Now that we’ve left the heat of summer behind, it’s becoming increasingly important to dress for warmth. However, it’s not as easy as throwing on some sleeves or donning a pair of pants. Sure, increased coverage makes for improved heat retention, but there’s a lot more to the equation — especially if you’re concerned about maintaining the quality of your workouts. For though a drop in temperature makes it harder for you to overheat, there’s still a risk of going beyond your limit. If anything, it’s even more critical to dress appropriately; otherwise, you’ll come to find just how miserable a cold morning workout can be.
But in order to round out your fall workout wardrobe, it’s essential to understand what to look for in your seasonal staples. While it’s a given that your priorities will change depending upon the weather, it helps to have a strategy in order to keep you on the right track. What’s more, not all technical fibers are the same — there’s a reason you don’t see fur featured in activewear more frequently. And with a fitness industry forever changed by a new normal, it’s up to us to keep innovating in order to stay active. Whether you’re starting from scratch or replacing last season’s options, there’s good cause to upgrade your fall workout wardrobe. Have a read to see why now is the time.
Dressing For Succes
Although it goes without saying, properly dressing for the weather requires both a different wardrobe and a different approach depending on the season. But as obvious as it is that your clothing needs will change throughout the year, it can be considerably more difficult when the time comes to execute those changes. After all, summer and winter generally make for easy (read: consistent) dressing, but autumn and spring can vary wildly depending on the month, week, or even day. Getting it right can make or break the experience, whether that’s a dawn patrol run or an evening HIIT session at home. In order to best prepare yourself for an upgrade to your fall workout wardrobe, it’s important to understand what to look for in proper technical apparel.
When the mercury rises, keeping you cool becomes the item of utmost importance. Because if you can’t properly regulate your body temperature, you run the risk of overheating — at best, the quality of your workout will suffer; at worst you’ll develop a dangerous heat-related illness. Above all else, you want your activewear to be lightweight and breathable. Heavier fabrics cling to your skin and trap heat, making them ill-suited to warmer weather when sweating is pretty much an inevitability. And the looser and more breathable your clothing is, the more efficient it will be at maximizing airflow, allowing your body to naturally cool itself once your sweat evaporates. As such, it’s also critical that your activewear be effective at wicking moisture. For the better the fabric is at transferring sweat away from your skin, the cooler you’ll stay throughout the duration of your workout. In other words, you’ll be able to perform your best for far longer than you would while also trying to keep the heat at bay.
On the other hand, materials that do a poor job of wicking moisture will quickly become sodden with sweat, weighing you down and preventing your body from naturally regulating its temperature. If you need further proof, think of it this way: there’s a reason humid days are especially hellish for training — the air around you is already saturated with moisture, preventing the evaporative cooling process from doing its thing and leaving you soaked as a result. While it can be tempting to go shirtless in these situations, it’s important to consider the conditions you’ll encounter during your workout. You’re doing yourself no favors if you wind up with a nasty case of sunburn just because your shirt couldn’t keep you sufficiently cool.
Colder temperatures pose a different kind of challenge. For though your chief concern is obviously warmth, it’s not as easy throwing on a thick sweater and heading out on a run. Rather, it’s still important to consider the breathability of your activewear. Sure, you’ll sweat less on a cool autumn morning than you would on a scorching hot summer’s day, but just because the temperature drops doesn’t mean that your body stops perspiring. On the contrary — because moisture is so effective at cooling you off, it becomes all the more important that you try to stay as dry as possible in cooler weather. Thus, many of the same principles apply here — you still want the fabric to be lightweight because it’ll thermoregulate far better than heavier alternatives. It’s also advisable to choose clothing that will wick moisture away from your skin; if it gets soaked with sweat, you’re asking to catch a chill.
One of the most effective ways to go about dressing for cold weather is by wearing several tight-fitting layers. Where summer apparel is better worn loose, the extra air space makes for unwanted cooling on chillier days. Tight activewear traps body heat far more effectively, keeping you warm enough that you’re comfortable but not so much so that you’re overdoing it. When combined with a layered approach, you can quickly shed clothing and regulate your temperature in real-time. Because while those first few warmup miles may make for an unpleasant start, once you raise your heart rate sufficiently, you’ll want to ditch that extra outer layer. But it’s important to do so before you’ve started sweating; otherwise, you risk getting too cold and undoing your hard-earned progress. Ultimately, when it comes to outfitting your cold-weather activewear wardrobe, less is more. Dress for the workout, not for the warmup or the cooldown. You’ll be far better off feeling a bit chilly to start out with than you would be overheating and hauling along extra clothing.
A Brief Overview Of Technical Fabrics
The earliest examples of cold weather wear were completely animal-based, made from fatty hides, furs, and other natural fibers. For instance, Native Americans wore fur garments with leather outer layers in order to trap heat against their bodes and stay dry in the event of a downpour. Likewise, the Inuit people were renowned for their excellent insulative garments, using the intestines from whales and seals in order to make waterproof parkas. Despite the widespread popularity of these materials, they have seen nowhere near the same amount of use as has wool.
With the domestication of sheep estimated to be early as 11,000 B.C., humans have long used wool as an insulative material. Because of its naturally wavy fibers, wool clothing traps air pockets between its threads and prevents body heat from escaping, making it a superior performer in cold conditions. What’s more, wool is coated with a thin layer of lanolin, a type of hydrophobic fat. As such, wool fibers repel water from their surface and soak it up at their core. So while other materials such as cotton draw water in through capillary action — filling their insulative air spaces in the process — wool keeps its pockets clear of moisture. In practice, this means that wool will continue to warm you even once it’s wet. However, wool will absorb up to 12% of its weight in moisture, meaning that it can get pretty heavy once it’s soaked through.
