Where I grew up, winters are mild. Schools, restaurants, and workplaces are not outfitted to accommodate the shedding of winter clothes. Because of this, I don’t think I was alone in my tendency to underdress for the weather: it made more sense to suffer a few minutes of cold to make the dash from the car to the warmth of a building than have to carry a coat around once I was inside, or find a place to store it in a restaurant.
This tendency made me think I disliked winter. It’s uncomfortable. It’s bulky. It’s cold.
Then we moved to Minnesota, where more than half of life is winter. Where the air is so brutally cold that snow doesn’t have enough liquid to stick together for a snowman, where your eyes can freeze open, where lakes form shells of ice thick enough for a two-ton truck to drive over it. Because winter is an unavoidable part of life there, everywhere accommodates the shedding of winter clothes. Houses have mudrooms. Elementary schools have coat hooks and cubbies for snow boots in the hallways. Restaurants have coat racks in the entry way or at the back, or coat hooks at each booth. Functional interior designs make it easy to dress for the weather so that you can be comfortable both inside and outside. Winter became magical instead of a season to suffer through.
This seems very basic, that if you dress for the weather, you can be comfortable. It is basic. But somehow I have to keep learning that lesson over and over again. For the past ten years that we’ve lived in Virginia, I put my running shoes away for the winter. It’s too cold to run.
What that really means is that I didn’t know how to dress for it. I hate being cold, and because you get hot when you run, it’s inevitable that if you dress for how you’ll feel once you’re running, you’re going to be freezing when you first begin. This was a barrier I could never seem to cross. I didn’t want to be cold at all, ever, at any point in my run.
But! Because I work from home, I’m susceptible to not leaving my house. I tend to not get outside much in winter, and for my happiness, I absolutely need fresh air and sunshine. I can’t do another winter of exercise videos in the basement. So I talked to some runner friends who run in winter, and I’ve now outfitted myself to run in the cold. I bought a running jacket that somehow manages to keep me warm at the start of my run without making me hot while I run, fleece lined gloves from Target (my fingertips are my weakest point), crew length running socks, and a third pair of running tights so that I don’t have to do laundry every two days.
My temperature cutoff for outdoor running used to be 48°F (9℃). With this gear, I’ve run at least five times at temperatures below 40℉ (4℃), and once at 30℉ (-1℃). And the runs have been beautiful! Running in the cold is invigorating and makes me feel alive. Investing in these clothes is life-changing for my physical well-being, I can’t believe it took me this long to do it.