When winter weather blows in, staying warm and dry can be a challenge. For those who like their exercise outdoors, that means making some seasonal changes to apparel. But just what is the best winter wear for workout comfort in Texas’ milder temperatures?
Winter Is Coming, y’all…
According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, Texas and the rest of the United States are looking at a warmer winter with less precipitation than usual (thanks a lot, La Nina). Azita DeMarco, an RRCA-certified coach with the Houston Striders running club, knows something about dressing for winter workouts. She’s completed marathons in 29 different states (and four continents) and works with a local nonprofit, The Houston Wellness Project, which provides group training and workshops along with the Run for Wellness Free 5K Series. In her Tuesday night track group, DeMarco oversees quite a few Striders who are training for January’s annual Chevron Houston Marathon. Naturally, her coaching includes guidance on what to wear on runs.
“I think the biggest challenge is accepting we don’t really have a winter here in Houston,” DeMarco said. She pointed out that exercising in the 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit range—average for Houston—is optimal: “We have the perfect weather.”
With that in mind, what advice does DeMarco give runners about gearing up for the colder season?
“I tell them to not over dress. I think some runners get super excited and buy all kinds of fancy [cold weather] gear. In Houston,” DeMarco explained, “one can be comfortable wearing a pair of gloves, in short sleeves, with a wind breaker.”
In Austin, Melissa Territo, the women’s apparel manager at Luke’s Locker (a national running and fitness retailer headquartered in Dallas), agrees.
“People here tend to over layer rather than under layer,” said Territo, a Chicago native and runner herself. “But everybody is so different…finding out where you get coldest is key, which is why we’ll see people come in after a couple of cold days to shop.”
3 Watchwords for Cold Weather Workout Wear
Winter brings overcast skies and lower light—and how much of your workout apparel is black or gray? Brighten up for safety. That doesn’t just mean white; Territo says neon orange and red are trending for 2017, while light blue and pink are surprisingly visible options. As days get shorter, workouts often take place in the dark. Make sure to shine.
“Think about putting a headlamp around your waist,” Territo suggested (most straps stretch quite a bit, and torso positioning can be more comfortable). Luke’s Locker sells blinking lights and small clip-on lamps for caps and clothes (hint: stocking stuffers!). Even major shoe brands, such as Saucony and Nike, do their part for visibility with enhanced reflective features.
Forget about heavy winter-specific wear; as DeMarco and Territo stress, it’s just not cold enough in central Texas for that investment. Instead, combine lighter pieces in multiple layers. Seamless, long-sleeved, dry-fit knit tops are thin and stack well over a tank top. Many have thumbholes, a hand-warming alternative to gloves. Keep the core protected by adding a vest; Territo recommends the Nike Aeroloft, which is not only insulating but also water resistant.
A few quality pieces can provide substantial comfort. Arm warmers turn any short-sleeved shirt or tank into a cold weather top, while leg sleeves perform the same function for shorts. Texas is notorious for rapidly changing weather, and it’s easy to pull off these pieces when workouts unexpectedly turn warm. Invest in a good hat and smartphone-compatible gloves to keep head and hands toasty. Need new tights? Check for brands that incorporate breathable mesh paneling and zip pockets to keep stuff contained. And check labels for polyester blend fabrics: skip cotton, which Territo says “holds moisture and gets heavy with water or sweat.”
5 Quick Tips for Winter Workouts
Do the math. Add 20 degrees to the outdoor temperature before dressing. This lets you anticipate how you’ll feel while exercising. Example: Working hard at 40 degrees F requires an outfit suitable for a 60-degree day.
Protect extremities. Blood moves to the big muscles, so protect fingers, ears, and toes. Attach a big safety pin to the waistband of your shorts for fastening gloves in the event your hands get hot.
Consider conditions. When the temperature drops, watch out for ice that may not always be visible, especially in low light. When dressing, remember that moisture and wind make temperatures feel even colder.
Dry off. There’s nothing like sweaty workout wear to bring body temperature down on a cold day. Change out of wet things—including shoes and socks—within 20 minutes after a workout.
Know thyself. Trial and error will help determine how best to keep your internal thermostat optimally set.