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Jan 28, 2014

How to survive running in the Polar Vortex

My Polar Vortex Running Outfit
4.09 miles today in what was one of my coldest runs but not the coldest ever.  It was a balmy minus 9 degrees with a "feels like" temperature of minus 22.  We've been having lots of these cold days in Michigan lately, haven't we?  My kids are off school yet again.

Well, you could always buy a treadmill or join a gym and be done with Winter but that's not me.  In fact, I own a treadmill, however, I'm an outdoor runner, and as I've said in the past, I run in anything.

Don't get me wrong, there's a place for a treadmill and a gym and frankly, I would think nothing less of you, if you usually run outside and have taken to the treadmill this week.  It's insanely cold out!  In fact, it's insane to run in these temperatures.........unless you have the right gear and are prepared for it.  Don't run in it otherwise.  For me, I prefer to venture out but even I'm certainly reaching my breaking point again.  I mean really, I could have taken a rest day today.  In fact, I might take that extra rest day tomorrow since it's supposed to be just as cold.  I'll decide that later tonight.

Winter running is not cheap either.  This is over $900 in gear shown and that's just one freakin' outfit but you can add in some base layers, race shirts and a few more tights, hats, gloves and buffs(and spend maybe another $300-500) and have your gear for all winter and future winters.  All the gear above is high quality and, while expensive, also lasts for years.

So if you are interested in running in the Polar Vortex, here's everything in the picture above from the top down:

Headsweats - Thermal Reversible Beanie - I'm an ambassador for Headsweats so get a Headsweats Hat for 25% off with code Detroit 25.

Headsweats - Fleece Race Hat - helps keep the ears nice and warm.  Dual layers at these temps and what's better than one Headsweats hat, two of course!

Buff - wool keeps you nice and warm but I use other types also.

Nike Pro Baselayer - I like the mock turtle neck option; I also wear UA.  One tip that I got from Justin over at RUNdetroit - tuck in your baselayer to help keep the warmth in.  If you get warm, you can untuck.  It's worked great for me in these temperatures and I didn't think to tuck in my shirt.

Ibex Merino wool running shirt - this is needed in these temps; it helps keep the cold off.  When I ran through the last Polar Vortex, I didn't use this one day and got wind burn on my stomach.  The next day I used this and nothing - perfect!

Pearl Izumi Infinity Windblocking Winter Jacket - taped seams, windproof but breathable.  Pocket to keep things in while running is a plus.

Manzella convertible mittens - only ones that keep my hands warm while running - I've worn them in three seasons and love them.

Under Armour Coldgear liner gloves - liner gloves are needed with the mittens at these temps

Under Armour Boxer tech underwear - also worn all year

Under Armour Core compression shorts - I wear these all year more for leg support.

Under Armour coldgear compression tights - tight to the skin.  I also use fitted tights.

Fila Running pants - I don't use these often but a second layer are needed with these temps.  I've had them since I started running.

Swiftwick Pursuit One Merino wool socks - great with Goretex shoes and helps keep the toes warm.  I got mine at RUNdetroit.

Salomon XA Comp 5 Goretex trail shoes - I also don't wear these often except when it's extremely cold.  Sometimes my feet get too warm and did even today in negative temperatures.

Noxgear Tracer 360 lighted vest so I can be seen from all directions in the dark.

Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headlamp - powerful headlamp so you can not only see where you are going but cars see you as well.

Garmin - of course, my Garmin.  Shown here is my 310xt.  Why?  Because the operating temperature low is -4 degrees and it was colder today so I didn't want to take a chance on breaking my new Garmin 220 in the extreme cold.  Yeah, can't say I thought I'd ever break the operating temperature barrier or even look up with that temperature is.  lol.  I can confirm that I've worn my Garmin down to -13 degrees so it has a little play with tolerances.

It sounds like a lot of clothes and it is.  It's not worth getting dressed unless you can get at least three miles in since it takes so long to get it all on and off.  Haha!  Wearing all this protects you and gives you that ability to run outside.  The only skin exposed is my eyelids and even those freeze when you are out there.  Soon enough, we will be back to regular temperatures.  Ah, what I wouldn't do for a nice 30 degree day right now.
Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Disclaimer - I don't endorse running outside in these temperatures.  Run outside in these temperatures at your own risk.  It's dangerously cold out so please be careful and take proper precautions before you decide to run outside.


  1. Living here in Cape Town I don't really get to run in anything cold, infact I never even run with a shirt on (except races). I have been out on Table Mountain in what ever weather the city has through at me... but that is rain, wind, and a bit of hail, and seldon gets below 0*c. That said I did run a race in the Drackensberg and the temp was -8*c at the start, so I started with a wind proof and a t-shirt, but after a couple of km I was to hot. don't get me wrong it was even colder in the valley, but I was running and fine...

    Keep running

    1. This is the worst we have ever experienced coach. Crazy cold!