Exercising Outdoors in the Winter Months


By Dudley Edmonsdon

Now let me start out by saying that what I do outdoors in the winter may seem extreme to many. I am not one to shy away from extreme cold or deep snow, I just do what I do and use it as a measuring stick for my next outdoor adventure. Having said that, I thought it would be helpful if I explain to folks the best way to be comfortable in cold, even sub-zero weather outdoors during the winter months.

First thing, no Cotton. I commonly refer to cotton as the “Death Fabric.” IF you want to freeze to death, then by all means wear it in winter to exercise. The search party cadaver dogs will find you contorted in a ball huddle up next to downed tree log with your lips frozen and blue as the blue man group.

Morbid kidding aside, cotton retains moisture close to the skin, and that is a very bad thing. Cotton can be the catalysts for hyperthermia. What happens is that your body, regardless of what you might think, will produce sweat even in sub- zero weather. Sweat is the body’s way of cooling itself down. A moving body burns calories, calories produce heat, heat produces sweat which as I said cools you down in warmer weather so you can continue exercising. In winter though the air around you will keep you plenty cool so instead you need to trap dry body heat so you can be outside as happy as a clam and comfortable for hours if you like.

Think layers, synthetic layers.  Things like spandex, polypropylene, nylon. These types of fabric move moisture away from the skin and that is a good thing. Ideally what you need to do is move moisture to the outer most layer of your clothing while keeping in the dry heat. You can start with a base layer perhaps a synthetic top and bottom. Then over that you need a warm layer like fleece or wool. These fabric trap heat but allow moisture to keep on moving away from the skin. Over the warm layer use what we call a shell layer that is usually a coat or jacket that is made of some type of synthetic material that will usually repel water and block wind but hold in your heat. I always prefer these types of layers with what are called “pit zips” that means you have zippers in your underarms that you can open and close so the moist heat in your armpits can escape. The beauty of the pit zip is you can open them as wide or narrow as you want to suit your comfort level. Would not buy a jacket without em! Now that you are all layered up you are just about ready to go.

to be continued in Part Two

Dudley Edmondson is the author of Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places, and is available for speaking engagements.


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