Invest in the right gear
In 2005, I moved to Oregon from Texas, and I fully intended to keep my running routine going with the clothes I already owned. My plan was both ill-advised and short-lived. Cotton shirts and cotton sweatpants are what misery is made of in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s absolutely vital that you purchase clothing designed to stand up to the weather you’re subjected to, and that you head out the door dressed in layers.
Layers are key to comfortable outdoor exercise, because as you get moving, and as your body generates heat, you may need to remove a layer or an article of clothing to prevent yourself from overheating.
Depending on where you live, you may need some or all of the following:
- Base layer: Opt for a merino wool variety that wicks sweat and keeps you warm (I’m a fan of Ridge and Kari Traa)
- Mid-layer: Mid-layers are designed to be lightweight, adding extra warmth without a lot of bulk -- think a long-sleeve shirt or lightweight full-zip top.
- Insulating layer: In particularly cold-weather conditions, the insulating layer is added for warmth. Hoodies, fleece shells, and down jackets are all examples of insulating layers. Some outdoor companies offer outerwear with removable insulating layers inside.
- Outerwear: This layer is what actually protects you from the elements, blocking the wind, rain and snow from assaulting your precious skin. In most cases you want a breathable shell that offers waterproof or durable water repellant (DWR) fabric. Most sportswear companies offer something along these lines, but I like to purchase apparel from companies based in the area I live. For instance, when I lived in Oregon, I bought mostly from Brooks Running and Outdoor Research because I knew the people designing the apparel were intimately familiar with the conditions I was exercising in.
- Hat: One way to ruin an otherwise fine workout is to leave your head and ears exposed to the cold. Pick up a merino wool beanie you can pull down over your ears.
- Gloves: Likewise, cold fingers are terrible. Sure, you can shove them in your pockets, but that screws with your ability to swing your arms or perform other exercises. Grab a pair of high-quality gloves, and choose water-resistant ones if the weather if frequently wet or snowy.
- Gaiter or scarf: Gaiters and scarves do double-duty -- not only do they keep your neck warm, but you can pull them over your nose and mouth to help warm up the air you breath before it hits your lungs.
- Water-resistant shoes and socks: Unless you enjoy the feeling of soggy, frozen feet, you’re going to need to invest in water-resistant footwear.
Sara Zwicker, the blogger behind Life Between the Miles, adds that you should always, “Dress for 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the actual temperature.” Even if you feel a little chilly initially, as your body warms up, the heat you create stays close to your body, keeping you comfortable.