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Dress for success in winter work-outs

by Kaitlyn Zufall
Jan 16, 2013


Kaitlyn Zufall/Medill

Layers of clothing such as these items offered at Fleet Feet Sports, 1620 N. Wells St., allow for outdoor exercise in even the coldest winter weather.

The winter weather dive into the deep freeze this week put a chill on outdoor exercise for many Chicago residents. But dressing for the weather can keep your fitness goals from dropping with the temperature.

“If you have the right gear, you’ll be perfectly fine to stay outside,” said Catherine Moloznik, product manager for Fleet Feet Sports in Chicago. “Stay comfortable, dry and warm,” she said.

The Fleet Feet brochure “Cold. Colder. Coldest - A Guide to Winter Running” helps runners maintain their training regimen in the cold winter months.

“We talk about layering in general,” Moloznik said. “It’s the easiest way to bulk up.”

The brochure recommends a "baselayer" that will “quickly move moisture,” a "midlayer" for insulation, a jacket or vest to protect against wind and water, and pants that have wind paneling on the thighs.

But Mobznick added that keeping accessories in mind is key. The store recommends runners invest in a neck gaiter, hat and gloves or mittens to stay comfortable in the cold.

Warm gloves are a critical part of winter runs, according to local runner Andrew Blauvelt.

“It’s something you don’t really think of,” Blauvelt said. “But if you forget them it makes your whole run terrible.”

But dressing to run doesn’t necessarily mean that you are ready for other outdoor exercise in the cold.

Dressing for cycling involves a different strategy, reports Adam Kaplan, the head bicycle fit technician at local biking store Get a Grip Cycles.

A major difference between running and cycling is that the higher speeds reached while biking create wind chill, Kaplan explained.

“You have to be a lot more aware of covering your extremities,” he said.

When biking in the winter, he recommends wearing covers over your shoes, tights, a long base layer, a jacket that is wind-resistant, but breathable, gloves that are both water and wind-resistant, and a hat.

“Something just to keep the chill off your skin,” he said. “No bare skin.”

Balaclavas, gaiters and masks are also available to keep cyclists’ necks and faces warm and dry.

Kaplan warns that overdressing is a common mistake made by beginners. Keep in mind that your body will warm up as you exercise.

Gareth Reeves, a local software engineer and competitive biker who lives in the western suburb of Glen Ellyn, said that for him, taking the winter off is not an option. He competes throughout the year.

“It’s important to me personally to stay fit,” Reeves said.

A hat that covers your head, neck and ears is critical when biking in cold weather, according to Reeves.

He particularly recommends material that keeps out the wind. “It’s definitely the most essential piece of winter riding gear.”

Though there are options for cycling indoors, Reeves said that those indoor trainers and exercise bikes don’t move in quite the same way as biking outdoors and are “just boring.”

And he adds that battling the weather can even make the ride more rewarding.

“It’s a bit of a challenge,” he said. “Something to overcome.”