Some Thoughts on Layering & Kit for Winter Running

You can do it too.

In an article at Gear Junkie that I posted earlier on Facebook and Google+ this week, Eric Larsen said something that really resonated with me. People are always commenting how I’m nuts to be out in such cold or that it’s weird that I like being out in it. What he said particularly was:

“People say they hate the cold. I think what they mean is they hate being cold. I agree, being cold sucks. It’s painful. I like being warm in very cold environments; you can do it, too.

Same here. This morning I got up to go for a run and it was -17ºC/1.4ºF. That’s pretty f’n cold. Not arctic polar cold, but cold enough for most of us non-explorers. Most of these mornings I lay in bed, contemplating if I want to face the cold or not, I also am mentally figuring out what I’m going to wear if I do. I’ll check the temperature and conditions outside and then in my head, compare that with other times I’ve been out in same conditions and what I wore and what worked and what didn’t – i.e. did I freeze my ass off or overheat. Another factor will be what kind of activity I’m doing and how long I anticipate doing it for.

So along those lines I thought I’d share what I wore today as maybe it will help some of you sort your own kit:

1. Thin cotton sock – most people, including me, will tell you that cotton next to skin is a no-no, and that’s true, but I don’t have any thin/liner weight wool socks. I hope to remedy that in the near future. I put these on today and rolled the dice. I won.
2. Grocery bags – yup, you read that right. Low tech, but never fails. Cheap vapor barrier.
3. Medium weight Smartwool sock.
4. Salomon Speed Cross shoes – while not a winter shoe specifically, these do have some tech and materials designed to keep water and cold out. More of a ‘fall/muck’ shoe.

5. Synthetic long underwear – cheapie stuff from Walmart.
6. Fleece/thermal cycling tights – these are Performance house brand ones I’ve had for at least 10 years. Still in great shape. Right leg has broken zipper pull replaced with a paper clip. I’m punk rock.

7. Under Armor ‘Cold’ base layer – wicking/thermal
8. Merino Wool Cycling jersey – wicking/thermal – added bonus doesn’t collect stink!
9. MEC Derecho Cycling Jacket – shell/wind – nice because it has full zippers up the sides/armpits that allow you to vent easily if you start to heat up.

10. Buff – This provides a nice ‘gasket’ at the neck to keep out drafts – something I hate. It’s also great ’cause if it’s too cold once you get out you can pull it up over your nose/mouth. I don’t even have the wool/winter version, just the basic one.
11. Trusty wool RandiJoFab cycling cap – this one’s got built in flip down earflaps if needed. I like it vs. a normal winter cap too, ’cause it has a brim.
12. Salomon running vest – this is the first time I’ve run with this even though I got it some time ago. I don’t normally take water with me on short runs, but lately when it’s cold I find I get thirsty sooner. Maybe it’s the cold air or my mouth dries out faster, I dunno. Perhaps, my body’s using up more water for heating so it’s telling me to drink. After reading again in the article the importance of eating/drinking, I decided at the last minute to throw some water in it and take it along. I’m glad I did. I didn’t actually end up drinking anything, but it was a great trial run. The pack is comfortable, streamlined and fit great underneath my shell layer. I actually sorta forgot I was even wearing it.

13. Some thin Head gloves from Costco – while not meant to be a liner glove, these are the closest thing I have. Also nice is they have the pads on the fingers that let you use them with a smartphone.
14. Pearl Izumi Amfib Cycling Gloves – as an outer glove.

Today I probably could have just gone with one pair of gloves, the Pearl Izumis, but it’s always nice to be able to take off the bulky outer glove to adjust snowshoe bindings or access zippers/pockets, without exposing your hands to the cold.

I wore all this too, bearing in mind that I wasn’t going to be stopping anywhere for any great length of time and would keep my body temp up with activity. If I had planned anything like that, I would have brought extra layers to add on for those times of inactivity, as Eric mentioned in his article.

Overall, I had a great time and wasn’t too cold or hot – BAM – nailed it! Nothing is better than getting outside any time of year and getting your kit selection just right.

