Depending on where you live, January is either very wet, very cold, or both. And that can put a damper (pun intended) on outdoor fitness activities, such training for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon and 5K. That said, people in some parts of the country (hello, Seattle and Portland!) are out there running, cycling, and hiking rain, shine, or snow. Let’s take a few pointers from them and learn how to suit up to stay warm and dry no matter what the weather.
Focus on Fleece
Originally known as synthetic chinchilla, Polar Fleece was invented in 1979 when Patagonia worked with a Massachusetts company called Maiden Mills to develop a light synthetic high-pile fabric designed to surpass wool in the warmth department. Not only does fleece weigh much less than wool, but it doesn’t hold water, so it keeps you warm even when wet. Much of the fleece we wear today is environmentally friendly, too, as it’s made from recycled plastic water bottles. However, fleece is not windproof. So runners often prefer to wear a fleece layer underneath a waterproof layer such as a windbreaker.
Break the Cotton Habit
Many of us gravitate towards cotton for workout gear, but cotton holds onto moisture, keeping your body damp and therefore cold. There’s also the consideration of chaffing and irritation, which can occur with damp cotton. Upgrade your workout wear to synthetic fabrics, which are better than cotton when you work up a sweat.
Wear Wickable Fabrics
Moisture-wicking fabrics lift perspiration and other moisture away from your skin so you stay dry and chafe-free while running. Wickable material is also designed to “breathe” and allow air to circulate between the fabric and your skin. Look for brand names such as dri-lift and dri-fit and descriptors such as technical and tech.
Go for Layers
Layering is the first rule of thumb for outdoor sports in winter. Most people opt for three: A base layer, middle layer, and outer layer. Start with a thin, moisture-wicking base layer (such as polypropylene), then layer on fleece, and top with a waterproof/windproof shell. Don’t neglect your legs when layering; running tights underneath wind-resistant pants are a favorite combo.
Protect Hands, Neck and Head
Cold hands can drive you indoors fast. And the conventional wisdom that you lose heat through your head is correct. Invest in some flexible comfortable gloves and a hat or headband that protects your ears. Some runners like a neck gaiter as well. Look for fabrics that retain heat and repel moisture. Runners in truly cold climates often wear a wicking skull cap underneath a warmer hat.
Beware Slippery When Wet
Slipping is a real risk in rain, ice, and snow. To get extra traction on slippery surfaces when it’s seriously wet or icy out, opt for running shoes with serious tread, even if they’re a little heavier on your feet. Many companies now make specialized winter running shoes, some of them with integrated gaiters. There are also traction devices that slip over, clip on or attach to the bottom of your running shoes.
Waterproof Your Tech
Unless you feel safe and comfortable leaving your phone or GPS device at home, you need a way to keep it dry while you exercise. Some runners rely on waterproof bags, but if you want your phone handy for safety, choose a jacket with waterproof pockets, and keep them zipped.
Warm Up Well
After your exercise session, it’s important to get warm as quickly as possible afterwards. Strip off wet gear as quickly as possible and hop into a hot shower right away; if not, change into warm, dry clothes. To dry out wet running shoes, loosen the laces and stuff with crumpled paper towels or newspaper to help absorb moisture. If possible, leave them to dry for a day or two. Never put running shoes next to a heater or fire or put them in the dryer, as all of those options can melt or warp the components.
Be Sure to Be Seen
A final winter safety tip: Drivers peering through rainy and snowy windshields may not see you, so pay attention to your visibility. Never run or walk in head-to-toe black or other dark colors at dusk or nighttime and use reflectors whenever possible.,