Monday, November 12, 2012

My Favorite Winter Gear

Alternative Title: Winter is Coming.

Although a few days have been still fairly warm, the freezing cold temperatures of winter are around the corner. I've been running through the last few winters, away from the treadmill, and I've accumulated my fair share of gear. I thought I would share with you some of my favorite winter essentials. Note, I don't want to focus much here on the brands that I use, just the items themselves. If you have questions about preferred brands, please leave me a comment or talk to me about it at the next group run and I will be happy to respond!

1.) Gloves
Fleece gloves with mitten feature
Seems self-explanatory, right? I think I have a mild case of Raynaud's phenomenon so it took me a bit of time to find the right pair. I had been suffering through my cheap $3 near-the-register-throw-away gloves and it just wasn't helping things. I do, however, have 2 pairs that I keep in the rotation. 1 pair that is thinner, great for fall nights or mid-day runs when the sun is out. The 2nd pair I recently purchased this past winter after the recommendation of Amanda Too Tall Fritz. They are a thicker fleece, have a mitten fold-over option (this was something I specifically looked for), a reflective strip (added bonus), and clip together (my favorite feature). I don't mind holding things in my hands when I run so if I warm up and need to take off my gloves, I can buckle them together so I either lose or keep them both (only being able to find 1 mitten is about as frustrating as only being able to find 1 sock)! Of course, it is important to find out what works best for you as discomfort leads to a long run feeling much longer than necessary.


2.) Snow/Rain Jacket
Variety is the spice of life. I couldn't have just 1 rain jacket...
When it comes to sizing, I am usually pretty particular. I like things to fit a certain way... When it comes to jackets like this, I definitely go outside my comfort zone. Jackets are meant to be the outermost layer. If you would like to wear this jacket as protection against snow and rain, you may need to think the same way. In the winter when I'm wearing lots of layers, I feel it is necessary to go a size up. I want room for my layers underneath. As you can tell from the lovely photos above, I have a few options. Some range in price from $10-$90 (although I bought all of these either on clearance or at Marshall's). I like to have a variety of options depending on the size of the pockets (that back pocket is a bit inconvenient/cumbersome for larger items) and what time of day it is (probably not the best idea to wear the black jacket at night). If you plan on running when it is drizzling, misting, down pouring, snow storming, or flurrying, you will be thankful that you have a rain jacket to keep you (mostly) dry!


3.) Running Tights
Great for racing and making friends with dogs
Also great for running hills with Amanda
I'm a huge fan of running tights. I don't like how pants feel moving/rubbing against my legs when I run so I much prefer the ease of tights. I know some folks are not as comfortable and throw on a pair of shorts over their tights. (There are even some options where you can get a running skirt attached to your tights). Either way, I think it is important to invest in a good pair that you love and feel comfortable in. I have some cheaper pairs and some more expensive pairs. The cheaper pairs work better during the week for shorter runs, but a lot of times you really do get what you pay for. Some tight brands are different lengths so you'll have to find out what works best for you and your legs. I have longer legs so I sometimes wear higher socks to cover any unexposed areas. Running tights are not cheap so I found it best to accumulate over time to help save my bank account! :)


3) Headband/hat
Homemade hat with ponytail hole (2nd from the left)
Posing my headband with Pepper
I have a few different varieties and I think it is important. Sometimes for races, I like to just cover my ears since I know I warm up more quickly than during a long run. These are especially great for fall and some of the warmer winter days. I have a hat where I cut out a hole for my ponytail, and I have a hat that I wear over my ponytail, depending on the weather and what you're comfortable with. There are also much fancier headbands and hats with the ponytail hole built-in, but I have yet to invest in one of those.


4) Mask
Headband used as a neck warmer. Pepper is not impressed.
After a fairly mild winter, I invested in one of these on clearance at the end of last year. I haven't used one yet, but I have a feeling one will be necessary this upcoming winter. This is one of those "function over fashion" items as I don't think anyone can look "cool" or "not like a robber" when wearing one of these. But when it is freezing outside, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you don't feel comfortable with a mask or don't want to spend the money, an extra headband works too, just to cover your neck if anything else.