By contrast, most of the synthetic technical fibers in use today only absorb about one-tenth of one percent of their weight in moisture. In other words, they’re not only effective at keeping you warm but they’re also incredibly lightweight and water-resistant. Originally introduced in 1979, 3M’s Thinsulate material is one of the first examples of synthetic insulation to be used. Manufactured from a petroleum-based polymer known as polypropylene, Thinsulate was originally billed as an inexpensive alternative to down and other natural fibers. It features tiny coiled microfibers that are about one-tenth of the diameter of human hair. When compacted together, they mimic the insulative properties of wool, but with a much smaller form factor.
Key Components Of Cold Weather Clothing
What To Look For
When buying cold-weather technical gear, it’s advisable to keep a few key features in mind. Because with so many options out on the market, it can be hard to tell a gimmick from a good buy. In general, try to adhere to the above principles of cold-weather dressing. For though your wardrobe options are a big part of the equation, one can’t forget the importance of strategy. Sticking with a “less-is-more” approach will serve you well and keep you from racking up unnecessary expenses. And by dressing in layers, you’ll maximize the utility you get out of your active apparel.
Warmth: As the temperature continues to drop, it becomes increasingly important to dress for warmth. If possible, look to add clothing items that cover a range of conditions. You’ll get far more value out of a long sleeve shirt that can be worn on its own at 45°F or as a base layer at 5°F than you would a heavy-duty coat suitable for only a couple of days out of the year. When picking apparel for its warmth, consider how you’ll fare for the workout — not the warmup or cooldown.
Fit: If you want to continue performing your best when the weather gets cooler, you should look for activewear that’s cut to move. Think tight and form-fitting — you’ll appreciate the lack of extra bulk come time for your workout. Sure, those sweatpants work great as WFH wear, but they’ll only serve to get in the way with their baggy fit. What’s more, tight-fitting clothing does a far better job of keeping you warm than loose-fitting loungewear.
Moisture-Wicking: While you’re not going to sweat as much as you would during the peak of summer, there’s still good cause to invest in moisture-wicking cold-weather wear. By wicking away sweat from your skin, it’ll keep you from coming down with a chill.
Water-Repellency: With cooler temps comes worsening weather. If your workouts take you outside, it’s a good idea to look for activewear with some kind of water-repellency feature. While you might not need it every day, it’s helpful to have in the event of an unexpected shower. Because if there’s one thing that’s sure to test your training resolve, it’s a bleak day filled with wind and rain.
Wind-Resistance: Colder temperatures aren’t always the extent of your problems. As biting as the surrounding air may be, it’ll only be made worse when you factor in wind chill. Try to look for clothing with some kind of wind-resistance — although base layers will go a long way towards keeping you warm, they’ll do nothing to stop the wind from cutting through to your skin.
The Current State Of Affairs
Following the widespread closure of gyms and other health and fitness facilities, it’s fallen upon individuals to get creative in order to keep active. Some gym-goers have the luxury of exercising indoors, but they make up the exception rather than the majority. By and large, workouts have moved outside, whether that’s because of extra cardio (running), outdoor classes (CrossFit), or even just a lack of space (small apartments). In any case, now that we’ve moved out of the heat of summer and into crisp autumn weather, we have to adapt our routines and our wardrobes accordingly. While this makes for an added challenge in the midst of a global pandemic, it only requires that you put forth some extra intention in the way you dress. If anything, you’ll come to appreciate the variety that training outside year-round brings.
Your Fall Workout Wardrobe
Essential Items To Get You Started
Lululemon Engineered Warmth Jacket
Made from a soft merino wool blend, lululemon’s Engineered Warmth Jacket exemplifies all of the qualities you’d want in cold weather active apparel. Lightweight, warm, and moisture-wicking, it makes for a staple of any fitness enthusiast’s wardrobe. What’s more, it’s made with a four-way stretch fabric, meaning it moves with you rather than working against you. As such, it’s perfect for workouts where you’ll need a full range of motion. And with a zippered pocket and a built-in phone sleeve, there’s room for all of your crucial carry items.
Lululemon Engineered Warmth Long Sleeve
Featuring a knit construction that creates a 3D texture for added insulative ability, the Engineered Warmth Long Sleeve is a versatile garment that works great as a base layer or as a standalone shirt. Like the Engineered Warmth Jacket, it’s made from naturally thermoregulating merino wool, meaning it’ll keep you warm without the risk of overheating. With a slim fit designed for training, you’ll hardly even notice you’re wearing it.
Lululemon Engineered Warmth Joggers
With their unrivaled range of motion, the Engineered Warmth Joggers are ideal for any and all types of outdoor adventure. The interior face fabric is made from 100% merino wool, a material that’s soft on the skin and excellent in performance applications. And when it comes to the outer face fabric, lululemon used a unique engineered 3D knit material in order to provide a smooth feel with improved heat retention. Made with two zippered pockets and a hidden phone sleeve, these joggers have ample carrying capacity for essential workout accessories.
How Athleisure Evolved Into The Post-Pandemic WFH Uniform
Although the Engineered Warmth Collection makes for great workout apparel, it’s also an ideal option for WFH wear. If you’re curious about fashion with regards to the new normal, check out our guide to how athleisure evolved into the post-pandemic WFH uniform.