Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Cold Weather Walking Apparel

Nowadays with the new technical fabrics in running and walking apparel, there's rarely a day you need to walk indoors in the South. Look for moisture management fabrics such as CoolMax by DuPont, DriLayer by Moving Comfort, and other wicking materials. Even Target has great wicking athletic wear (for men and women) in their Champion line. Keep away from cotton.

I follow the "15 degrees rule" which seems to work well for training conditions. To be comfortable while walking, dress as if it is 15 degrees warmer than it really is (20 degrees warmer if you're racing). For example, if it's 60 degrees - dress as if it was 75 degrees.

Therefore, if the temperature is in the 60s, you could still wear shorts. The 15 degrees rule works as long as it is not excessively windy. If it is very windy, dress as if it's 5 to 10 degrees warmer than it really is. You should be a bit chilly at the start of your workout. If you feel comfortable, you're probably over-dressed. You'll be sorry 10 minutes into your walk.

When the temperature dips into the 50s, running tights are recommended, along with a long sleeve wicking top. I wear $2 "Magic Gloves" from Walgreen's when the temperature is in the 50s. When it's cold (under 50 degrees) or windy, wear gloves and a headband to cover your ears. Just keeping your extremities warm (hands and ears) will go a long way to keeping you comfortable.

Lightweight winter running tights are your best bet (for men and women) if the weather dips into the 40s. Also wear a lightweight jacket and gloves and a headband to cover your ears. Remember to layer with a few thin layers, rather than wearing a heavy sweatshirt or sweater. That way as you warm up, you can remove layers and tie your jacket around your waist.

Remember to put your layers back on as soon as you cool down, even before you stretch. Hypothermia sets in quicker than you might imagine, especially if you wear cotton instead of the wicking technical fabrics.

When the temperature is in the 30s wear winter-weight running tights, a tighter-weave wicking shirt, fleece vest, and a lightweight jacket that could be tied around your waist. A fleece headband and fleece gloves will work well.

If it's in the 30s and windy, you may need mittens and a hat instead of just a headband. I still like the vest because it keeps your trunk warm even when you might need to remove the jacket.

When it was in the 20s when I lived in Atlanta, I wore tights and a pair of running pants on top. The fleece vest was exchanged for a fleece jacket with a wind-breaking vest below. I wore a fleece headband and a hat, along with glove liners and mittens.

If you racewalk or exercise walk in weather below 20 degrees, I'm afraid you're on your own.  I'll be the one waving at you through the windows from the treadmill.


Bonnie Stein, M.Ed., CPTS is a racewalking instructor and certified personal training specialist based in Redington Shores, Florida. Walkers from all over the country visit the Tampa Bay area for private racewalking lessons with Bonnie. www.AceWalker.com.

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