Getting Layered – The three-layer system of base, mid and outer.

The concept of layering clothes for outdoor activity is fundamental, irrespective of the time of year. The three-layer system of base, mid and outer provides the opportunity to regulate one’s temperature whilst moving quickly or slowly for any outdoor pursuit.

BASE LAYER

The base layer is moisture-wicking layer that fits close to the skin is usually relatively thin and tight-fitting. Its primary goal is to wick sweat away from one’s body allowing the wearer to remain dry, warm and comfortable. Merino wool has long been hailed as the product to use as it has excellent wicking properties and retains heat, even when wet. Many consider the base to be just one layer, but two thin layers are often better than one thicker layer. Or a thin layer with thicker product over the top may well be required in extreme cold. Importantly with base layers, always take a spare with you. The opportunity to change to warm/ dry layers during long activities, particularly in extreme cold can be a life saver.

A base layer for the legs is only a consideration should you be adding a specific outdoor pant over the top. Again, merino works best for the base. If running, specific run tights (winter versions exist with windproof panels) are all that is usually required as the legs are moving constantly and therefore keeping warm. However, in extreme cold and wind one may need to re-think based on activity level. A base layer merino with a loose-fitting run pant over the top is an excellent scenario to start. The run pant could also be waterproof as mentioned below or for climbing, they could be down or synthetic such as Primaloft.

A merino base layer with another thin base layer increases warmth with flexibility.

MIDLAYER

Often considered as an insulating layer, the mid layer also is very important for transporting excess heat from the body and base layer. Unlike the base layer, a midlayer should be looser fitting to facilitate the capture and retention of air. Air between the base and mid helps preserve heat and transport moisture. There is no definitive midlayer and often, the choice comes down to the activity you are doing, in what conditions and how active or inactive one is likely to be. For example, 100% merino is possible, a synthetic product such as Primaloft or a down product. Each has their own unique properties and uses with warmth to weight ratio being a prime consideration, particularly for an outdoor enthusiast. Depending on the product, a Merino midlayer will usually be heavier than synthetic and down being the most lightweight. Volume is a key consideration, down compresses amazingly and can be made exceptionally small fulfilling the best of most worlds, small size and low weight. Merino by contrast will take up a great deal of space with additional weight. The weather conditions will often dictate which mid layer you will choose, Merino is good for all conditions (wet and dry), Synthetic equally works well in wet and dry with a smaller volume size and weight. Down historically has only been good with guaranteed dry conditions as the down (goose or duck, goose being the best) becomes ineffective when wet. However, many brands now treat down to withstand water. This often goes via the name of Hydrophobic. Hydrophobic down has been treated with a durable water repellent that enables the down to dry quicker and resist water for longer, meaning it will perform better in damp conditions. This makes down jackets that utilize hydrophobic down more versatile, as they can be used in cold, damp conditions without being damaged.

OUTER LAYER

Designed to protect you from the elements but equally allowing the person inside to lose excess heat, outer layers are essential for outdoor activities. Many products exist and many varieties exist such as Gore-Tex Paclite Plus, Pertex Shield, Proflex Waterproof, Hyrdroshell and the list goes on. If running and moving fast and light, your choice will be dictated by product weight and size. However, if hiking and mountaineering, a heavier duty and more resilient product will be required. Also keep in mind that pants will or may be required. Again, a running waterproof pant can be minimalist whereas a hiking pant will need to be more durable.

In Scandinavia, insulated shorts are extremely popular such as those by Haglofs. They provide extra warmth, without slowing you down or interfering with your activity. Primaloft Aerogel filling and treated with Fluorocarbon free DWR treatment to withstand all conditions.

EXTREMETIES

Feet, hands and head are key places that need protection during cold and extreme weather. Often, you can get away with less layers on your core if your feet, hands and head are warm. 

HEAD

Most of one’s body heat is lost through the head and quite simply, humans are designed to make sure the head and brain is kept warm. So, in cold conditions, hand and feet warmth will be sacrificed if your head is cold. Adding a layer to your head is a guaranteed way to warm up immediately so treat this as a priority. Equally, if you are too warm, removing a head covering is an easy way to cool down quickly. A merino wool beanie, Buff or wrag is superb for maintaining warmth and just as the base layer, it will remove moisture and still keep you warm even when wet.

