Posted by Alison on February 27th, 2007
Clothing is not the most important consideration when you run, but it’s not irrelevant either. What you wear should be primarily a function of weather. Stores offer a lot of flashy running gear, but consider comfort first.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a climate that’s neither too hot nor too cold, you want to avoid overdressing. Your body will heat up when you run and a jacket that’s cozy when you start out will feel suffocating when you reach running temperature. When you overheat you tend to lose a lot of body fluid through sweat, thereby dehydrating yourself. It’s a good idea to layer clothes so that you can adjust the layers to suit weather conditions. You will quickly discover that a sweat-soaked cotton T-shirt plastered to your body feels as unpleasant as it looks.
In the last 10 years there have been tremendous improvements in running and exercise clothing. Today, technical athletic clothing is primarily made of synthetic fibers. and you can find lightweight running shirts, sports bras, shorts and tights made from multiple layers of nylon- and polyester-based materials. According to Phil Moore, owner of Vancouver’s LadySpon running store, “The weaves and textures of these fabrics are designed to wick moisture away from the skin, rather than absorbing it into the garment itself. Cotton, on the other hand, can absorb up to seven times its weight in water, resulting in clothing that is colder in winter, warmer in summer and very heavy when wet. Cotton also fades, stretches and shrinks.” As well, says Moore, “The new materials use hydrophilic/hydrophobic layers, magnet technology, silver fibers and multiple densities of stitch counts to effect moisture movement, temperature management, breathability and support.” All of these improvements make running in any temperature and climate easier and more enjoyable.
Female runners will probably want to consider a sport bra, as physical activity causes the breasts to bounce. The breast is supported by a fragile structure of skin and ligaments that can be stretched by bouncing, leading to breast sag. Most everyday bras will not stop this bouncing. Enter the sports bra. Today’s sports bras are well designed and even serve as outerwear, making them a great option in hot weather. Look for a snug fit (to control motion) and a design that minimizes movement within the bra (to eliminate chafing). Large-breasted women should look for molded cups: smaller-breasted women can go with the compression type bras that flatten the breasts. Fabric should be a 50 per cent blend of cotton and some form of breathable material, such as Lycra. Avoid cups with seams that can irritate the nipple, and make sure any hardware is adequaiely cushioned. You’ll want wide straps, because all that motion can make narrow straps slip off the shoulders. Finally, be sure your arms have enough room to move freely.
Many people love running in the cold because it helps keep body temperature down and some days it seems one could run forever. Still, you don’t want to get too cold. Outerwear should be a breathable fabric such as Gore-Tex (numerous imitators function equally well), which is also water repellent. Keep in mind that no matter how breathable the fabric, if you work up enough of a sweat you will overwhelm its ability to dissipate the moisture. A raised collar will help protect your neck, which can be especially sensitive in the cold; consider wearing a turtleneck. Synthetic undergarments can add extra warmth. And since as much as 70 per cent of body heat is lost through your head, consider a hat, too. Gloves can keep your hands from feeling like they’re freezing solid. If you wear socks (some runners don’t), look for a fabric that will wick away moisture. Some runners avoid blistering by wearing two pairs of thin socks that can rub against each other instead of against sensitive skin.