I've seen *~*beauty gurus*~* on YouTube publish "Ride or Die" videos with their favorite makeup and skin care products (and get overly excited when we have a product in common), so I thought it would be interesting to figure out what my all-time-favorite, can't-live-without-it winter running accoutrement are. I've landed on my top five.
I'm sure we all have a few favorite things we take with us to work out. Maybe it's your squishy yoga mat, your insulated water bottle so you never have to drink lukewarm water EVER again, or your trusty dusty sports bra (no judgment). And maybe your favorite things change depending on the season. I know mine do.
Because it's winter, let's talk about cold-weather running. I started winter running in my teens, and I didn't really know how to do it. We had dial-up, which meant ain't nobody got time to wait for Yahoo to load so I can look up how to run in winter. I just tried to figure it out myself. (For those looking for tips from professionals, check out this article by Runner's World!) One of the first times I ran outside in the snow, I realized how painful it was to breathe freezing-cold air. But because breathing is essential to running—and sustaining life—I knew I had to figure out a solution. I would wear a scarf or neck warmer and cover my mouth, sometimes my nose too. The fabric was enough to warm the air as I breathed in, so it wasn't so dang cold by the time it hit my lungs. I'm sure that's the science behind it, right? Honestly, once I figured out how to make the lung pain go away, the rest was just dressing appropriately, which I'll explain later.
Fast-forward umpteen years, and winter is my favorite time to run. I finally got acclimated to the point where I could ditch the scarf (though sometimes I do bust out the neck warmer on particularly frosty days). Still, I definitely need a little help from my friends, a.k.a., my ride or dies. Just a note: most of these have been with me for a while now, so I'm supplying accurate links where possible, but some products may not be available anymore or may have been updated since circa 2008.
1. Brooks highlighter-yellow reflective jacket. My dad likes to keep his loved ones safe, so when he realized I was really into this running thing, he got me this. I never run in winter (or at night!) without it. It provides enough of a layer that I can wear a thicker running top and just add this and I'm golden. By far my favorite feature is the breast pocket. I've used this pocket for my keys, my iPod, my phone, my credit cards and license, you name it—not all at once though, let's be realistic. I prefer using this pocket over the hip-area pockets because those one bounce too much, especially with something heavier, like keys or a phone. Side note on dressing for winter running: You don't want to overdress because you'll be uncomfortable and get too hot very quickly. The article I linked above suggests dressing like it's twenty degrees warmer than it actually is. It looks like nowadays Brooks offers less highlighter-esque options with nifty hidden pockets, so check out their Nightlife collection! Safety first!!
2. Headband/ear warmer. Honestly I think this thing is from Walmart and came in a pack of at least three for maybe five dollars. It was probably lying around the house in the early 2000s and I snagged it and never let it go. Because I don't know exactly where it's from, here's a link to a fleece Under Armour headband that looks legit. Anyway, I've found that if my ears are exposed when cold-weather running, they sting like a mother afterward and I can get some pretty solid headaches. But I don't like wearing beanies/tuques to run because I have a ponytail to contend with. This headband is the perfect solution for me.
3. Smartwool toe socks (or wool socks in general). Snow is frozen water! I realized very soon after switching to minimalist shoes with lots of mesh that my feet were going to get wet in winter. And I'll probably have to plod through some slushy puddles. Once I accepted this and stopped trying to avoid the slush, winter running became a lot more enjoyable. To combat the risks of frostbite and trenchfoot, I like these wool socks. They're from my Five Fingers days (which I would definitely consider going back to!), when almost every run left me with soggy feet. Since wearing these, I've never complained about cold feet.
4. North Face gloves. I got these puppies (or a similar version) as a gift from Scott and Donna (shoutout!!), and I've worn them nearly every day of winter for the past three or four years, regardless of running. I am living proof that you can in fact overdress for winter running, and I struggled a lot with gloves. I would always be ripping off my gloves mid-run because my hands were unbearably hot. Weird, I know. But these ones are thick enough to keep out the cold, yet light enough that my hands aren't sweating up a storm in there. If you're thinking of trying winter running, definitely consider a lighter pair of gloves.
5. Body Glide. Jon and I always use Body Glide on our feet. Even in winter when you might think, "They can't possibly be that sweaty in chilly Buffalo in January!" Challenge accepted. (Also, see my comments on the slush puddles in no. 3.) This all-season champ is a must-have, and I'm sure we've got at least three sticks kickin' around in our running gear. I would so much rather glide my feet as a precaution than be halfway through a run and feel a hot spot developing riiiiiight in that squishy part next to the ball of the foot. So we glide.
Honorable mention: Lip balm. I suggest putting on a healthy coat of lip balm before you brave the winter winds. No one likes chapped lips. NO ONE. I make sure to slather on something thick, like my gram's favorite, Rosebud salve, or some ancient Body Shop balms I have from freshman year of college. By the time our run is over, I've got just a little bit left on my lips. So imagine if I hadn't put on any! I shudder to think.
If you haven't yet, I hope you consider winter running! And maybe this list will help you figure out your cold-weather must-haves, or at least help you prepare for an inaugural snowy jaunt! As Jon's hat says in the pic at the top of the post, "YOLO"—so get out there and explore winter!