HANDS

Cold hands make any outdoor activity miserable and there is no one definitive answer to how to keep hands warm as there are many variables based on the conditions you will be in. A good place to start is with a Merino liner glove. This liner can also be used as a stand-alone product on days when the ambient temperature requires. Over the liner, one has two options: glove or mitt. Mitts are guaranteed to be warmer, however, if you are climbing or doing a sport where finger dexterity is required, a mitt will not work. So, you need to assess your own personal needs. Finally, an outer waterproof layer can be an excellent idea if persistent rain and cold temperatures are to be encountered. You need to adapt the layers for the conditions and just like a hat, moving and adding gloves is a great way to regulate temperature.

FEET

Merino socks are essential for happy feet. In dry conditions they wick away sweat, in wet conditions they retain warmth. Just as with the body, layering socks is a great idea. Most of the time a sport specific merino sock will work, however, in winter, the demands on one’s feet increase. Consider a thin base layer sock with a thicker sock over the top, just like you would with your body. If you anticipate extreme cold and wet, a specific barrier sock may need to be considered such as a Sealskinz or equivalent.

CONCLUSION

Having multiple layers for any outdoor activity is a key to keeping warm and dry. There is no one-stop solution as the requirements vary from sport-to-sport. However, if you think base, mid and outer, you will be well equipped for any weather at any time of the year.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

Planning a Running and Racing Year

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6747

You have looked back over 2016 and decided what worked and what didn’t for you, haven’t you? With that information, you have looked at your strengths and weaknesses and you have now started to plan 2017/18, you have, haven’t you?

If the answer to the two above questions is no or maybe even yes, please read my thoughts on what you should be doing now in preparation for a great 2017 of running and racing.

In a previous post I questioned if ‘Base Training’ is something that you should be doing now? (Read HERE) This post was directed at experienced runners or ultra runners who have been in the sport for sometime and have already accumulated many miles and hours of running. They may not need more endurance but speed.

But planning is key. You need to periodise training so that you get the most from it. Below I go through a classic training program that has key phases for a successful season. It’s a classic training program that includes:

  • Base or Speed
  • Build
  • Maintain
  • Recover
  • Build
  • Race
  • Recover

Depending on experience, how this plan is put together is very much dependant on the individual. However, certain key elements should be present in any training plan and this article is intended to provide the basics from which you can develop a strategy that works for you. I must stress, for you!

Firstly, asses last year and understand what worked and what didn’t. This will give you a list of strengths and weaknesses.

  • Did you lack endurance?
  • Did you lack speed?
  • Was your strength and core weak?
  • Were you mentally strong?

The answers to the above questions will help you understand what your plan needs in the coming months.

Secondly, decide on objectives for 2017 and even 2018, decide on A, B and C races. Put them in a diary and ideally have a wall planner so that you have an overview of the year. It’s easy to see how a year looks on a planner.

Set a timescale and work back from THE key ‘A’ race. In our scenario, we are saying that our key race is a 100-mile race, 28 weeks away.

Yes, it’s a long way off but don’t be fooled into thinking you have plenty of time. Key races have a habit of sneaking up on you.

Fancy an early season multi-day TRAINING CAMP? Join us in Lanzarote with 2015 Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes HERE

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria15-6152

100-miles is a long way so *base training and getting the miles in is key. We have allocated 8 weeks for this in the plan below. Hours of easy miles progressively building up to a C race (marathon or 50k). It is always good to have a goal and a target to aim for. The C race is a training race and will have no taper, you would race through it as a training long run.

*A traditional pyramid training plan starts with base and then typically adds speed as an event comes closer. However, we are ultra runners and it is important to be specific. High intensity training creates a lot of fatigue and this is why I am a huge fan of reversing the pyramid and getting speed work done during the winter so that the training plan that leads into an A race is specific to the demands of the race.

So, if you are an experienced ultra runner looking to improve in 2017/18 with years of running and loads of endurance, think about making weeks 1-8 speed based with a fast marathon as a C (or maybe even A) race objective at the end of this block.

When you enter your racing season this will be in the build phase so it’s a good idea to place a B race objective that will allow you to progress to the A goal or multiple A goals.

