you in a pair of shoes that will keep you not only running comfortable, but help to keep you running injury-free. In addition, you should wear technical (non-cotton!) socks to keep your feet warm and dry when running through snow and water. You should not double up on wearing socks, which can cause chaffing and blistering. Ladies, I have also found it beneficial to get fitted for a sports bra, which most running shops can also do.

You may also want to wear a light pair of gloves; many runners prefer the fingerless type so they can still use their hands without too much hassle.  I found fingerless gloves at Target in the dollar bin and bought a bunch of pairs. It’s great because I tend to lose them or ruin them and for $1, I don’t have to worry about it.

A hat, ball cap or headband that covers your ears is also beneficial in winter weather to keep you warm and keep moisture out of your face and eyes. In the case of extreme cold (less than 40 degrees) be sure to cover your head with a breathable hat and wear gloves because you lose most of your body heat through your extremities. If it is windy, you may want to invest in a neck gator to keep the wind off your face. You can also put Vaseline on your skin (around your mouth, nose and cheeks) to keep from wind chafing.

As with many topics in running, it’s all about what works for you! Try different things during your various runs to find the combination of clothing and footwear that you prefer.

Happy winter running, friends!

Until the next mile marker,


  1. Ha, RB photobombed that first picture! Also, you might want to mention getting a sports bra fitting along with getting shoes fit.

  2. Thanks, Sarah! I meant to add that in about sports bras to begin with!

  3. Thanks, Kovas! The treadmill makes me crazy!

  4. Kovas Palubinskas says

    Or, run on the treadmill. 🙂 Great advice Sara!

  5. Excellent advice as usual… thanks, Sara.

    I hate all the layers necessary in the winter… would so much rather run in the heat. But, bundle up I do!

  6. runningperseverance says

    LOVE THIS SERIES! these are great tips for the cold! and yayyy! so excited for another season of MIT to get started for you all! i know you are an inspiration to everyone you come into contact with 🙂

  7. RunningMandy says

    Nice post! I’m one of those that has to dress as though it’s more like 40 degrees warmer than what it actually is. HA! I kind rarely wear hats either, unless it’s below 10…they always wind up in my pocket. I’m odd, I know.

  8. Kimberly Turner Bouldin says

    Great post, Sara! Can’t wait to get started again tomorrow!!!!

  9. RunToTheFinish says

    ahh not over dressing that one is my major issue on race day. I hate being cold at the start so I’m all bundled up…and yup about 3 miles in I am over heating. Oh well things to keep learning!

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