Baby, it’s cold outside!

We are pretty spoiled by the temperate climate here in SoCal, but this winter, we have been experiencing especially cold temperatures. It can be challenging to get motivated when it’s chilly outside, however, if you have a black lab that still needs to go out in the morning, it’s a lot easier to tolerate the cold temperatures when you are dressed appropriately for the conditions. This means dressing in layers. My husband had a track coach in high school who mandated the number of clothing layers to be worn on a given day.

 running in the cold

For example, a 30 degree day would be a “four layer day” meaning:

  • Base Layer: Tights/Under armor
  • Fitness Clothing: Running Shorts/Shirt/Singlet
  • Thermal Layer: Sweatshirt and Pants
  • Wind Layer: Wind Jacket and Wind Pants


A 70 degree day; however, would be a “three layer day” meaning:

  • Base Layer
  • Fitness Clothing
  • Either Thermal OR Wind Layer


I bring this up because layering is personal and should be fine-tuned to each individual’s comfort level.  However, the basic principles for appropriate layering in cold weather are:

  1. First layer, should wick moisture away from the body; Look for appropriate technical fabrics, such as synthetics and or wools.  Try to avoid cotton fabrics as they absorb sweat and moisture and you will end up cold and damp (This rule also goes for your socks)
  2. Second layer, should regulate body temperature and provide insulation.
  3.  The Third layer should protect against elements such as wind, rain, sleet or snow. Technology continues to advance for us outdoor enthusiasts; look for a fabric that is treated with a hydrophilic coating inside and a hydrophobic coating on the outside. This allows warm moist air to escape from inside, while preventing rain or snow from penetrating the shell.


The rationale and need for layering is based in peer-reviewed scientific research which indicates that in cold weather running is effected due to:

  • In cold weather the human body has a higher reliance on carbohydrate energy stores, a lower reliance or ability to utilize fat stores, and has a higher oxygen consumption for a given level of activity
  • Additionally, explosive power and dynamic strength is limited based on muscle temperature (which can be significantly lower in extremities


Studies show that runners and endurance athletes are especially susceptible to cold weather conditions based on their low body fat percentages and slender builds.  So, if you’re a 6’1 220lb power athlete who happens to be running a 5K in 40 degree weather, dress how you’re comfortable and happy.  If you’re a 5’2 110 lb endurance athlete who is running a 5K in 40 degree weather, put some layers on!

About the author  ⁄ Kristin

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