#SpringThawChallenge Post-Holiday Weigh In

So the Holidays – and time of unlimited consumption – are now behind us and time to get back to the task at hand. I did enjoy some treats over the Holidays, I will not lie, but tried to do so in moderation. In addition, I tried – and was relatively successful – in continuing with my exercise every day endeavor. Looking back, since Dec 23rd, there’s only been 4 days that I didn’t complete either a bike ride, a run or a Neila Rey workout. So without further ado, this morning’s weigh in result: 218 lbs.

So, 4 lbs up from last weigh in, but still down from the original. I’m ok with that. I’ll take it. I’m feeling good moving forward into January and it’s unobstructed-by-holidays-that-involve-eating status. To celebrate making it through the Holidays without a total derailment, I’m 5 – and only these 5 – gumdrops. You may enjoy them with me vicariously.

#SpringThawChallenge Update: Merry New Year Beef Jerky Time

I’ll dispense with the trivialities. First weigh in since the beginning of the Challenge. We’re 20 days in. For those not paying attention – or too lazy to go back a few posts – I initially clocked in at 223 lbs with the goal being to maintain or lose weight over the winter towards a target of +/- 200 lbs.

Today’s Tale of the Scale: 214.8 lbs. It’s the .8 that’s really holding me back.

You’ll recall – or you may not if you weren’t playing along then – that the first weigh in was fully clothed – this one was done right though, nekkid. So there’s that discrepancy. Also, you’re welcome for that mental image. Far too early to declare any sort of victory as over my adult life I’ve noticed I’ll fluctuate 7-8 pounds over a month without even really doing anything, but certainly data points to movement in the right direction.

Save two days of slip-ups, my endeavour to do some activity every day has remained successful be it a walk, a ride, a run, playing hockey or a muscle workout. On some days I’ve even managed to fit 2 or more in. I had started out on the Fit Christmas challenge, and I’m keeping at it though there have been one or two days I wasn’t able to complete the workout. My consolation was that on those days I did do something else – in both cases a run (one of 10k) so I figure I’m ok.

Efforts to improve eating habits are additionally going well. At the beginning of the challenge I started writing down what I eat/drink every day and it’s helped me to ID what was good and bad about my diet as well as drink more water. I also tend to have a little more willpower to avoid the bad stuff if I know I’m gonna have to write it down later. Overall feeling real good and motivated to keep going which is good as I now stand at the precipice of the culinary abyss that is Christmas Vacation Week.

A Challenge Within a Challenge

Maybe he’s an enigma, a mystery wrapped in a riddle.” – Elaine Benes
“He’s a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie.” – Jerry Seinfeld

All Twinkies aside, day 11 into my #SpringThawChallenge and I’m feeling good about my progress. With the exception of a minor derailment last weekend – we’ll chalk it up to my depression over the discovery of my bathtub upstairs leaking into my basement ceiling – things are progressing smoothly.

I haven’t been commuting on the bike as much (at all this week) due mostly to a combination of schedule and weather, but I have gotten workouts in every day. I’ve been eating better and I’ve also gone 10 of the last 11 days without a soda. See aformentioned bathtub incident outlined above.

Came across a new mini-challenge-within-a-challenge on the Neila Ray website and decided to give it a go. Trying the Fit Christmas workout. Workouts everyday for 12 days. Sorta the 12 Days of Christmas Workout. Looking breifly through them, I think the hardest part for me might be the # of steps component attached to some of ’em. If it happens to be a day I can get a run in, no biggie, but on other days, I don’t walk a whole lot. I think I will try taking walks at lunch those days to augment my step count.

So tomorrow starts the Fit Christmas workout. 12 days will put my last day on the 23rd, so I can reward myself with some holiday treats afterward – in moderation – of course. Next week sometime I’ll probably do my first weigh in since the start – though I’m not expecting major results this early in, it will be interesting to see where I’m at.

#SpringThawChallenge: The Weigh In

Ah, so here we are at the threshold. Did the weigh-in this morning.

Was a time in my young younger days when I was skinny as a whip and ate whatever I wanted. Then in the younger days, I discovered beer and the couch. Got married and tried – and sorta succeeded – to sort myself out a bit. Then, kids.