As you come to the end of the build phase, you should be in form and race fit. What you want to do now is fine tune that form, tweak it and hold it for the A race. If you are cramming long runs in or looking for speed, it’s too late. You basically misjudged the planning or started training too late.

Maintaining what fitness you have is also about being specific to the A target.

  1. Is your 100-mile target race on groomed trail with little elevation gain?
  2. Is it an out-and-out mountain race with gnarly terrain and plenty of elevation gain?

It’s important to be specific now, the two races above require very different approaches. This is something that you will have understood in January (or earlier in the year) when you looked back at last year, looked ahead to this year and understood your strengths and weaknesses so that you could plan accordingly.

  • Scenario 1 requires running, good form and leg speed.
  • Scenario 2 requires hiking, climbing, leg strength and plenty of endurance.

You can’t perform well at every event and this is why A, B and C races are important. Yes I know the elite runners manage to race several key races a year but look at the training and look at the planning. We have all seen top runners turn up at early season races and place just inside or outside the top-10.

Rob Krar and Francois d’Haene provide good examples of how to:

  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover,
  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover,
  • Build,
  • Peak,
  • Win,
  • Recover.

In 1 racing year, both Rob and Francois won 3 x 100-mile races.

That is an incredible skill and for sure as racing becomes more aggressive, faster and more brutal, this training approach is going to become far more important for those who want to race to their own potential and maybe more importantly race year-on-year. We have all witnessed the damage that racing and training too much can do at an elite level runner. Listen to my podcast with Geoff Roes HERE as he provides a great insight into potential problems.

Ask questions such as:

  1. Do I race every weekend?
  2. Do I rest?
  3. Do I allow easy and recovery weeks?
  4. Do I cross train?
  5. Do I sleep well?
  6. How is my nutrition?
  7. Am I constantly tired?
  8. Do I feel alive and full of beans?
  9. How’s my resting heart rate?
  10. Is my pace good?
  11. How’s my strength?
  12. How’s my recovery?
  13. Do I have a plan?
  14. Have I structured my plan to an A race?

The above questions are a starting point. Read through the list and add your own questions to appraise what type of runner you are. It may well be that running for you is an escape and social thing, you may be happy to race week in and week out and you are not worried about gaining a PB or improving; if that is you, great. I’d still say planning some RnR is a good thing to avoid burn out.

©iancorless.com_Limone2015-3090

If you are someone looking to perform and improve, you need to be more self critical. Plan your training and periodise your training so that you are able to (hopefully) predict good form on 1 or multiple A race days in a year. This is not easy.

Carefully plan your races in terms of importance, ‘A’ being the most important. Also make the races progressive and inline with your A race. For example, if your A race is a 100-mile race, a C race may be a marathon, a B race may be a 50K or 100K and then the A is the big step of 100-miles.

Remember you can only hold form for a limited length of time and if you want to peak, you need to make sure that this planning stage is done early so that you understand what you are trying to achieve. It’s all about stepping stones.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the training blocks you are planning:

  • Are you laying base training?
  • Building fitness?
  • Maintaining fitness?
  • Racing?

A training block with 2 x ‘A’ races (the 2nd race being 100-miles) may look like this:

Base Training Phase

Week 1 – Base or Speed

Week 2 – Base or Speed

Week 3 – Base or Speed

Week 4 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 5 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 6 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 7 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 8 – Base with C Race probably a marathon.

Build Training Phase

Week 9 – Build

Week 10 – Build

Week 11 – Build maybe a C Race just as a long run?

Week 12 – Build

Week 13 – Build

Week 14 – Build with B Race 50K.

Maintain

Week 15 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 16 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 17 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 18 – Maintain/ Taper with A Race

Recovery

Week 19 – Recovery

Week 20 – Recovery easing back into Build.

Build

Week 21 – Build

Week 22 – Build

Week 23 – Build

Week 24 – Build

Week 25 – Build

Week 26 – Build

Week 27 – Taper

Week 28 – Taper and A Race (this scenario 100-miles)

Recover, Recover and Recover.

This article is not a hard and fast plan, it’s a guide for you to go away, look at your targets having assessed past targets and hopefully it makes you think about 2016 objectives so that you can plan for a successful, injury free year of running and racing.

How long should The Long Run be? HERE

©iancorless.com_Transvulcania2015-8400

Enjoyed this article? Support on PATREON HERE

support_patreon