I confess that I am not a fan of cold weather. I am a big, fat wimp when it comes to braving the cold outside. And to exercise outside? Let’s just say it is a struggle for me! In fact, I have some clients that love to be outdoors for their workouts . . . Brrrrrr. As in most things, though, once I actually get myself dressed in the right gear and get out there, I’m always glad I did. So, as the temps begin to drop and the days begin to shorten (which I also hate . . . even more than the cold!) there are some things to keep in mind to keep us getting outside, staying motivated and continuing to move through the winter. Whether you are a runner, walker, biker, outdoor bootcamper, tennis player or anything in between, the goal is to keep moving!
Once you have made up your mind to get out there, you just have to make sure you are dressed for the weather. Since we can’t pick and choose where we live and the weather conditions, the least we can do is to be prepared. There’s nothing worse than starting out the door uncomfortable and spending time wondering if you should go back and add a layer. Trust me, I did that the other day. . .
What to wear? Here are things to consider when dressing for the cold.
1. Head and Neck.
When it’s cold out you can lose up to 40% of your heat from your head, so it’s really important to cover your head. Do not go out the door bare-headed! A Thermal Hat, fleece or wool will keep you warm outside and most can cover your ears, too, to keep them from getting chapped. When it’s really cold out, a neck gaiter or bandana to cover the neck is a good idea. You can also pull it up over your mouth to warm the air you are breathing which helps right when you start a run. Remember your chapstick before you get out the door, and you may want to keep it in your pocket to keep your lips from chapping, especially when it’s windy.
2. Upper Body
The key here is layering. Layers trap the heat and let any sweat move through the layers of clothing. Your first layer should be a wicking base. There are so many cool materials out there now for this. You’ll find DryFit, Thinsulate, Thermax, CoolMax, ploypropolene or silk to name a few. These materials wick the sweat away from your body so you will stay dry. Whatever you do, do NOT wear cotton for this layer. You will sweat, get wet and stay wet and cold!
If you are where it is very cold outside, say below 10 degrees, your second layer should be an insulating material like a fleece. This will also wick moisture from the skin. Some fabrics you will find are Dryline, Polartec, ployester fleece, Microfleece and Thermax. There are also others you will find available.
Next, if you are out in the wind and rain or sleet you will need a water or weather-proof outer layer. (Honestly, I’m such a wimp, this is when I head to the treadmill!)
Hands: Did you know that you can lose 30% of your body heat through your hands and feet? So, it’s important to wear gloves or mitten to cover your hands on cold days.
3. Lower Body
You really don’t need as many layers on your lower body as your upper because your bigger muscles generate so much heat. Usually a pair of pants or tights made from a good material will do. Look for synthetic materials like Thinsulate, Thermax, Coolmax or such. If it’s below 10 degrees F, you may then want two layers or wind-proof pants.
Never wear cotton socks in the cold. They do not wick and will leave your feet wet, cold and prone to blisters. Find a good pair of wicking socks.
There are soooo many great and really cool exercise clothing options out there – at all price points. You can find great warm weather gear at Target, Sports Authority or other more high end places like Athleta and Lululemon. Also, there are lots of great deals in the stores now and online. If you are missing something, this is the time to treat yourself . . . say it’s for your health’s sake!
Now, you are motivated and dressed. What else do you need to know?
1. Dress for 15 – 20 degrees warmer. Try not to overdress. Your body will heat you and allow your body temp to increase to reduce over sweating and over heating. You should actually feel chilly when you walk out the door.
2. Run During Light and Warmer Times of Day: If you can run during the daylight, you can absorb the sunshine, have the benefit of the warmer time of day and the vitamin D from the sun.
3. Be Visible: If you have to run in the dark, PLEASE wear a reflective vest or lights so traffic can see you. Do NOT dress all in black! Wear some color out there!
4. Hit the Treadmill: I know this tip goes against the gist of this post, but let’s be honest. If it’s dark out, miserable and icy, it’s just not safe. At least you will stay in shape and stay safe!
5. Stay Low: Shorten your running stride and keep your feet lower to the ground. You will run more efficiently and reduce the risk of slipping, falling or straining muscles. Choose to run on fresh snow rather than ice or packed snow. You will get better traction on fresh snow and reduce the chance for slipping. Watch out for snow-covered cracks and holes in the road.
6. Warm Up: Take extra time to let your body warm up. It will do so more slowly in the winter, so take an extra five minutes to walk or jog to warm up for whatever exercise you are doing.
7. Hydrate: Don’t forget to drink fluids! Just because it is cold outside, doesn’t mean you do not need as much water as you do in the summer. Hydrate before, during and after.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, MAKE IT FUN SO YOU’LL GET BACK OUT THERE AGAIN!
What do you do to stay fit during the cold? What are your favorite layers?