5) Sunglasses
This seems like it might be more relevant in the summer, but the sun hitting the white winter snow can definitely cause a need for sunglasses. Plus, if it is windy, it can help block part of your face. Be careful when switching from car-to-outside and vice-versa as fogging may occur. (I don't normally wear glasses so I usually forget about the whole "fogging" thing until it is too late.) Plus, you look suuuper cool while running with shades. AmIRight??


6) Layers!!!
Winter running is very different than summer running. Wearing many thinner layers is definitely the way to go as it is easier to peel away layers at a time (like an onion, so-to-speak) than wearing a heavy jacket and having minimal options (sweaty or freezing). I like to wear those long unflattering unisex tee-shirts as my lowest layer and tuck it into my tights/capris to help avoid other layers from riding up and from skin being exposed. Especially if I'm wearing a FuelBelt, the chances of things riding up are much larger.


7) Water Bottle Handheld or Belt
Fuel Belts are all the rage in the winter months
Many of the water fountains are turned off during the winter so it is best to bring your own water. If you don't mind running with something in your hand, a handheld can be great. The warmth of your hand will also help keep the water from freezing (which can happen if you drop water at spots along the trail). The full belt is also another option, with different pockets to store things like Kleenex (which you ALWAYS need in the winter). Or you can just store Kleenex in pockets of your jacket, tights, etc.


8.) Reflective Gear and Light
Light? Check. Reflective Vest? Check.  Gloves with reflective strip? Bonus!
If you plan on running after 4pm or before 7am, expect that you may come across some darkness. I highly suggest getting a reflective vest and some sort of light (either head lamp or hand-held light). The winter daylight hours are short and you will feel much better running outside if you know cars can see you (at least, let's hope so). Some companies offer reflective clothing, with reflective material built into the design of the shirt (see this post from Maggie for more details). These are great but it is nice to have a backup plan if these items are in the laundry.

There are definitely not as cute winter running clothes as there are summer, but when you live in Chicago, you realize this on those extra cold days. You may be teased by some non runners, but that is probably going to happen anyways, whether it is winter or not (or is this just me?). I hate being cold so I dress however I need to in order to not be cold. Lol.
Non-runner artist's rendition of a runner
What are some of your favorite winter items? Did I miss anything?
For these items and others, I highly recommend checking our your local Kohl's or Marshall's for a good deal. RunningWarehouse.com also has tons of options available with free shipping!

35 comments:

  1. This is a great list!!! I also wear warmer socks than normal. And last year, I bought some Yak Tracks because I was determined to run through the winter. I only had to use them twice last year, so maybe this year I will get to more!

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  2. I need gloves like that ... you got those from Running Warehouse, right?

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  3. Yes! My only regret was that I went with what size I am in clothes and probably should have compensated for my abnormally long fingers.

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  4. Ah yes. I have trail shoes that I used last year instead of Yak Traks. I liked that they translated well from pavement to snow. We'll see if I need to invest in a pair of Yak Tracks this year! What did you think of them? Did you post a review on your blog? If so, can you link up?

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  5. I need a rain jacket! Which brand is the blue one?

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  6. The blue one is Columbia. My MIL found it on clearance at Marshall's. It is super light-weight and rain/wind resistant.

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  7. I think the yak traks are way overrated. If there is a nice layer of snow that will absorb the springs, they are good. If you have a clear area then they don't feel good at all, plus they change your gate. I think they are an injury waiting to happen.

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  8. Thank you for this post! Last winter was my first winter as a runner, but it was so warm that I didn't need to get many new things. This year, I'm planning on asking for things for Christmas, and now I know what to ask for!

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  9. I have heard the same thing about YakTrax from other experienced runners - they change the way you run and can lead to an increased risk for injuries. Which is why I've never tried them myself. I've run on snow with no problem, or I'll run on side streets after the snow has been cleared (during the day, wearing bright colors).

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  10. Yay! Hopefully the super-cold temps hold off until after Christmas so you don't need to buy the stuff for yourself beforehand! I'm glad this list could help you out! :)

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  11. Thanks for these perspectives. Last year I also wore trail shoes that seemed to help out enough...

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  12. I am a serial user of the 99 cent check out gloves. I am weird though because no matter how cold it is, at some point my hands feel too hot and i take them off, and then drop them without noticing. I might add a nice pair to my list for santa... :)

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  13. A few of my running buddies can attest to this. Every time I used the 99 cents gloves, I was complaining about how freezing my hands were, as I frequently lost feeling in them. Thankfully I finally wised-up at the end of winter. FINALLY.

