Lessons from Florida: Cold weather running is all about the gear

This was the weather in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday. Add a wind chill to that and no gear, and this Canadian could not get herself out for the usual early-morning run.

On Sunday morning I woke up to complaints about the weather from all over the place. In the north, people lamented the wind chill and the winter driving conditions. But I’m in the south, in Florida right now, and yesterday my weather app showed that it “felt like” 5 degrees C in the morning. As some aggrieved friends in the south said, the weather came as a bit of an affront.

Now, to me, 5 degrees C is usually great running weather. I’ve been suffering a bit here in the heat and humidity, and given a choice between cold-weather running and hot-weather running, I’ll take cold. I know how to handle it: I throw on my light winter tights, a t-shirt, and a long-sleeved top or jacket, maybe a buff to cover my ears, and away I go. But I’m in Florida. And I packed for Florida. That means my gear is all about tank tops and running shorts. Nary a long sleeved running top in sight. So there was just no way I could get out there first thing in the morning.

I did get out for a walk in the morning though, throwing on a pair of jeans, layering a tank top, swimsuit cover-up (for it’s longer sleeves!), lacy cardigan, and a shawl that I always put into my luggage when traveling because I’m all too familiar with the air conditioning blues. I wore thick socks and running shoes and still I felt the cold.

People on the beach path dealt with the cold in their own way. Some were indistinguishable from the winter runners I pass on the only city-cleared path in London, Ontario — with their winter tights, gloves, toques (yes, I saw folks in toques–that’s Canadian for a winter hat for those who don’t know). I would have been content with a long sleeved shirt. I saw one woman who had her own lacy cardigan over a running tank. Clearly she was traveling to Fort Lauderdale for the weekend and didn’t want to forgo her Sunday run despite not packing appropriately for it.

I waited it out until later in the day when the temperature climbed to a comfortable 18 degrees C. Yes, the wind was still gusty. At one point I almost lost my hat. Some people still had on their tights and their jackets and sweaters. But it was nothing like what Anita was experiencing up in Collingwood. We touched base that day and she said the windchill was a biting -21C.

All of this got me reflecting about how it really is all about the gear. And the good thing about winter running is that usually, you can gear up for it. If it’s very icy, you can wear your yak traks. If it’s cold, add a layer or three. My usual mid-winter top layers include an undershirt, a wicking t-shirt, a long-sleeved technical shirt (thickness depends on temperatures), and a running jacket that’s cut longer in the back to cover my butt.) If it’s very cold and windy, the jacket with appropriate layers under it does the trick. Put on some gloves and a hat or an ear warmer. In the very brutal conditions, you can even wear a face mask (or go inside — we all have our limits).

Purple reflective jacket with longer back and pockets from the Running Room. This is my exact fall/winter running jacket and I wish I had it with me in Fort Lauderdale this weekend.

You can’t gear up in the same way for summer running. I did my 21K training run on Thursday last week on a very hot and humid morning. It just about killed me. I stuck mostly to the beach walk and felt immense gratitude for the showers at regular intervals along the beach. I needed them. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we won’t experience the same conditions next week in Key West for the Half Marathon.

So yes, it’s all about the gear. Even a relatively balmy cold snap in Florida can defeat a Canadian used to much colder temperatures if she doesn’t have the layers she needs.

What are your winter running gear go-tos? And if you’re from somewhere warmer, like Florida, do you keep some back-up stuff on hand in case unseasonable cold hits?

Exit mobile version