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Exercising in Cold Weather


WRITTEN BY: Sports Medicine
Monday, December 30th, 2013

For climates that experience the change of seasons, especially the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, winter can sometimes feel like it lasts from October through March. While most people head indoors at the first sign of frost, there are some who still forge ahead into the brisk temperatures to continue with their workouts and exercise regimens. The best way to be prepared for the low temperatures is to approach the weather systematically. Each cold-weather outfit should have three parts to it: a base layer, a mid layer, and a shell.

The Base Layer

The base layer is the layer closest to your skin. While some will opt for cotton, wool, or a more natural material to be closest to the skin, the best material is a synthetic fabric, such as polyester or microfiber. This material is designed to wick away the moisture of your skin without absorbing it, while still trapping your body heat. Synthetics can be as much as 53 percent lighter than cotton after 60 minutes of exercise, which means you won’t be slowed down by extra weight.

The Mid Layer

The purpose of the mid layer is to provide additional insulation. The key is to provide the best possible conditions for continued wicking away of moisture from the skin, while still trapping the heat. If the gap between layers is too great, this may reduce the transfer of moisture. Some of the options for materials in the mid layer are:

  • Wool
  • Fleece
  • Down
  • Synthetic filling
  • Cotton

The Shell

The purpose of the shell, the outermost layer, is to block wind or water from coming in, while still allowing moisture from the inside to be wicked away. Because of this, breathability of the shell layer is crucial. Some common options used for a shell layer are:

  • Plastic raincoats
  • Waterproof breathable hard shells
  • Water-resistant soft shells

The Bottom Line

It is important to approach cold weather activities in a carefully planned and systematic way. Proper layering and use of materials with the best insulation and moisture wicking is the key to your success in the brisk, wintery months. Some might look outside from their warm, toasty homes, shocked to see you running in such cold temperatures. But with the proper gear and right knowledge, you can forge ahead through the most blustery of conditions.

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Sports Medicine

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