How To Dress For Winter Workouts

Photo: lululemon

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At this point in the year, most of us are well-steeped in winter, a time when the shortened days and the worsened weather make training far from an ideal experience. As such, our motivation to workout often comes at a premium, with it being harder and harder to stay consistent from one week to another. Sure, it’s fine to let a session slide every now and again, but before you know it, that one exception to your routine can quickly derail your hard-earned progress. Come spring, you’ll be back at square one, wondering how to get back on track and make up for lost time.

Unfortunately, you can’t buy the commitment that’s required to continue making improvements throughout the winter; however, you can make your life a lot easier by equipping yourself with the right gear for the job. Any old sweatshirt won’t cut it — you need performance-minded apparel that’ll ensure you stay warm while also preventing you from overheating. What’s more, you have to dress with intention — it’s not as simple as throwing on a jacket and a pair of pants. If this sounds like a tall order, we don’t blame you; most people struggle to get the balance right and resign themselves to the treadmill or quit entirely. Lucky for you though, we’ve put together an extensive guide that includes tips, tricks, and a selection of our favorite cold-weather essentials in order to save you some frustration. Have a read below to see how to dress for winter workouts.

Just Cause

The Case For Cold Weather Workout Apparel

When winter weather strikes, a lot of people forgo the frigid temperatures in favor of taking their training indoors. And it’s a shame. Sure, it’s hard to beat the convenience of a treadmill and the consistency that it enables, but there are plenty of reasons why you should invest in some gear and continue to run outside — even if it takes a little extra determination.

For starters, the cooler conditions offer a welcome relief from the dog days of summer, a time when even the gentlest of jogs would leave you soaked in sweat. In fact, if anything, the crisp air and noticeable lack of humidity will only improve your efforts, preventing you from overheating and allowing you to expend more effort with less discomfort. Ask any seasoned winter warrior and they’ll tell you — running in the cold feels markedly easier than it does any other time of year. And as an added bonus, there are also proven health benefits, including increased caloric consumption and positive effects on your heart.

What’s more, you’ll find that lower temps have a tendency to keep the crowds at bay. Because let’s face it. During the transitional seasons, the mildness makes it easy for anyone to get outside and get active — no matter how far along they are in their fitness journey. However, when the days begin to shorten and the weather starts to worsen, it takes a truly driven individual to roll out of bed in the morning and put on a pair of runners. By continuing to show up no matter what it looks like outside, you’ll reap the rewards of your commitment and have your routes to yourself.

Above all else, you should get yourself a set of winter workout apparel for the sheer sense of variety that outdoor training offers. Treadmills definitely have their place and there’s no denying that they’re a necessary piece of equipment for some; however, they make for an incredibly monotonous experience. With nothing to look at apart from the screen ahead, it’s far more difficult to stay motivated when the going gets tough. At least, when you’re outside, you have the world around you to take your mind off of niggling aches or extra hard efforts.

Seasonal Circumstances

Key Factors To Take Into Consideration

Having decided that you’re going to continue training outside during the winter, you need to prepare yourself for what to expect. Below we’ve included some ways in which cold weather workouts differ from their more temperate counterparts.

Body Heat: Although it can be tempting to only dress with warmth in mind, it’s important to realize that your body will heat up over time. So, while you may set out on your run feeling frigid and slightly uncomfortable, as you continue to expend energy, you’ll acclimate to the colder conditions. It’s a balance that’s important to get right because, if you wear more than you ought to, you’ll overheat and start to sweat. Once wet, you’ll quickly cool down and struggle to stave off shivering.

Windchill: Before you set out, be sure to check the weather for wind speed and direction. On days when there’s much more than a breeze, you can’t rely on raw temperature alone to determine what to wear. Rather, you have to pay attention to what it “feels like” in order to properly prepare. What’s more, when you’re planning your route, try to run into the wind on your way out so that you have it at your back come time to return. You’ll both save yourself some added effort and keep yourself from catching a chill once you’re sweaty.

Workout Type: Last but not least, consider the type of exercise you have on the calendar. For something like a HIIT session, you’ll want to dress more conservatively than you would for a long, slow run. You’ll not only be working harder but also over less time, so you won’t want to wear as much clothing. On the other hand, when you’ll be racking up high milage with less overall effort, you’ll want to make sure you can stay warm enough throughout the duration of the workout. To put it another way — the higher your heart rate is likely to climb, the less clothing you’ll need to get by.

