It happened this weekend. It got down to 25° outside here in Minneapolis and my outdoor run was miserable. Miserable because I was not prepared.
As my friend and I ran, we were both in shock at how every year on that first really cold day, we can’t remember to dress properly. After 20+ years in Minnesota, I have learned to embrace the cold-weather outfitting that can make running in frigid weather comfortable and enjoyable. But for some reason it takes a brutal reminder that first cold day.
Now don’t get me wrong — once we hit the below-0° mark, I’m indoors. But there are lots of great outdoor running and walking days in the winter. Dressing properly is the key.
If cold weather makes you want to move your workout indoors, get outfitted with the right gear and you may reconsider. Believe it or not, research shows that outdoor workouts burn more calories in winter than in summer because you use more energy keeping your body warm.
These useful items to keep you safe, warm and motivated in the winter weather. It’s all about layering your clothing and the correct fabrics — fabrics that move perspiration away from your body while helping retain heat. I suggest a three-layer system that should keep you comfortable during most cold-weather workouts.
1. Inner Layer: The fabric next to your skin should be lightweight, snug-fitting and made to wick perspiration. Look in athletic wear or sporting goods stores for undershirts and workout wear made of wicking fabrics — synthetics designed for this purpose. Avoid cotton, which absorbs moisture and stays wet. Once your workout clothes get sweat-soaked they can lose as much as 90 percent of their insulating capabilities.
2. Middle Layer: This is the insulation layer, which should also wick moisture and provide warmth. Choose a slightly thicker fabric that fits loosely over your inner layer to trap the air warmed by exercise-generated heat. Fabrics like microfleece and thermal tops work well.
3. Outer Layer: Like a protective shell, this layer shields you from wind, rain and snow. Try a nylon jacket or wind jacket made of waterproof material. Hooded jackets are nice for protecting your head from the elements as well. This layer may be removed completely during the most vigorous part of your workout.
4. Pants: On colder days, layer nylon tights or leggings under your workout pants to insulate your legs. If it’s raining or snowing, wear tights or running pants made of synthetics that will do a good job of wicking moisture away.
5. Hat: We all remember our mothers telling us to wear a hat to keep warm — and they were right. At least 40 percent of body heat can be lost through the head. A hat keeps that heat from escaping, and it will keep you warmer. Plus it will keep you dry in rain or snow. I prefer polar fleece hats because they aren’t itchy. If the weather isn’t terribly frigid but your ears get cold, try an ear band.
6. Gloves or Mittens: Again, keeping those extremities warm can help keep your whole body warm. Mittens are my favorite option because your fingers work together to build up warmth and keep you the warmest. I also love to pop in those disposable hand warmers that can be found at most sporting goods stores on those very cold days.
7. Neck protection: Scarves, neck-gaiters or a ski mask can really help keep you comfortable when the wind-chill is brutal. Bring one along to wrap around your neck on those extra cold days.
8. Sunscreen: You may think just the opposite, but the Earth is actually closer to the sun from December through February. So don’t forget to protect your skin. And don’t forget your lips!!
9. Socks: Very important! Choose socks made of a Dri Fit or wicking fabric to keep your feet warm and dry. Cotton socks will hold sweat, cause blisters and possibly cause feet to feel numb. SmartWool® is also a great option in the winter.
10. Toe warmers: I love to use toe warmers in my athletic shoes, but here is a little trick to remember if you choose to do so: Place the toe warmers on the top of your toes and feet, not the bottom. If you place them under your feet they can irritate and cause a burning feeling as you’re constantly placing pressure and force on them as you run or walk. I place them on top of my foot where my shoe is a little meshy and they work great!