The Base Layer Quest: Building a Runner’s Wardrobe

This week I realized why it’s worth it to buy *actual running clothes– you need them to be consistent in different weather and conditions.

I had to give up a run day yesterday because it was 29 degrees and I quickly learned that a thermal shirt underneath a hoodie, plus two pairs of leggings, was not going to cut it. The two biggest struggles I have are estimating distances on my runs and figuring out proper layering/running ensembles that don’t encumber me and slow me down.

Now I get it: cotton is bulky and does nothing to wick sweat or preserve body heat. It’s useless. I can deal with cold legs– that’s kind of invigorating. But I need warmth for my upper body, especially since I want to be able to run minimum five miles in the cold. What you’re paying for with official running gear is fabrics designed to layer easily together and for flexible performance if the weather changes during your runs.

So today I bought my first base layer top! And it works, I tested it later.Boom, on sale.

Until now, I’ve been operating with a cheap substitutes from Old Navy, sometimes sales at other stores with cute sportswear. That’s fine for summer and spring runs. But as I transition to a strict training schedule, these old ensembles are holding me back.

Today I learned that I’m becoming knowledgeable as a “serious runner.” I questioned staff in three different stores about what brands are best for winter, and how they really hold up– how cold would would they run in these products? What are their temp deal-breakers?

As I bargain-shopped in a general sporting goods store, I got generic, dismissive answers. They were eager to end the conversation and go back to whatever work they were doing. But can I blame them? How can you be an expert on every sport, or even your section, if you’re just randomly assigned to that area?

The difference in going to a running store is that the staff live and race in these products– they have educated opinions. The veteran staff can debate performance of several brands for your need. They ask intelligent questions about my goals and my running– and they are excited to hear it! Best of all, I have answers for them! Confident answers.

“You’re a distance runner, not a sprinter,” my favorite staff told me today. I had told her of my goals for the Rockdale Ramblin’ Run 10k (6.2 miles) and the Soldier Field 10 Miler.

And I felt proud. I AM a distance runner. It’s just taken me a long time to find the confidence and make time in my schedule to fully commit. I’ve always been a “Big Picture” sort of gal about important decisions.

This staff is short like me and has been running all her life. I asked her work schedule and will be returning to her in the future. I told her my plan– slow and steady. Start with the most essential basics. That I felt a base layer top was more important than tights for now.

She agreed. “You’re doing this the right way,” she said. We were geeking out!

And after I went home and changed into that base layer, and it worked! I knocked out my 3.25 mile run and I felt good.

It’s all coming together.


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