Every Thursday, Svveat Stories managing editor Lindsay MacAdam tackles your most pressing fitness questions—this week, what to wear for outdoor running during the frigid winter months.

I just registered for lululemon Cumberland’s “Your Fastest 5K” program, which seemed like a really good idea until I realized it means I’ll be running outside for the next eight weeks, a.k.a. the dead of winter. I usually stick with the trusty treadmill until flip-flop season is well underway, so I have no idea how to dress for this. Snowsuit? Parka?! Help!
— Clueless in the Cold

Here I am, running through the 6ix like a ninja on the coldest day of 2016. If I can do it, you can do it!
(Photo by Jess Baumung, courtesy Nike Toronto)

Hey Clueless,

Take off that snowsuit and have a seat. You’re going to need to read this.

First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on venturing outside your comfort zone and signing up for this outdoor running program. Trust me, it will be so much more enjoyable than clocking your kilometres on that conveyor belt to nowhere. Follow these tips and you’ll be a regular snow leopard in no time.

Layers are everything

Here are the 10 items you’ll need to get through a winter of outdoor running:

  1. Shoes: Regular running shoes will do just fine, but if you want to invest in a new pair, you can find ones that are waterproof, insulated and a little extra grippy.
  2. Socks: Running-specific socks aren’t essential, but you’ll probably want a crew-style sock or ones with a higher rise to avoid exposed ankles. On really cold days, you might need to double up for some added warmth.
  3. Pants: A winterized legging or pant that will block the wind, rain and snow is ideal. As with the socks, you may need to wear two layers in extreme cold.
  4. Gloves: A cold-weather running glove will wick away sweat while keeping your fingers toasty. When temperatures dip below -10 or so, you may need to stick a pair of mittens over top.
  5. Neck warmer: Get one that doubles as a face mask for those days when you want as little skin exposed as possible.
  6. Hat/Headband: We lose a lot of heat through our head, so covering it up will help keep you comfortable while running outside.
  7. Tank top/T-shirt: Good news—summer gear will come in handy for winter layering.
  8. Thin long-sleeve shirt: This can be worn on its own when the temperatures creep up and trick us into thinking winter is over when it’s not, but it’s also an essential layering piece all winter long.
  9. Insulated long-sleeve: A thicker zip-up or pullover adds warmth to your thin long sleeve or tank top—or both! Mix and match depending on the temperature.
  10. Jacket: A windproof, waterproof shell with a hood and some pockets is the final piece of the winter running wardrobe puzzle. Layer it with any or all of your tops depending on the day.

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It’s all in the (reflective) details

Arguably the worst thing about winter is the darkness. You go to work and it’s dark; you come home and it’s dark. This makes getting out for a run all the more daunting, but it also makes it more dangerous. Just because you can see the cars doesn’t necessarily mean the cars can see you, so the importance of dressing in light colours and/or reflective gear after the sun goes down can’t be emphasized enough.

Take notes

Figuring out the perfect dressing strategy for outdoor running really comes down to trial and error, and it’s different for everyone. One great way to find the right gear combinations for you is to start keeping track of your runs, including details like temperature, what you wore and how you felt. Were you a little too hot? Did your feet go numb? Were you missing that neck warmer? Jot down a few notes after each run and soon you’ll have your outfit selection down to a science.

Have a fitness question you’d like us to answer? Email us at stories@svveat.com or ask us in the comments below.

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