Insider Tips

Putting Theory Into Practice

Now that you know what you’re working with, it’s time to put the theory into practice. Read on to see some of our top tips on properly dressing for winter workouts.

Layers: It’s best to think of cold weather exercise apparel as a system of parts. Because you’ll continue to warm up throughout the effort, you don’t want to be saddled with too much clothing. As such, you should dress in layers, starting with a solid base and finishing off with a lightweight outer shell or windbreaker. That way, when the going gets hot, you can simply take off the excess and adjust to the air accordingly. Although you can tie it around your waist if you need to, many pieces of outwear come with their own stuff sack, making them compact and easy to carry.

Compensate Accordingly: When you’re taking a look at the weather and considering what to wear, add 10-20 degrees to the actual temperature outside. It’s one thing to dress for a leisurely stroll when you’ll need clothing to keep you warm, but when you’re expending a lot of energy, your own body heat will do a lot of the work for you. If you feel a little cold to start out with that’s okay; as you continue to move around, you’ll get more comfortable. Oh, and if there’s windchill to account for that day, add the 10-20 degrees to the “feels like” temperature or you’ll feel a bit underdressed.

Route Planning If your workout will take you any distance from home, there are a couple of things that you can do to make your life easier. For instance, if you plan your loop to pass your house, car, or some other safe area, you can ditch your clothing as you shed layers. And should you find that you’re too cold after you get going, you can always grab an extra to add on top of your existing getup.

The Gear

What You Need To Succeed

When it comes time to dress for cold-weather workouts, there are a couple of essential items to keep in your closet. While some of these come down to preference, several items are non-negotiable.

lululemon Metal Vent Tech 1/2 Zip 2.0

First and foremost, you’ll need a quality outer layer to keep you warm. lululemon’s Metal Vent Tech 1/2 Zip makes for a great buy because of its slim fit and seamless construction, a combination that means it’ll stay out of the way when you’re on the move. And thanks to its Silverescent anti-stink technology, it’ll stay smelling fresh no matter how hard the workout gets.

Purchase: $98

lululemon Cold Terrain Run Beanie

Given that you lose most of your heat through your head, a hat is one of the best ways to stay warm during the winter. This Cold Terrain Run Beanie from lululemon is an ideal option, with sweat-wicking Rulu fabric to keep you dry and some reflective detailing to make sure you stay visible.

Purchase: $38

lululemon Cold Terrain Run Gloves

It’s important to focus on your smaller extremities like your hands and fingers because these parts of your body are farther away from your heart. In other words, it’ll take more effort to get the blood pumping and keep them warm. Luckily, the Cold Terrain Run Gloves will do just the ticket. They feature some silicone print for added grip, tech-friendly fingers for device operation, and snaps to keep them together during storage.

Purchase: $42

lululemon Pace Breaker Short 5” Linerless

Because your legs are constantly moving, some days you’ll be able to get by with a pair of shorts. lululemon’s Pace Breaker Short was designed to train, made out of four-way stretch fabric and cut with a streamlined fit that gives your muscles plenty of room to breathe.

Purchase: $68

lululemon Surge Cold Terrain Tight 28″

While joggers offer all of the warmth you need, tights are a much more versatile piece of apparel that can be layered underneath shorts for the same effect. And because they’re much more compressive and close-fitting, they’re actually more effective at retaining body heat. Made from Brushed, Full-On Luxtreme Fabric with a set of mesh vents for added airflow, the Surge Cold Terrain Tight from lululemon comes with everything you need to be prepared for the worst winter has to offer.

Purchase: $118

Nike Pegasus Trail 2 GORE-TEX

Sure, you can get by with any old pair of runners; however, if you want to get the most out of your winter miles, it helps to have some shoes with element-proof provisions. And if you live in an area where you happen to get any snowfall, you’ll want something that’s up to the task. These Nike Pegasus Trail 2s come with GORE-TEX for waterproof protection and a treaded outsole for confident grip, making them the perfect pick no matter what the outside conditions look like.

Purchase: $160