Fitness Friday: Cold Weather Fitness Gear

It’s cold.

The sun goes down at 4:30pm.

All I want to do is cuddle under my covers and watch America’s Next Top Model re-runs.

Welcome to winter!!

I’ve made it a secret goal to continue getting outdoor activity in over the winter months. I am the worst for staying indoors because I am a huge wuss when it comes to colder temperatures.

But this winter I hope to get a few runs in, long walks, ice skating, skiing and maybe even snowshoeing! It’s all about that Vitamin D in the dark days of winter.

First, we are going to talk about layering. One needs to be careful about what kind of layers and fabrics they wear when rising their body temperature and breaking a sweat in frigid air. You don’t want to get too hot or too cold, and you definitely don’t want cold sweat sitting on your skin!


b-base-layer-shirt-womens Base Layer Pants

Your first layer is called a base layer. It’s a thin layer made of sweat wicking materials. Synthetic fibres like polyester and microfiber. Instead of absorbing sweat (like cotton does), these materials take sweat away from the skin and allow it to evaporate.

Base layers are usually thin and tight like compression gear. Some people are too embarrassed to wear their base layers without something else hiding their body. But I find it’s a great layer for the spring and fall. Function over fashion!


8d7f565063e0db78_merrill-destination-jacket NSTMicro

Next up we have the layer saved for especially cold days, the mid layer. These are typically made of wool or fleece and fit a little more loosely. Mid layer jackets are a must for winter activity, but you don’t need to pair the thick pants with a base layer unless you’re planning on –20C/-4F and below. I find layering shorts, capris, or a wind-breaking pant over the base layer work fine.

Remember! Your body temperature rises by 10 degrees (celsius) when running or doing a similar cardio activity. Don’t bundle up for the temperature it is, but for the temperature you’ll be feeling once warmed up!


Finally, we have the outer-layer. Jackets and pants meant for this layer are more commonly called shells. They are essentially a windbreaker. Water resistant/proof, loose fitting, very light, and will cut the wind. The shell jacket is an essential piece in your running wardrobe. I get the most use out of mine than any other top I own, as I wear it for three seasons, not just one.

Some shells will also have a “butt flap.” The idea behind this is that it covers up the fattiest part of your body, as heat doesn’t distribute as much around body fat.

A lot of people go out looking for heavy jackets and pants straight from the get-go. But the layering method works much better. Sometimes overheating in a heavy jacket can feel just as bad as being too cold. Getting soaked in sweat in below freezing temps is not a good time. I know it seems like a big investment up front if you don’t already have the layers. But you will get a lot more wear out of each individual piece than if you were to splurge on one or two bulky items.


Finally, the extras!


I really like Smartwool socks for winter activity. It’s treated wool that wicks the sweat away and feels comfy all the while keeping you toasty.



Next up, you need to keep your ears from falling off! This is all up to preference – some people prefer headbands, others hats. I’m a hat gal as I like my head covered too. I also highly recommend a sport-specific sweat wicking material for hats and headbands. I’ve worn a wool hat before and my head was drenched after.



I always start the cold weather season with a pair of dollar-store gloves that almost always get taken off half-way through activity. Even in the coldest months, I still end up ditching my heavy duty mittens. You’ll probably want a lighter and heavier pair of hand warmers. These are the only items that don’t need to be actual athletic gear. Dollar-store stuff will do. What’s the point when you’re going to take them off anyway?


Finally, Yak Trax! Okay, I have never tried these before, but I have heard only rave reviews about them. They’re grips you attach to your shoes to help you on snow and ice. Hopefully it will eventually snow in Toronto so I can try these out!


Now, if you don’t mind, I have to get to bed. I’m attempting a sub-freezing run in the morning and have to get my layers ready ;)

Posted on December 3, 2010, in Fitness Friday and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Susan thanks for that post. I am a new runner and that is the first explanation that I have read that I have understood how to dress properly for the cold!
    You are always so informative!!

  2. I’m in love with those socks!!!


  3. LOVE smart wool. And I always wear a hat and gloves when I go running in the cold but rarely more than one layer (and a tank top/sports bra)… and I’m always SO cold! Awesome advice I will be taking it into account!!


  4. Katie @ microwavin maven

    This is really helpful! I hate the treadmill and am usually too nervous to run outside in the col, so running during the winter months is few and far between. . And when it’s cold it’s also dark. Any advice for that?

  5. I have been a YakTrax proponent from way back, and I will continue to be even though people make fun of me.

    Thanks for including me in the cookie post, and I think your December goal is a great one! Always be as nice to yourself as you would be to others. I try to remember that.

  6. THANK YOU! As a newbie runner, I can never decide what to wear on cold days. This helps sooo much! :)

  7. Hope you survived your run! xx

  8. Holler for the SW shoutout! :) Maybe I’m biased…

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