How to Suit up to Set Out (And other FAQs)

>> Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hey, everyone! We've discovered that our running post really inspired a lot of you to either start your own running programs, get moving a little more each day, or to at least think about the whole process. We're thrilled! We even got some great questions via email about how to dress for cold weather running, when to sign up for races, etc. So, this is a FAQ post specifically about running.

Not into the whole athletic thing? You can head over to get this morning's healthy muffin top recipe or enter our first giveaway. But we hope you'll stick around :)

Question #1: It's cold outside. You guys are crazy to be out running! But, I don't have a gym membership . . . and I want to start my own program. How should I dress for chilly temps?

Answer: Just because the temps are low doesn't mean you need to stay inside. In fact, being outside for a bit each day is good for not only your physical, but also mental health. Now, confession time: I was an indoor-treadmill runner for most winters. However, I often got a bad case of treadmill-madness and -- more times than not -- felt like my favorite sport was more of a chore. Ugh! And I only went outside if the temps were about 25. This year is different. I don't know exactly how . . . but I think it's because I invested in a few key pieces of outdoor running gear.

  • Cold weather running tights. I've had the same Under Armor cold weather tights since 2003. I wear just this layer on bottom if the temps are above 20 degrees F. Cost: $60 (mine are similar to this pair), but -- again -- I've had them for over 6 years now and they're still going strong.
  • Fleece running pants. I wear these either alone (again, if the temps are above 20 degrees F). However, if it's colder . . . I layer by wearing my running tights under them. Cost? $60. (Mine are similar to this pair) Just like above, they last forever if you treat 'em right. So it's a good investment.
  • A good base layer. I actually mostly wear the technical shirt we got for free at the Philly Marathon. But you can score one for about $40 (like this one). I wear this on warmer days with just the vest (warmer meaning above 32 degrees F). On colder days I wear it under my coat.
  • A vest. As I mentioned above, throw it over a base layer in warmer temps, and it'll keep your core warm while not allowing you to overheat. On colder days, throw it over both the base layer and running coat for added wind protection and core warmth. You can get a good one for about $60.
  • A warm, but breathable jacket. I prefer a fleece, but others like ones that shield the body from wind. Just don't get something too bulky. You'll be layering! Here are some good examples of running jackets for women. Prices vary wildly.
  • Head and neck gear. Either some kind of warm fleece hat or a headband. And one of those fleece wraparound scarves. You'll need them when the temps dip below 20 degree F. And the wind kicks up. Cold ears aren't any fun. Can be as little as $5.

As you can see, the key to winter running wear is layering. A good rule of thumb is that you should be slightly chilled when you head outside. It'll take you about 10 minutes to get warmed up by jogging. If you step outside and still feel toasty . . . that's bad news. You'll likely be sweating like crazy within 10 minutes and need to turn around and peel off something.

Rightly so, you might be thinking now: How the hell can I afford all that gear? Here's what I didn't tell you . . . DO NOT. I repeat DO NOT buy anything at full price! I find most of my running stuff at places like TJ Max and Marshall's. The clearance rack at Dick's Sporting Goods. Outlet stores. You can wear last season's vest -- at least for me, running doesn't have to be this crazy fashionable affair. Wear what makes sense and makes you comfortable. Again: Don't pay full price.

Question #2: I am just starting the whole running thing. How long before I can sign up for a race?

Answer: Anytime! Yesterday, even. I waited an entire year before signing up for a race because I was scared people wouldn't think I wasn't a "serious" enough runner. Or scared I'd come in last place. Or just scared in general that I wouldn't be able to complete the distance (for whatever reason, I don't know). What I found at my first race (a small-ish, local 5K) were a TON of supportive runners of all ages and abilities. It was a completely different experience than I had imagined. Complete strangers chatted me up about my running and offered helpful tips and tricks for training and racing. Others just impressed me with, for example, how long they had been running. In fact, I got my butt kicked by some awesome runners ages 60+. Overall, my first race got me totally motivated to keep at it and train not harder, but smarter.

You'll find that runners in general are a friendly group of folks. A little eccentric at times -- but, hey -- who isn't???

Question #3: What kind of shoes do you wear? I looked up some "running shoes" -- but they're super expensive. Do you really have to spend the big bucks?

Answer: Now here's a place that you really should invest your money. Shoes are basically the most important part to running. Barefoot enthusiasts may disagree . . . but this girl has had enough tendon issues, sesamoid flair-ups, and other foot injuries to even think of going naked. I personally like Brooks (Glycerin, in particular). But I've also run in Mizuno, Asics, and Adidas shoes. My best advice is for you to draft up your budget (because you really can find good shoes to meet any budget) . . . and then go to a specialty running store. Have the sales associate chat with you about your foot problems. He or she may also check out your tootsies (to see if you have high arches, flat feet, etc.) and even let you try the shoes out on a treadmill.

If you don't have a running specialty shop, do your research. Runner's World routinely publishes shoe reviews in the categories: Cushioned, Stability, Trail, Racing, and more. They have much of this information online, as well as detailed explanations for each category. The best part is that they have real people try out what they've reviewed and report back the good and bad.

As far as $$$ -- you can figure out which shoe is right for you and then check or Road Runner Sports. Often you can find a good deal. However, beware: models may change significantly from year to year. So what fits/works from 2010 might not be exactly like what was made in 2009. I made that mistake once and had two black toenails to show for it. Ouch!

Question #4: Do you listen to music when you run? If I do, does it make me less of a runner?

Answer: I do indeed rock out during my workouts. I would say probably 60% of the time. There's this divide between runners that I've picked up on throughout the years. Those who think running needs to be this solitary, meditative experience -- the soundtrack only foot-strikes and breath. And those who just want to bust out a good workout and get 'er done. Either way, you're still a runner! The key is to enjoy your workouts. So do what you want.

Here's some of my current favorite running tunes:

So, I hope we answered some of your burning questions. We'd be happy to cover more, just leave a comment or shoot us an email at No questions is too silly . . . seriously. And if you're looking for a great place to read through what other people have asked, visit the Runner's World Forums. I frequent those pages almost daily for anything from training and nutrition advice to plain-Jane motivation.

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