This is why I’m hot: Winter racing gear

I’ve spent a lot of time (and money :/) building up a Winter wardrobe of racing clothes in which I will not freeze to death.

I’ve seen a LOT of hypothermia DNFs this season, and have been lucky not to be one of them. I’ve had races where I thought I might die of exposure though, so I’ve collated a little winter clothing review. Any other suggestions are welcome, but for now I’m just speaking from experience.

There are loads of winter-wear brands about – notably Runflex, Under Armour Coldgear, Nike Hyperwarm, Subsports COLD, Virus Staywarm, 2XU and Skins to name a few.

I’ve tried out UA, Nike, Sub and Virus, and as far as cold, wintery, moderately wet races are concerned, this is what wins the day:

Subsports COLD winter compression leggings and also their compression top

You’ll find them for around £22-40 depending on flash sales, or on Amazon. The top ranges from about £17-36 – do make sure to shop around.

The good:

  • Value for money
  • Hard wearing fabric
  • Warm
  • Quick drying
  • Good range of movement
  • No chafing
  • Top is v-neck, so doesn’t strangle you

The bad:

  • A little weak at the seams, so make sure you get a pair that aren’t too tight
  • UNBELIEVABLY small fitting, so definitely size up
  • They do fall down a bit, because they have no drawstring
  • The top rides up

This kit is is the tits, and I not get paid, nor receive discount to say this. I cannot fault their ability to stay warm and dry quickly. I can forgive having to hoik them up at intervals because of this. The same goes for the top – if you tuck it in, it stays put. Far out performs more expensive kit.

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Toasty at Nuclear

If you feel the cold more than most, I’d recommend teaming this kit with a merino baselayer. I have one like this, from Inov8.

The good:

  • Keeps you warm
  • Is very light
  • Wicks away sweat
  • Fits under almost anything

The bad:

  • Expensive (but I’ve worn mine to death)
  • Not hard wearing (it’s full of holes!)
  • Some people say they take on water

Personally, I don’t really care if it takes on any water, because it’s so thin, and so pressed to my skin that this water stays warm. I don’t feel as though it gets heavy. Now, it is expensive, but you can get merino from many different places without the pricetag. Just make sure it’s actual merino and not synthetic if you want the full benefit.

The above kit got me through the EXTREMELY cold UK champs, including several swims and full immersion without so much as a shiver, where many people were carted off with hypothermia, and I wasn’t even running fast.

Highly commended, is the Nike Pro Hyperwarm Top

Shockingly, this isn’t an obscure running brand, but a global behemoth. The Nike Hyperwarm series is, I would say, a go to for everyone new to winter running. Whilst it isn’t cheap full price, it is ALL OVER discount sports stores and it is very strong and reliable. I wore it for my first OCR, (Men’s Health SOTF at Wembley) and it’s been a kit-bag staple ever since until a certain KIM BOLTON discarded it on a mountain in Ohio and I had to get another one! Haha. It made a triumphant return to Wembley this weekend, where I wore it to a bitterly cold and windy SOTF without being cold at all.

You should definitely have one of these tops in your arsenal. It may get a bit heavy, but it keeps you very warm, and, wait for it… IT DOES NOT RIDE UP.

The Nuts Challenge 2015 Winter Race 2015 #running #ocr #racephoto #sussexsportphotography

Nike at Winter Nuts

Under Armour is also a brand that I can really get behind. They’re stylish, flattering, and critically, hard wearing. I’ve raced in both their cold and heatgear, and I love it all. It can also be very cheaply picked up in places like Sports Direct and TK Maxx. Whilst I REALLY want to get my hands on their Aerial Speed Active kit, it’s unjustifiably expensive, so I have stuck to their basic cold/heat gear leggings. Be careful not to get confused with UA – their kit is named thusly: If it’s cold wear Coldgear. If it’s hot, wear Heatgear. I’ve not tested the coldgear extensively in terms of getting wet and drying again but I do have it on good authority that it is VERY good – I tend to use it for cold weather training runs, for which is is perfectly appropriate.

I was really looking forward to getting my hands on the much-hyped Virus  Stay-Warm gear. It was expensive, but promised to be revolutionary. Unfortunately it has been a huge letdown. It sags, it stays wet and does not dry easily. It looks very nice, but it basically made me feel like I was dragging a wet seal around both the World Champs and JD Bordon. Unfortunately, it has now been relegated to extremely expensive warm recovery-wear. It’s not a bad thing to have for that purpose, but I would certainty not advocate wearing it to any race where you’re going to get wet. Save your money and get yourself some Subsports.

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A physical representation of what it feels like to drag around your own bodyweight plus half a lake in your clothes.

Once we’ve gotten into the realms of serious winter racing, then you’ll be looking at getting some neoprene. My tips for that would be:

  • If you’re getting a rash vest, get one with a zip, so that you can unzip it for breathing purposes when you aren’t in the water
  • If you’re getting a full suit or a shortie – go for one without sleeves so that you don’t get chafey armpits, and you still have a decent range of movement.

In terms of other gear

Always have at LEAST one buff/wrag – I often have one on my head and one around my neck, and I can move them around if one gets too wet. These are great for covering your ears (just either take them off or secure them if you go down slides).

If I get too hot, I put them on my wrist to keep them out of my way.

For glove reviews, look here.

Neoprene socks can also be really useful for winter races involving lots of water – you can get away with wearing socks underneath them like Nike Anti-Blister socks. Just make sure you try them out in your trainers before racing to make sure that the seams don’t rub you when you run. They feel weird, but they’re so worth it for winter racing.

Happy winter racing, chaps!

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