It is Cool to Run in an Arctic Blast!-The Monday Mile

Arctic Blast Gear

This past week was a deep freeze for much of the northern and eastern parts of the country. In our area the temperature when I went out for my morning runs was sub-zero on four days, only creeping up to +2 on Friday. Adding in wind-chill, morning temperatures in the dark were about -10 to -15 degrees F. If you believe my Facebook timeline, I am clearly insane for going out running in these temperatures. And while I am not complaining as the morning temperatures are predicted for 20s and 30s this week, I was never too cold last week, and as very pleased with the fact that I ran over 30 miles across 4 days with an average temperature of -2 with a -10 wind chill.

When I mention this to people, the first question is ‘weren’t you COLD’?!? And as I mention above, the answer is NO. I attribute that to three things: planning, layering, and clothing technology. First, there is planning and layering. Planning means knowing what parts of you get the coldest fast, which in general are the extremities that aren’t moving … your hands and head. My hands are my definite weak point as they get cold first and take forever to warm back up, so I knew they needed to be protected. My winter running gloves were augmented by windproof winter gloves, but I ran with my hands pretty much balled in the inner portion (in other words, I would be better served with mittens).

Amazingly, I used my normal running shoes and thin ASICS socks and my feet never got cold.

In terms of layers I worked off two core layers of thermal-tech Nike ‘Pro Combat’ clothes. The image below shows my inner layer: long sleeved ‘Pro Combat’ wicking running shirt and running tights. These alone are good to at least 30F regardless of wind or time of day, and down to 20F in sunny mid-day conditions without wind.

Inner Gear

Once those are loaded up, I add on the Nike bottoms and Livestrong Sweatshirt. Both are ‘Dri Tech’ and meant to keep you warm and dry. But they are not ‘heavy’, in fact I would compare then with relatively lightweight pair of sweats similar to the type you’d get for $5 at the local budget retailer. Except that these wick away sweat and block wind.

Above I said I was ‘never too cold’, but I never said I was really ‘warm’. That is how these new ‘tech clothes’ work. The use your body warmth to keep you comfortable, but do not trap so much as to overheat you. One morning I was running and had a strong wind hit for about a third of a mile and felt cool, but the wind didn’t bite into me. It keeps you in touch with the environment without becoming dangerously cold.

Outer Gear

As you can see in the image at the top, I also wore loads of other stuff. On top I had a balaclava, a ‘smart wool’ neck warmer, my winter hat, and my hood. Because I run very early in the morning I also have a headlamp and reflective vest.

Of course, there really IS a point at which it is ‘too cold to run’, based on the combined temperature and wind chill. The guidance is that anything below -20F wind chill is getting into ‘seriously dangerous’ territory. Here is the chart from the National Weather Service:


Oh, another benefit of running in the cold? Research says that on average your body consumes ~13% more calories exercising in cold temperatures than warm. Currently for me that means I have to pay more attention in order to not lose any weight, but for most folks burning more is a good thing. However, colder temperatures mean being more tense, and people definitely skimp on stretching and warm-ups in cold weather, so that is the downside.

Did you experience the arctic blast last week? Did you exercise outside? What is your limit in terms of temperature and wind chill? And how do you layer-up for your runs? Let us know!

Categories: Health and Fitness


3 replies

  1. We had similar temps here, though warmer – it was about 2F on the coldest day, with wind chill maybe -10 to -15F at the worst. Today, at 20F, was the warmest in the last eight or so days. As with you, I just “layer up” – on the coldest days, I had three layers on my legs, five on my torso, two pairs of gloves, two layers on my head, and I was fine (as with you, also with just one pair of socks and shoes – nothing special there.) I’m out on average about 80 minutes a day, and did nothing special to shorten that in the last week.

    I worry more about slippery conditions than cold myself, but worry less since I started using screws as ice cleats. I still avoid running if it is snowing and the road is untreated – I really don’t need to be hit by a snowplow or sand truck.

    • Haha … definitely hear you on the plow/truck avoidance! I run very early AM so am very aware of that as well.

      This morning was icy and I found myself wishing I had done the DIY ice cleats, as I had to limit to ~2.5 miles and some indoor core and strength work.


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