Preparing for the Cold: What to Wear at State

Fall in the Midwest can bring a myriad of weather changes, including all four seasons in a matter of hours!

As we prepare for the Iowa State Cross Country Championships this weekend, a cold front is moving in on the Midwest that could leave you unprepared during race time. Take a look at the upcoming weather predictions and our tips to prepare, both as an athlete and as a spectator!

Fort Dodge weather predictions via The Weather Channel

Preparations For the Athletes

  • Help your body adapt for Saturday
    - Do your pre-race exercises outside, especially if you plan to do a shakeout run
  •  Dress appropriately
    - Don't overdress and get too hot - wearing too much clothing can cause you to sweat more resulting in a loss of fluids and the chance that you'll get cold when you stop, which can cause a runny nose, sore throat, and tight muscles
    - Don't underdress and get too cold - shivering burns a lot of energy and can cause muscle soreness and fatigue. 
    - So what to wear?! 

Shalane Flanagan, Amy Hastings, and Elyse Kopecky show a great display of cold-weather gear in this photo. Elyse (far left) may have been more adapted to the colder weather and went for capris and a windbreaker, sans gloves, ear warmer, or hat; whereas Shalane (middle) and Amy (far right) went for some thicker gear. Each is wearing long pants, a windbreaker (likely over a thinner long sleeve top), gloves, and an ear warmer. Hastings even opted for some tall socks to make sure her ankles were covered. They all went for black clothing, which absorbs the sun's heat and can help build a protective warm layer. 

  • Bring extra layers!
    - If you plan to do a run on Friday, be sure to bring some extra layers to put on aftewards while you do your post-run stretches and recovery exercises. It's best to do these outside to help your body continue adapting to the cold weather, but make sure you're not getting too cold. If it decides to snow, don't stay outside unless you have weather-resistant clothing. Getting cold and wet is never a good idea!
  • Throw in some strides
    - Doing 8-10 moderate strides outside after your shakeout run can help your lungs get used to the colder air and prevent the burning chest sensation on Saturday. Note that you should only do strides if you've already done a run or at least 10 minutes of warm-up exercises outside. 


  • Do a proper warm up
    - A minimum of 10 minutes of running will help the body prepare, but 15-20 (nice & easy of course) is a great way to make sure your muscles are properly warmed up. Things like active stretches (A-skips, leg swings, lunges, etc) can help the process as well and keep you from getting cold after you've finished the running portion. Always do these after you've done your warmup run. 
    - Plan to wear multiple layers prior to your warm up that you can easily shed as you go. Things like gloves, windbreakers, and hats are all great for helping keep vital body parts warm that you can easily shed. BONUS: If you wear a windbreaker with pockets, you can put your hat and gloves in there, then tie it around your waist if you get warm! 
  • Don't overdress for the race
    - Since the races are all after 11AM, there's a good chance it will be approaching the day's high by the time you race. Pants are generally going to be too hot if it is above 40 degrees for most people. 

Take a tip from Molly Huddle - a hat or ear warmer and gloves are always safe! They are easy to shed if you get warm and they help keep vital body parts warm. If your hands are cold, it's likely that you'll tense your arms up and unnecessarily burn extra energy. Your head also releases a lot of warmth and can hugely impact your overall body temperature. If you can keep your ears warm, you'll likely feel a lot warmer! She also has a long sleeve t-shirt to wear over her jersey prior to the race and arm sleeves that she can wear during. Arm sleeves are great because they too are easy to shed verses a t-shirt having to be pulled over the head!
PRO TIP: Go buy a cheap set of gloves and an ear warmer from a dollar store that you can easily throw off during the race and not worry about trying to find them if they get lost. Always make sure to go back and grab them if you can (don't litter!) but if they get stolen or manage to get lost, you will only be out a few dollars verses losing your nice ones!

  • Recover properly
    - It's easy to forget about your cool-down if you don't plan on running Footlocker or NXR, but even if Saturday is your last race ever, it is still important to do a proper cool down. Even just 10 minutes of easy jogging will help your body recover and prevent things like a head cold or severely sore muscles.
  • Layers, AGAIN!
    - Have a set of warm sweats with a friend or family member ready at the finish line for you to put on as soon as you're done racing so you don't get too cold. 
    PRO TIP: Shed your sweats at the start line and put them into a bag. Give that bag to a trusted friend or family member to take to the finish line for you so you don't have to worry about going back to the start line to get your stuff or having multiple sets of sweats to wear.

Preparations for Spectators

  • Bring a backpack full of extra clothes, snacks, and drinks. 
    - You may want to add layers or even shed some and don't want to worry about carrying them around. The day can also be pretty long with the races, awards ceremonies, and travel time, so it's a good idea to have some food and drinks ready. Staying hydrated is especially important, as you can be running around the course all day and get dehydrated very easily! Designate one person in your group or family to be the bearer of the backpack. We all know it's no fun running with a backpack bouncing up and down on your back, so if there's someone in your group that will be walking or sitting during most of the event, designate them to wear it. They can also set up camp at the finish line early on in the race and save a spot for you to see the finish! If you don't have someone like that in your group, leave it near the team camp. Don't interrupt the coaches or athletes or get it mixed in with their stuff, but maybe set it by a tree next to their camp or on the back side of their tent. You'll probably end up back there after the race anyway, so it's generally a central location.
  • Wear something with zipper pockets
    - A jacket or pants with pockets that zip up can be very useful for shedding gloves or a hat/ear warmer. It's also great if the athlete you're there rooting for throws their own gloves or ear warmer off so you can pick them up and keep them safe. We know you want to wear your favorite team t-shirt, but that's not always practical for the weather, so opt for a thicker jacket or coat with zipper pockets with your team t-shirt underneath. That way if you get hot you can rock your t-shirt with pride still!
  • Bring a stopwatch
    - iPhones and other smart phones often turn off if they get too cold. It's a good idea to wear a regular watch to keep track of time, plus if it is a stopwatch you can time the races for splits if you can't see the finish clock.
  • Bring a pair of sunglasses or a ball cap
    - Even though it is supposed to be somewhat cloudy, you'll want to protect your eyes from the bright sky. Your eyes will be focusing on jerseys, trying to find the team you're rooting for, and counting athletes for places, which can really strain the eyes. If you're squinting while doing that, it can cause a headache or even increase your level of fatigue!

You can see various people in this video wearing backpacks, thick jackets, or having tied jackets around their waists! They were ready for all kinds of weather in Wisconsin!

Need the info for Saturday, including the schedule, course map, and more? Check it out here!