It is always important to protect yourself against the cold, even when you’re exercising. During cold weather, make sure that you are wearing the right layers made out of material that both wicks away moisture and insulates your body. You should also choose clothing that protects your head, hands, and face. You may even decide that you need winter-specific footwear. The key is to pick layers that you can remove and add as you need.
EditPicking the Right Layers
- Choose a light base layer. The layer closest to your skin should be a moisture-wicking material that will keep you dry as you sweat. It should also be form fitting to help insulate your body. Avoid cotton, as it can become damp from your sweat. Instead, look for shirts that are made of:
- Wool/Polyester mix
- Wear fleece over the base layer. The middle layer can be a pullover sweater, a front-zipping jacket, or a vest. It should be warm and insulating while still allowing your body to breathe. Fleece is a good middle layer as it is warm and soft like wool but much lighter.
- If you live in an area that is extremely cold, you may decide to wear wool. Be aware that it is much heavier, and it may be more burdensome as you exercise.
- Find a breathable outer coat. The outermost layer should be a waterproof coat. You may want to look for one that has zipper vents, which you can open to air out your armpits. Unless you live in an extremely cold area, you may only need a light shell or a raincoat for this layer. Some good materials for the outer layer include:
- Pick long pants or tights. You should not wear shorts during the wintertime. Although you can warm up through exercise, it may not be sufficient to prevent cold related conditions like hypothermia. Wear long pants, leggings, exercise tights, or yoga pants when exercising outside.
- If it is dry outside, you might choose a polyester blend or cotton for your pants.
- If it is wet or snowy, you might opt for a waterproof bottom.
- If you run, you may want to look for thermal running tights.
- Select reflective gear. As it can get dark early in winter, you want to make sure that you are visible to motorists as you exercise. When buying fitness clothing, look for outer layers that have reflective coloring, such as metallic orange or silver.
- If you cannot find reflective winter clothing, you can also look for clip-on LED lights or reflective arm bands, belts, and shoe clips.
EditProtecting Your Head and Hands
- Buy a hat or headband. Headgear can keep your ears and head warm as you exercise outside. When looking for good hats and headbands, find a material that is thick and insulated. Both hats and headbands should pull over and cover your ears.
- If you get a knit hat, make sure that it is lined on the inside.
- Layer your gloves. Try finding thin glove liners that you can wear under thicker gloves. When your hands get too warm, take off the heavier gloves, and just wear the glove liners.
- Glove liners are often made out of thin, insulating materials. Some may be made out of natural materials, like wool, while others made be a mix of synthetic materials, like Thermasilk, spandex, and nylon.
- Your outer gloves can be something heavier, such as knitted wool. You can even wear fingerless hand warmers over the glove liners if that is more comfortable.
- Find a helmet for winter sports. If you are skiing, snowboarding, or biking, make sure that you have adequate head protection. A good helmet will prevent injury in case you slip or fall.
- A good helmet will be snug but not too tight. Be sure to try on helmets before purchasing. If you will wear the helmet with goggles, bring the goggles to try on with it.
- Look for a helmet that has an insulated layer on the inside and a hard outer casing. This lining should cover your ears to protect them from cold wind.
- Some winter helmets will have vents or adjustable plugs to prevent your scalp from sweating.
- Search for a ski mask. Ski masks—also known a face liners or balaclavas-- provide extra protection against extremely low temperatures. These resemble hoods that pull over your head. They will often cover your mouth, chin, and forehead against strong wind and cold temperatures. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, ski masks may be useful for those hiking or biking at high altitudes.
- Seek out thermal socks. If your feet get cold while exercising, you may want to find warmer socks. Thermal socks are a great choice as they keep your feet warm and dry through all types of cold weather.
- Thermal socks tend to be made out of wool. If you have a wool sensitivity, look for a pair made out of synthetic materials.
- If you decide to wear thinner socks, you can layer an extra pair over the first pair for the same effect. This may be uncomfortable for running.
- Go up a size. Thermal socks are extremely thick, and you may find that your foot is cramped inside your normal exercise shoe. You may want to find a winter shoe that is one half size to one full size larger than your normal shoe. When shopping for shoes, try wearing a pair of thermal socks to see how they fit in the shoe.
- Look for good traction. If you live somewhere where there is snow and ice, you will need to find a shoe with good traction. This may help prevent falls during cold weather. When looking for a winter shoe, check the bottom to see what type of traction there is.
- A good shoe for snow or ice will have traction on the bottom of the shoe that resembles studs or cleats.
- If you enjoy hiking in high, snowy altitudes, you may want to look for snow cleats or crampons.
- Consider waterproof shoes. If snow and ice are an issue for you, you may want to find a shoe that is waterproof. A waterproof shoe is generally more expensive. The material is heavier and less flexible, but it can keep your feet warm and dry in snowy conditions. Water can still enter the shoe through the sock. If you do not have much snow or rain in your area, you may not need a waterproof shoe.
- If your hands are cold while exercising, try placing chemical heat packs inside your gloves.
- Layers can be removed when you are too warm and added when you are too hot. You may find that you do not need them as you are moving. Once you have stopped or slowed down, you may want to add them back on.
- If the temperatures are low or if it wet and windy, you may be at risk for hypothermia. Make sure that your body is completely covered, including your hands and ears. Even with waterproof gear, you should not exercise when it is raining in low temperatures.