Layers January 02 2017

When you're training for a full or half marathon, 10K or 5K, it is best spend the majority of your mileage running or walking in the environment in which you’ll race.  If you are training for a spring event, that could mean facing wearying winter weather. Learning how to layer your workout wear is the key to tackling tough temperatures.


When I first began racing in 2006, one of my coaches said, “Cotton is rotten.”  What I thought was a cute rhyme became an important lesson learned when I wore a cotton shirt and sweatshirt to a chilly training.  Throughout the mileage, I sweat and my cotton clothing absorbed the moisture, which made my layers heavy and cold. 

I then became friends with fabrics with names like Dri-Fit, Tech, Wicking, and EcoGreen, an ecofriendly recycled plastic synthetic from which our running skirts, kilts and shirts are made.  Unlike cotton which absorbs moisture, these technical fabrics do not retain moisture – they shed them or wick them away in both hot and cold temperatures.

In today’s marketplace, you can find everything from top layers and bottoms, hats and gloves in this all-weather friendly fabric.


For 24 hours from Christmas Eve to Christmas night, TBS television network runs a marathon of the movie “A Christmas Story”.  In the film, Ralphie’s brother, Randy, is dressed by his mother in a snowsuit to keep him warm…  but to say the suit restricts his movement, is an understatement as he cannot fully bend his legs or move his arms.

We don’t want to be Randy when heading out for winter weather training.  We want to be warm, but not too hot to start, AND be able to move.

So let’s layer!  From the closest to your body to the outside, you’ll want to start with:

On Top:

  • A base layer of either a short or long sleeve friendly fabric shirt
  • You can then add varying layers of technical fabric shirts that can be taken off should you get too warm during your training.
  • I add on a zippered jacket – either waterproof or water-resistant / repellent that I can also take off and tie around my waist when my body temperature heats up.
  • You don’t want to start off too warm at the beginning of a training – it is easier to warm up than cool down.

On Bottom:

  • A base layer of running tights, leggings or pants are a great base layer on the bottom for men and women. I wear my JWalking Designs’ Purple Plaid Running Kilt year-round, and in the winter, I layer it over our EcoFriendly Leggings. 
  • Longer (not ankle) running socks are recommended – I prefer compression socks – in tech fabric or a wool blend will keep your feet warm and dry.


  • Because much of your body’s heat is lost through the top of your head, a hat or caps that covers your ears is recommended.
  • Gloves – I stock up on the $1 throwaway gloves when on sale, so I do not worry about layering, and potentially losing them, on a training or race.

When training outside, it is best to bring a change of dry clothes, or an extra warm layer such as a coat or jacket, to keep in your car and put on after you are done.  While your body will heat up during your miles, it can cool down just as quickly.