I’m a relatively big guy – least that’s what people tell me. Broad shoulders they say. I don’t feel all that big, depending on the company I’m in. I’m right smack at 6’0″ tall, if I’m using my good boy posture that day. At my heaviest (think hating life at a miserable job, not riding any bike and trying eat and drink all the things to forget about it) I was pushing 250 lbs. I was out of shape and puffy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back at photos now, eeesh. I think most ‘guidelines’ will tell you that for my height/age I’m supposed to be around 190. I think that would be great, but I think it might also be a fairy tale. Personally, I’d be happy if I could get to the 200 mark. End of 2013, I’d done a lot of work on eating and exercise and managed to get down to 215. This year I’ve fallen off the wagon a little.

So the moment of truth – this morning I tipped the scales at… 223. I did have my bike riding kit on (no shoes) ’cause I forgot to get on the scale before I got dressed, so there’s that, but I’m not gonna worry about +/- one or two pounds for clothes. So that’s where I stand going into this challenge. Try and maintain that over the winter and hopefully lose some while improving fitness and muscle tone. Before all you start chiming in with but muscle weighs more than fat – yeah, yeah, I know that. The real point of this whole challenge is to change habits, not micromanage pounds. If I come out weighing the same (or even possibly more due to increased muscle mass), but feel better, have lost some fat, have more energy and have been consistent with my workouts and habits, I’ll know I’m headed in the right direction.

Let the games begin, time to crack open a cold one.

My #SpringThawChallenge

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time browsing over at It’s a great site that offers simple workouts, tips, motivation and meal ideas to help you achieve your fitness goals and it’s all presented in a clean, clear, easy to understand way. And it’s free. You can donate a buck to help keep the site up, but really, they aren’t selling anything. I like the fact that there’s a large variety of workouts and they’re mostly non-equipment based and there’s new content all the time to keep interest up.

Up here in my neck of the woods, winters are hard. Weather, an abundance of holidays and good cheer (food and drink) all conspire to set you on hibernate mode for the winter. You emerge on the other side groggy, slow, and theres more of you. I’ve set myself a simple goal: come the #springthaw I want to weigh at least the same, if not less, than I do now and have some better fitness habits in place. The idea being that I maintain my fitness or even improve it over the winter. I’ll also be working on changing my diet for the better – mostly 86ing the refined sugars and processed foods (I’m a total pop/junk food junkie) and eating more whole foods.

I plan to try and incorporate 3 or more Darebee workouts a week, interspersed with things like running, cycling, snowshoeing and elliptical workouts. All my life I’ve participated in sports (cycling, hockey, soccer) that for the most part developed my legs. I feel I’m pretty good in that department. I’d like to combine some core and upper body/arm workouts to round things out.

More to the point I hope to change my habits from bad ones to good ones – this is always the hardest part, isn’t it? 43 years of doing things one way is hard to change on a dime. It will take time, I know, but my goal is to try and do something – a run, a workout, a session on the elliptical – every day. Regardless of how dark or cold it is or what kind of headspace I’m in. Fitting a workout into the schedule and getting going are always the hardest part. Once I’m doing it and after I always feel great and know I made the right choice. I’m also hoping to get the kids more involved in workouts and activities so hopefully they develop better habits at the onset, making things easier for them to maintain in the long run.

Last night, I did something I’ve done quite often over the past year. With 4 kids in the house, schedule is a nightmare and with activities on the go, finding the time to exercise is exceedingly difficult. If possible, when one of my kids is at an activity, instead of sitting around waiting – I go for a run. Last night, Emma was at swimming, so I brought the running kicks and got 9k in around the outside of the pool facility. There’s even a nice trail there. So now I know what I’m doing days she’s at swimming.

Today I’ve managed to get an abbreviated bike commute in (4k, but there’s going home too) and I’m shooting to get an Darebee workout in somewhere this evening. I printed out the workout cards (link) cut them up and I keep them in a ziploc. When I want one, I go pull a random one out. Keeps things interesting. I think there’s also a random workout generator on the site now.

I think I’ll use my long neglected blog here to post updates since it’s the easiest way to cross-post to all the internets. Feeling good about this winter!