The ‘Dog Days of Winter’

A go-to guide for what to wear when the last leaf falls
Nov 08, 2011

Early last month, I went down to Charlotte for a two- day training session with my job. When I left on Monday, the weather was warm, the trees were green and I carelessly packed nothing more substantial than a polo shirt and slacks. Upon my return late Wednesday evening, I found the air to be frigid and unforgiving.
That next morning, I woke up to autumn foliage and a slight frost. Needless to say, I was absolutely flabbergasted. It’s incredible what a change 48 hours can make.
And with the change in the season, it’s that time of year when it’s particularly necessary to dress in layers. With our mornings hitting near freezing and our afternoons at a more temperate 60-70 degrees, it’s easy to find yourself either yearning for a coat or uncomfortably overdressed, respectively.
The same goes for a runner. This time of year I normally find myself planning for colder weather than necessary. That being the case, I’ll start a run, get overheated and eventually end my run carrying my winter cap and an extra layer. I only admit to doing this because when it comes to running, I’m not what you would call a “planner” regarding my attire. However, with a little more forethought and a little less procrastination, I could very easily judge my attire and cruise through my runs comfortably and not to mention, hands free.
The following will help you decide what to wear, regardless of what type of runner you are, or what Mother Nature decides to throw your way.

Hot or Not?
The first aspect to consider is how you like to feel whether you’re on the road or the trail. Are you the type of runner who thrives on sweating it out and feeling who hot sensation? Or, are you the runner that likes to feel comfortable and cool. Personally, I enjoy the cooler weather because that hot sensation coupled with the cool air really helps me relax in my runs. But everyone is different. In any case, this time of year, you’ll likely run in one of the two following weather conditions.

Temperature: 45
degrees and below
Regardless of your type, this temperature category incorporates three absolutes that should always be included in that days running attire: winter cap, gloves and jacket. As the vast majority of body heat escapes through the head, the winter cap is an essential item that will help to maintain your core body temperature.  Also, in cooler temperatures, blood tends to not travel as easily, making the gloves necessary to protect your extremities from wind burn, not to mention that awful spikey sensation when your hands return from freezing to warm temperatures. The jacket itself acts as a barrier from the elements, i.e. wind, snow and rain.

Layers, Layers, Layers...
For temperatures above 35 degrees, it’s easy to get away with wearing shorts, though for those really cold days, I prefer a moisture- wicking full-length tight on my legs, as well as a long-sleeve shirt and often times a wind breaking vest underneath my jacket.  Wearing multiple layers will help retain heat as the space between each layer will act as a barrier, allowing only so much heat to escape. I also prefer wearing socks made of performance wool, a material that retains heat but doesn’t cause that awful itch. And though this is another topic for another day, don’t ever wear cotton socks. To be continued…

50 – 70 degrees
These are the easy days when all you have to worry about is whether or not it’s raining. However, finding a breathable weatherproof jacket can be easier said than done. For example, I have a lightweight Columbia jacket that’s 100-percent water resistant, though I always get uncomfortably hot because just as it doesn’t allow moisture in,  it also allows no moisture to escape. This creates a considerable amount of uncomfortable perspiration. For anyone who might enjoy that sauna feeling during a workout, I’ll sell it to you for $20.
What do I suggest? Try finding a lightweight rain jacket with mesh underlays that allow both moisture and heat to escape. For those who like to feel cool, consider finding a weatherproof vest that delivers just enough protection from the elements. And for days when the breeze is a bit cooler, consider exchanging your short- sleeve shirt for a more substantial long-sleeve layer.

Ask the Experts
For those who still might be unsure, you can visit where under their “Shoes and Gear” section, you can select “Apparel and Socks.” Once there, you can use their “What to Wear” guide to show you exactly what to wear based on the temperature, precipitation and your desired level of comfort.
In any case, this time of year, don’t be the brave guy who runs his 5k in a pair of shorts with a 2 inch inseam and no shirt. After all, having a tan won’t benefit you any time before May and no one really wants to see that much leg. So cover up and enjoy what the winter has to offer. Don’t forget your hat!
Aaron Mabry is a former 800m and 1000m State Champion from Pisgah High School. He ran collegiately at East Carolina University where he had the opportunity to compete in Conference USA. Now married, he’s the Director of the Haywood County Fairgrounds and is an assistant coach for Pisgah’s distance program.
For questions or potential ideas on running, you can e-mail Aaron at

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