What to wear when exercising in cold weather?

We are in that time of year where the temperatures are cold, and the warm weather isn’t quite in sight…yet.  Now, disclaimer – I realize I live in the South. I totally understand my version of “cold” and “winter” are very different than other parts of the country. That being said, it’s all relative…right? I’m going to say yes, it is. I’ve lived in the South all my life, and my mom constantly jokes I have very “thin, Southern blood.” Well, I’ll take that…because it’s so true. I’m the type of person that is freezing when it’s 70 degrees out. Yes, you read that correctly…7-0. Ok, but enough with my dramatics because it actually is cold out right now…like we’re talking 30s. Hopefully, I can get a little street cred for that. Maybe? *crickets* Anyone? *crickets* Bueller??

Ok, all that aside, let’s still talk about exercising in the cold, specifically running, but you can apply this to really any outdoor exercise. When you are running in the cold – the most important advice is to use multiple layers. Wearing a big jacket is often not ideal. Reason being, when you start to warm up, you are stuck in the jacket. You have to wear it or carry it with you throughout the entire run. The biggest pieces of advice I can give is (fairly) light layers.

  1. I start with an inner layer shirt that is good at wicking sweat, which helps to keep your body dry. A cotton t-shirt is not the best “base layer.” I often wear an Under Armor-style shirt that helps hold in heat but wicks away the sweat.
  2. Next, I’ll wear a long sleeve shirt, often with long sleeves and thumbholes because I just love the thumbholes!  This may be another moisture-wicking type shirt, or it could be a cotton shirt layer. It’s all about personal preference here.
  3. Then, I decide what to wear based on temperature – this is a personal decision, as everyone has their own tolerance levels. Mine will vary from just a vest (I love my Fabletics “puffy” vest – which they don’t carry anymore, sadly) over my 2nd layer, or another layer – like this one from Carrie Underwood’s line…and then the vest on top of it. For me, it’s all about keeping your core warm. 
  4. For the lower layers, there really aren’t as many. I typically wear fleece-lined leggings and long socks to keep my legs warm. Truthfully, my legs are always cold to start the run, but they warm up pretty quickly. My favorite leggings are like these Athleta brand or Nike fleece-lined pants. I can’t find a comparable pair to the ones I have. Guess it’s time to go upgrade!  I do have a Dick’s coupon.  Hmm…
  5. I love long socks, especially loud-colored ones. I found some snow-boarding socks on sale one year and found I really love to run in them. So, I’ll go with things like this.
  6. Next, I will go with ear warmers or a beanie. I typically go with ear warmers, in order to keep my hair up in the preferred bun of choice.
  7. Finally, I will wear gloves or mittens, depending on how cold it is. Mittens actually keep your hands warmer because your fingers can generate heat by being close together, so I’ll go that route if it’s really cold.

I find it is always a balance with how many layers to wear. Anything too baggy or too restricting is just going to get in the warm. Anything too light is not going to keep you warm enough during the run. So, it’s a balance. You’ll want to experiment to see what your cold tolerance is like…as well as the weather in your area. I realize my recommendations of what I wear personally are based on my North Carolina “winter” weather, so take that for what you will. Moral of the story here, though…layers are still important!  It’s all about finding the balance between staying warm and somewhat comfortable while outside this winter. The warmer months will be back soon, but until then…let’s be smart and stay safe this winter…while still staying active outside!

In the end, it’s always more enjoyable when you can get outside – in my opinion.

Don’t just take my word for it:
5 Reasons to Spend More Time Outside – Even When It’s Cold
5 Unexpected Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

Don’t use the cold as an excuse to skip out on exercise. Soak it up!  Winter is short-term…and let’s face it…swimsuit season will be here before we know it! 😉

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