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  14. Mittens in most winter weather conditions. They keep my hands much warmer than gloves and if my hands are warm, I can handle almost all winter temps/conditions.

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  15. I have all the items above except for a face mask. I'm also one of those runners who is not comfortable wearing running tights without shorts over them. lol

    Layer layer layer is a must for running in the winter. Great post!

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  16. I cannot run in full pants in the winter, I don't know how people do it! I feel like my legs would get intertwined or something. I have definitely done the shorts-over-tights thing before too :)

    Running in the winter can be compared to an onion. Lots of layers are needed! :)

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  17. That is why I went with the glove/mittens. Serve both functions. Do you use running/dryfit mittens or just a regular pair? Sometimes my hands get too sweaty in mittens so I'm curious. Thanks!

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  18. Britt @ Chicago Runner GirlNovember 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    You should be a fashion model, you're rockin those outfits! These days I'm all about quality tights cause my bum just doesn't stay as warm as it used to. Darn fat deposits and aging body. Craft makes a lot of really great gear, but its quite pricey.

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  19. Haha! Thanks! I tried to do some self-photos in between study sessions this weekend. What is your favorite brand of tights? I'm a huge fan of Oiselle but I have not yet used much of their winter gear.

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  20. I use my headlamp and reflective vest on almost EVERY run during the winter months. I feel like I run in the dark more than I run in the light!

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  21. Great list of winter running needs! You look fabulous in all of the photos too.

    I'd say Chapstick is the only thing you didn't mention... Especially in the winter when it's super dry, I'll always have a tube of Burt's in my pocket because I hate when my lips get dried out.

    I need to go to Marshall's and get a heavier jacket to run in when it's too cold for my Saucony one. Great idea!

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  22. I don't get the change to run much when the sun is up given my work schedule. A reflective vest is absolutely crucial! That reminds me, I need to get new batteries for my light!

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  23. Thanks!!

    Ahhh! Chapstick!! That is something I ALWAYS forget!!! I need to keep a stick in each of my running jackets, honestly.

    Marshall's and TJ Maxx are totally under-utilized spots to find great deals. I would also check the regular jacket section in addition to the athletic gear. And don't forget to check clearance! You never know what you might find!

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  24. Haha! Love that I made the blog! And I'm a huge fan of your husband's art skills.

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  25. Irina @ Chocolatea TimeNovember 12, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Great information! What brand are those gloves? My fingers get numb verrryy quickly and I need something to protect them. And I would love to know the brands of jackets you use...I'm in need of some thicker/warmer jackets for the bitter Chicago winter.

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  26. I use Patagonia arctic grade mittens with washable liners. If my hands get too hot, I pull my hands out of the mittens for a few minutes. I have tried the glove/mittens combo, but sometimes they don't keep my hands warm enough. Maybe I should try your brand?

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  27. Haha me too. I am so not an artistic type. His drawing is pretty accurate, except for the part that I don't go out for a nightly run while wearing a racing bib. Although, that would be pretty hysterical.

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  28. The gloves brand is Manzella. I like them a lot!

    The rain jackets are Nike (pink), Columbia (blue), C9 from Target (black), and Gap Body (grey). I only use these as my outer most layer when it is snowy or raining. I would recommend something thicker for your every day cold winter runs. I would check out your local Target or TJ Maxx/Marshall's for different brands and types of jackets that you like (with or without thumbholes, etc.)

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  29. Ah I am not jealous of the temperatures in South Africa! I would take the cold over the heat for running temps any day of the week!! Hope you make it through the storms alright!

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  30. I use the brand Manzella. I really like that they are fleece. I will admit, sometimes my fingers are a little cool to start but they usually warm up once I start moving. Those washable liners sound nice! Where did you get yours from?

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  31. Uh we should totally do that on a Thurs night run Kelly!

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  32. I love this post simply because there are so many pictures of you and I miss your face. MORE PICTURES.

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  33. Aw thanks Kelsey. I'm very excited for our run and brunch in December. Would it be weird if I added a countdown on my blog until then? I didn't think so either.

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  34. Seriously, you guys who are running in the snow are my heroes.

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  35. Lol!! When life gives you lemons... It is time to make some frozen lemonad!

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