Stay Warm While Exercising in Cold Weather

A winter workout can be wonderful—here's how to exercise and stay warm

Tips for enjoying a winter workout
Tips for enjoying a winter workout. Scott Olson/Getty Images

How do you stay warm while exercising when it's cold outside? If you said, "go to the gym," you're missing the fun and exhilaration of exercising outside during the cold weather months.

The biggest reason most people give for avoiding outside exercise during the winter is because they get cold hands and feet. These simple tips may help you learn to love winter exercise.

Tips for Enjoying Outside Winter Workouts

  1. Layer Your Clothes
    Start with a base layer made from a material that wicks perspiration away from your skin. This will help keep you dry and warm. Polypropylene, capilene, silk, polyester, Thermax, Thinsulate and merino wool are all good choices. Avoid cotton because it traps moisture, so it stays wet and draws heat away from you.

    Base layers come in various weights (lightweight, midweight and heavyweight). Select a weight based on the outside temperature and your activity level. The lighter weight is better at wicking, the heavyweight has more insulation.

    Shop for Base Layer Clothing

  1. Warm Up Your Feet and Hands Before Going Outside
    If I start my winter workout with cold feet, they never really warm up, so I've learned to soak my hands and feet in hot water before I head out on my winter runs. This little tip hasn't let me down yet. My feet stay warm for the entire workout.
  2. Choose Your Socks Wisely
    Stay away from cotton. Once cotton socks are wet (either from sweat or slush) they will stay wet and quickly pull heat away from your feet. Choose socks like you choose your base layer, made from material that wicks moisture from your skin. Wool, merino wool and CoolMax are all good choices.

    Shop for Socks

    • Wool Socks
    • Merino Wool Socks
    • CoolMax Socks
  3. Choose Your Shoes Wisely
    Depending on what sport you're playing, you can often find shoes just for winter exercise. Trail running shoes made with waterproof liners, such as Goretex, will help keep rain, slush and snow from soaking your feet, but let the moisture from sweat escape. Cyclists will want try have a pair of shoe covers to insulate and block both wind and rain.

    Shop for Waterproof Shoes

    • Gore-Tex Running Shoes
    • Cycling Shoe Covers
  1. Get Some Traction
    Walking or running on slick snow-covered trails or pavement doesn't have to be treacherous if you add a bit of traction to your shoes. YakTrax and STABILicers offers a variety of styles of traction cleats you easily attach to your shoes for added stability in winter weather.

    Shop for Shoe Stabilizers

    • YakTrax
    • STABILicers
  1. Cover Your Head and Hands
    This probably goes without saying, but wear a hat and gloves (or mittens) when you are exercising outside. You can always take them off and tuck them in a pocket if you overheat, but going without and you risk frostbite.

    Shop for Hats and Gloves

    • Gloves
    • Running Skull Cap
  2. Protect from Wind Chill
    Keep in mind that the stronger the winds, the colder the temperature will feel. The Wind Chill Index shows how wind affects perceived air temperature.

    Your local National Weather Service will issue a wind chill advisory or warning when weather conditions are likely to increase the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. In general, a wind chill advisory is issued when the wind chill temperature is expected to fall below -15 degrees Fahrenheit.

    On these days, the gym just may be a pretty good option.

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