GR8 Health: Winter Workout Wear

Don’t let the cold stop put a halt to your outdoor routine, Lauren Lowrey has tips on how you can properly layer up for chilly outdoor exercising.

The air is turning colder and on most mornings it means one layer might not be enough to protect your body from the elements. Some experts shared the proper way to layer clothing to stay cool, but protected.

“First, you start with a nice base layer, something that sits close to the body and wicks the sweat off the skin,” says Jason Jones of The Runners Forum. “Insulation is what it boils down to.”

Clothing marketed as a base layer is made of fibers that pull sweat away from the skin to keep you dry – a process known as moisture wicking. Polyester is probably the most common material used to make base layers today. It’s breathable, moisture-wicking, fast-drying and affordable. Polyester may be blended with other fibers. Spandex adds enhanced stretch. Nylon adds durability.

Wool is also an excellent base layer. It is naturally moisture-wicking, breathable and is easily blended with many different natural and synthetic fibers.

The major brands have trademarked names for base layers, like Under Armour’s Cold Gear and Nike’s Hyperwarm, but Jones suggests each product does the same thing.

“A lot these materials are all the same, it just kind of depends on what you like, how it feels. Do you like something that’s a little tighter? Do you like something that fits a little looser?”

Jones suggests staying away from cotton as a base layer because the material is very slow to dry. It holds moisture – which will make you colder during exercise.

As long as the temperature is above 30 degrees and dry, Jones suggests wearing just two layers. The second layer would also be made of polyester or wool, have some mechanism of letting air flow through – like a quarter zip at the neck or mesh panels in the back, and fit looser than the base layer to create loft.

“Loft is going to be the space between two layers here,” says Jones. “It allows the moisture from your primary piece – your base layer – to escape the body. There’s air in between here that’s going to let that travel away and through the jacket.”

When it’s cold, blood flow is concentrated on your body’s core, leaving your head, hands and feet vulnerable to frostbite. Try wearing a thin pair of glove liners made of a wicking material under a pair of heavier gloves or mittens lined with wool or fleece.

When there’s a threat of rain or snow, wear a waterproof, breathable outer layer to protect you.

Here’s another simple guide by Runner’s World magazine showing what to wear in varying cold conditions:

  • 35 degrees to 45 degrees and clear: Wear tights or thin running pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a vest. You may also need gloves when the temp gets near 35 degrees.
  • 35 degrees to 45 degrees and rainy: Slim-fitting tights fare better in rain since they won’t get as droopy. A wool base layer will keep you warmer than a synthetic top since it retains warmth when wet. Wear a waterproof outer layer.
  • 10 degrees to 35 degrees and clear: Wear technical underwear under your tights or pants and a long-sleeve shirt under an insulated jacket or vest. Wear gloves or mittens and a thin beanie.
  • 10 degrees to 35 degrees and sleet: Wear tights, a water-resistant jacket, and a cap. Add water-resistant mittens to keep your hands from getting damp and cold.
  • Minus 10 degrees and clear: Wear wool underwear and thick socks, tights, and running pants. To keep your core warm, go with a long-sleeve base layer under an insulated vest and windproof jacket. Wear a beanie and mittens.
  • Minus 10 degrees and snowy: Use the same cover-everything strategy as above for the bottom half. On top, wear an insulated vest and a water-resistant or waterproof hooded jacket over your base layer. Wear water-resistant hat and gloves. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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