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Exercising outdoors in fall and winter: what to wear to stay warm and healthy

There is no such thing as bad weather,

just inappropriate clothing

Many of us dread exercising outdoors as soon as it gets a bit wet or chilly.

Is it because we are soft?

Is it because we like comfort, warmth, and convenience?


But mainly, I believe, it is due to us not wearing the right clothing.

Let’s be honest: none of us like feeling chilly or frosty. The idea of having to be outside when it’s cold, windy, and gloomy, when all we crave is a cup of hot cocoa and our blanket on the couch, is NOT motivation nor inviting.


If you feel warm and cozy in your clothes

If only your face gets a bit cold

If you realize how energized and happy an outdoor workouts makes you feel

If you acknowledge the extra dose of happiness

If you understand you won’t get sick and will spend winter season cold and flu free

If you realize you can enjoy the fall and winter season delights without adding bulges to your waist

If you know you’ll be that much fitter come spring


wouldn’t you want to exercise outside?


So, let’s get you warm and cozy. Let’s get you in clothes that allow you to feel comfortable, regardless of weather conditions. Let’s talk about layers and materials.


It’s all about the onion layer principle: 

For the cold season,  it is smart to wear clothing according to the „onion principle“. (aka, dressing in layers)

This is particularly easy as we (you guys who exercise regularly with me) exercise on one spot (with bags around). We can easily take off a layer if we get too warm and more importantly put on a layer if we get too cold.

Putting on a warm layer is especially important right after our workout, especially if we have ways to go until we get home (most of us don’t jump into a warm car).

Many of us might cool down quickly. After an intense workout, we might feel tired, exhausted, and hungry. Now is the worst time to start feeling cold or frosty. Now it’s more important than ever to put on a warm jacket, scarf, and hat (in case we weren’t wearing one before).


But let’s talk one layer at a time:


Functional underwear – a must?

yes and no depending on your type of underwear.

If women just wear a sports bra and shirt our first layers would be functional, meaning breathable to carry away sweat from the skin.

For men, your first layer either a long undershirt or normal shirt, would be of functional material.

Which brings us to the FIRST LAYER – the base layer:

~~The base layer manages moisture~~

This first layer helps regulate our body temperature. It moves sweat (hence, perspiration) away from our skin.

A cotton t-shirt will soaks up sweat….and will stay sweaty! Our body heat will keep that water (sweat) from evaporating. Sweat stays stuck to our skin creating a cooling environment increasing our risk of hypothermia (more on that topic below). Hence, cotton is NOT a good idea!



The second layer is for insulation: long sleeve shirt preferable with merino wool

~~The insulation layer protects us from the cold~~

This insulating layer keeps us warm by trapping air close to our body but similar to the first layer moving sweat away from our body. A woolly sweater protects from cold (offers insulation). Other suitable materials include synthetic, polyester, and polypropylene materials or classic fleece or Thermal Pro polyester.



The third layer is the outer layer: a thin wind proof but breathable jacket

~~ The shell layer protects us from wind & rain~~

Look for a jacket with facade membrane or breathable membrane. This way, wind & weather are kept out and our body stays nice and comfortably warm.

If it’s not breathable and we exercise, our body’s heat can’t escape. We’ll create a sauna like condition and sweat within our jacket. Our layers will be soaked…NOT GOOD.

Sweat is a body’s way to cool down, reduce body temperature. In cold weather we don’t want our body to cool down too much! Be creating a sauna like condition we risk hypothermia.



Let’s not forget about our feet

~~cold feet are a no-go: protect them with wool~~

Cotton socks will do a poor job in protecting our feet from cold temperatures, especially in winter!

Wool socks are much warmer than cotton.

Additionally, choose wool felt insoles to increase warmth but be sure your shoes are large enough. Tightly fitting shoes reduce circulation leading to cold feet.

Shoes, too, matter: gortext shows (with wind and weather proof exterior) come in handy.

And FYI: if you, like me, bike a lot in very cold temperatures, a plastic bag over our soaks might be an added way to increase warmth and protect from wind



And our head and neck – a major area of heat loss

~~yes, both are needed during and post exercise~~

I prefer exercising with scarf, regardless if I’m doing HIIT or boot camp style training or if I’m running. If my neck is open, I am asking for sore throat. Plus, with scarf I feel I stay warm longer.

And in terms of a hat, well, you all know me: curly hair and hat is an awful combination……but health takes priority, right?



our fingers and hands 

Clearly, when exercising, we can’t protect our hands in our pockets. Hence, we need gloves or mittens although mittens are more effective in trapping heat than gloves (as they keep our fingers together).

Look for at least Thinsulates and wind-proof gloves or mittens.



A warm (!) jacket post exercise

Once we are done exercising it’s important to put on a warm outer layer. This well keep you warm and cozy until you get home. Some of us might like to bring a small thermos with warm tea; most of us however will still be warm from working out. Water will be just fine to ensure proper hydration – yes, we also need to drink during our workouts in winter, even though we might not be as thirsty!

When shopping keep your eyes open for some of these (or similar) signs:



~~More importantly, when exercising, we want and need to be able to move~~

Hence, make sure your clothing is NOT soo tight that it will limit your range of motion.


When clothes shopping:

keep in mind you might wear another layer (hence, buy it a size bigger)

do a couple of lunges and squats to make sure you can move

do a couple of rows and wall chest presses to assure you have enough freedom to move easily


When exercising in cold weather think:

what keeps me cool when I am active


what keeps me warm when I am done? 


You feel like being outdoors and catching some sunlight? Then join us, either for our open group workouts or fitness camps. You will feel much better, more alive & happier.

This article might motivate you to exercise:

What happens to your brain when you don’t exercise?

These videos might motivate you:

Exercise Motivation made easy – This Is How You Get Back In The Game

No exercise motivation? Do you prefer your couch over a workout? Trick your inner „Schweinehund

Hate exercise? I don’t believe you.Learn to at least like it….here is how.


Veröffentlicht in Exercise & physical activity und verschlagwortet mit , , , .