Spring weather is just around the corner, but we’re not quite there yet. As we continue on in the cold months of the year, dressing for cold weather helps keep our consultants outside and getting after it.
Over the winter months, I kept up marathon training through rain, snow, ice and even the frigid cold of the midwest. Back in late December, I placed first with a partner in Seattle’s GoRuck 15K Star Course, a 15K scavenger-hunt-style race carrying 20lbs of weight on my back. Getting outside in the winter is harder, but still as important as any other time of the year. Here are some ways you can make things easier on yourself:
If you are planning on doing any sort of outdoor activity, proper warmup is important. Your body is like an engine, and cold starts can lead to problems. Be sure to stretch, walk and be easy on yourself for much longer than usual to start out. You can do this sort of warmup indoors too, so you will be warmer going outside.
Your nose also needs time to adjust to the cold. Breathing through your nose is important, but can be hard with cold air. Take time to make sure you’re taking deep, slow breaths within your comfort level and it will feel like normal soon.
Winter weather exercise is all about layering. Unlike walking, your body temperature fluctuates from normal, higher during exercise, and possibly lower afterwards due to sweat and fatigue. Being able to regulate temperature without holding a heavy winter coat is important.
Generally, based on how cold it is, you can decide whether or not you can tolerate too much skin (face, arms, legs) being exposed to the wind. From here, layering falls into three main categories:
1. **Base Layer:** This will be your skin-contact layer, to shield yourself from cold wind and wick sweat from your skin. Being wet in the cold is miserable – I have shivered through many mud runs to learn this well.
2. **Mid Layer:** The middle layer goes over your base layer to help trap heat. Having something that zips can help you regulate your temperature during exercise.
3. **Outer Layer:** The outer layer isn’t always needed, but can help in wind, rain, snow or extreme cold. This is generally the wind and water-resistant (or waterproof) layer.
The parts of your body that you need to protect most are your ears, hands, neck and upper body, and this can make the difference between misery and success. Beanies or a hood of any sort will be enough for your ears. A zip-up layer that covers your neck will be sufficient, but when needed a balaclava can also offer protection for your face.
For your hands, gloves are a good solution, but in the rain, you may want to opt for neoprene or waterproof gloves. I’ve found a lot of success with neoprene BleggMit-style gloves that also allow for exposure of your hands.