“To enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast.”
-Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Ah, fall. The beautiful colored leaves and the crunches they make as you run over them. The pumpkin breads, apple crumbles, and roasted butternut squash casseroles. Fall is my favorite time of year. Fall brings cold weather, faster times and my favorite holiday, my birthday on Halloween. And I also love my running tights.
Yes, tights can be super cute and comfortable and I know how excited you are to wear them. And trust me, when it’s freezing and I’m just standing around at track meets, you can be sure that I have tights on underneath my pants (I’m really affected by weather: I’m also the first person to take my shirt off when it’s hot outside, regardless of how self-conscious I’m feeling that day). But I’m here to tell you: Running tights are not necessary until it’s absolutely freezing outside!
I get it. You’re a freeze baby. You want to be warm. But remember the 20 degree rule: dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer outside and you’ll probably warm up within the first few miles. That means that if it’s 50 degrees outside, it’ll probably feel around 70 when you begin to warm up. You should feel cold when you start, which means you can get away without tights when the temperature dips below freezing. Really! I have run a race in boy shorts in the snow. Almost 10 inches of snow, to be exact, and I survived!
Still don’t believe me? Well, here’s a few more facts (it’s up to you to debate their truthfulness!)
Running tights are uncomfortable while running. I wear leggings as pants and often will wear running tights as pants. Trust me, I love being comfortable. But running in tights, especially doing workouts in tights? No. The crotch falls down, they’ll pinch your stomach in weird ways, usually they’re too long and get bunchy at the ankles, or they’re too short and don’t keep my ankles warm.
Running tights make you slower. The more clothes you’re wearing, the more constricted you are, at least that’s how I’ve felt when I’ve raced in tights. Tights also add weight. Any additional weight carried on your body is going to slow you down. Plus, when you’re running fast your burning more energy and will generate more heat. Maybe for hard workouts and races we should make a 40 degree rule?
There are some smarter alternatives. I know that running tights have gotten fancier and there are now even compression running tights, but compression socks, for me, are much less confining and since they’re helping my calves, I don’t feel as constricted wearing them. They are nearly as warm as full tights and depending on the length of your shorts, can cover a lot of your legs.
You’ll save money. On average, I’ve found that running tights can be far more expensive than shorts. My cheapest pair of tights are from Old Navy and cost around $25, and I have two pairs of more expensive Under Armour tights that have some kind of insulation, and bought them on sale for around $45-50. On the contrary, I’ve found a pair of shorts for less than ten dollars. While you don’t need to wash your tights as often as your shorts (also taking into account that you don’t sweat as much at cooler temperatures), if you’re doing two-a-days or wear your tights outside of running, it’s inevitable that they will get dirtier more quickly. And if you hate doing laundry like me … well, you get the picture.
You’ll feel cool. Both literally and figuratively. Though you may think you’re an idiot for not bundling up in a thousand layers at 35 degrees, there’s something about wearing shorts and seeing other people too warm that’s just a little empowering. Plus, how can you not look like a badass running in shorts when it’s snowing?!
You’ll feel amazing when you get inside. You’ve just finished your run. Your nose is a little red and maybe you have some goosebumps, so you pull on your comfiest sweatpants, fuzzy socks, a robe, and a big sweater, light a candle, turn on the coffee pot and have never felt more cozy and satisfied. Just like Melville said, you never know how amazing warmth is until you’ve felt cold.
So how about you? Do you like your tights? How cold does it have to be for you to dig them out of your running drawer?
For more on this topic check out Running Fashion Police, Weather Edition: Pants, Tights or Shorts?