Outdoor Winter Workout Tips

Updated December 2, 2020

With temperatures beginning to drop, choosing workout clothes can seem overwhelming. It can be challenging to find workout gear that not only moves with you, but provides you with ample warmth or layering options in case you work up too much of a sweat. Whether you’re enjoying a good run outdoors during winter months, or taking a brisk walk through the neighborhood, it’s important to keep the winter chill at bay before, during, and after a workout.

Read on to discover workout clothing tips from the experts at UPMC Sports Medicine to help you stay safe and comfortable while getting fit this winter.

3 Tips to Beat the Cold During Workouts

Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Nature can add extra fuel to your workout. Exercise improves your mental and physical well-being, especially when outdoors. Taking your workout outside can reduce stress, improve mood, and raise self-esteem.

Dress in Layers

To stay at an ideal temperature, our experts recommend three basic layers of workout clothes made of moisture-wicking materials:

  • Base layer: Wear breathable clothing to wick excess sweat off of your skin. Avoid heavy fabrics that absorb sweat like cotton in favor of water-resistant materials such as polyester.
  • Mid layer: This layer should protect you from the cold and lock in warm air around your body. Adjust your mid layer based on your workout environment. If it is cold or freezing, opt for a thick down jacket. In cool weather, a fleece fabric may be sufficient. If it feels hot, you can skip a mid layer.
  • Outer layer: The final outer layer is intended to protect you from elements such as rain, snow, and wind. Select waterproof and water-resistant materials that are still breathable.

Cover Your Extremities

When taking your workout outdoors, be sure to consider your extremities. If the weather is cool, your fingers or feet may get chilly. Adding pieces like hats, gloves, and scarves can offer additional warmth during your workout by targeting areas of the body often affected by temperature changes.

Don’t count on your exercise to heat you up, but layering is important to avoid overheating. The following may be important pieces of clothing to consider:

  • Hats put a cap on your body heat. They can help keep you warm and dry. In extremely cold climates, they can help prevent hypothermia.
  • Gloves protect your hands from becoming chapped. The skin on your hands have important oils, which gloves keep safely away from the elements.
  • Scarves can keep your neck and parts of your ear warm. Most jacket collars are not high enough to protect your neck from the cold, so scarves can act as another layer to keep that delicate skin warm.
  • Socks keep your feet insulated and protected from frostbite. For cold temperatures, wool socks may be the best option. On slightly warmer days or for strenuous workouts, opt for light cotton fabrics. Be sure to pair the appropriate socks with your athletic shoes.

Be mindful of your clothing materials

Some common materials for fitness gear include:

  • Wool offers warmth for outdoor workouts in colder climates. Look for clothing made with Merino wool, which can offer extra moisture wicking compared to traditional wool.
  • Fleece has insulating properties that will trap body heat to keep you warm, but it is light enough to still offer some breathability.
  • Down will insulate your body to keep you warm without adding too much bulk, but it loses its insulating properties when wet.
  • Synthetics wick sweat away in a breathable fabric instead of trapping heat close to your body. Opt for synthetic fabrics to stay cool during an intense workout.
  • Cotton is absorbent and may absorb sweat. Moisture can weigh down your clothing and make it difficult to stay cool or warm depending on the weather.

Wear Bright Colors

Dreary winter days or dim evenings can lead to limited visibility. Stay safe by sporting bright colors during outdoor workouts. Vibrant colors can help you stand out from your environment. If exercising near a road or at night, wear reflective material and pay close attention to your surroundings.

Choose Shoes with Good Traction

Shoes in many ways determine your athletic performance. Be sure to choose the right shoe for your workout. Proper traction on your athletic shoes can boost performance and minimize accidental slipping.

When considering what shoe to wear, consider your workout. Different surface types require different amounts of traction. For example, you may require more traction when running on an unpaved path compared to a sidewalk or road.

Remove Layers as You Warm Up

Though wearing layered clothing may seem counterproductive when working out, it can actually boost performance. Skipping layers can make you feel cold and lessen your ability to focus. Being cold also raises your chance of injury.

Remove outer layers as your workout heats up. During cool down, throw some layers back on if you start to get chilly. The key is keeping your muscles warm so you can exercise safely. Also, keeping your body at a comfortable temperature boosts motivation and your ability to complete a workout.

Don’t Forget Sunscreen

If you’re doing any physical activity outdoors, sunscreen is a must. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Even in cold temps, the potential for sunburn can be high, especially if the sun is reflecting off of snow.

Protect yourself by putting on sunscreen daily. After applying, wait 15 minutes for it to absorb into your skin before going outside. If your outdoor workout has you sweating or around water, reapply every few hours.

With a little planning and solid judgment, you’ll be ready to take some of your workouts outdoors this winter. Be safe and enjoy!

To learn more or schedule an appointment with UPMC Sports Medicine, call 1-855-937-7678 or visit our website.