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How to Optimize Your Cold Weather Workout Gear and Take Your Exercise Outside

November 30, 2020

The cold weather that winter brings can do some crazy things to your body. Sure, we’ve talked about the havoc it can wreak on your skin, but it can also do a number to your muscles and extremities. Which is why you need to make sure that you’ve got the appropriate cold weather workout gear you need to keep you performing at your best, even when the temps drop. But how much do you actually need? Is there such a thing as too warm? Get to know the world of cold weather workout gear and find what you need to take your exercise outside, even in the cold, winter months.


It’s Not Just About Temps

When it comes down to it, exercising outside in the warmer months is much different than it is in the colder months. But how exactly does the cold weather affect your body? So glad you asked.

It makes sense that keeping your temp up is pretty crucial during the winter months. When you exercise outside, cold weather can constrict your blood vessels and reduce blow flow to your extremities. Depending on your climate and your activity, you’ll need to tailor your cold weather workout gear to optimize your body temps.

But it’s not just about temperature. Moisture can also affect your game in a few different ways. 

Keeping the heat in is only half the battle. It’s true; layering up can help keep you nice and toasty – even on those sub zero days. But trapping heat close to your core can also trap moisture against your skin – which is a big activewear no no. All that trapped moisture can lead to some pretty uncomfortable situations, like skin irritation and rash. Plus, if you’ve ever been wet and cold, you probably know that getting dry is the first step to warming up again.

Cold weather workout gear

And while you’re getting your cold weather sweat on, it might not feel quite as sweaty as your summer seshs. But staying hydrated is just as important during the winter months as it is during the summer months. Although it might not seem like it, it’s easier to become dehydrated during cold weather exercise because you’re not always aware of how much water you’re actually losing. 

Another unsuspected source of water loss? Your breath. As you exhale your warm, humid breath into the cold, frosty air, you inhale the cool, dry air. When it’s warm (and humid) out, your body reclaims the moisture that you exhaled as you inhale again. But, when temps drop and the humidity levels plummet, your body isn’t getting that water back as you inhale. 

To keep your temperature up and minimize water loss, there are a couple things you’ll need to consider when choosing your cold weather workout gear: layers and material.


Layering is Key

First things first – let’s talk layers. The best kind of cold weather workout gear is built in layers. You shouldn’t be relying on only a coat or warm pair of pants.

While the collective goal is to keep you warm (and dry), each layer serves a different purpose. The layers closest to your body should serve to wick away your sweat and keep you dry. They don’t necessarily need to be thick or super-insulating. Rather, you should focus on pieces that dry quickly and wick sweat away from you – kinda like this shirt does.

Your middle layers are meant for insulation. That’s where thicker, well-insulating pieces help to keep you warm throughout your workout. Keep in mind that you might need to size up for this layer. You don’t want your cold weather workout gear to feel like it’s constricting you or limiting your range of motion. 

On the exterior, your outer layer is meant for weatherproofing (and more insulation, if you need it). Outer shells should keep out the elements – including any harsh, winter winds. Plus, if it’s a bit soggy outside due to rain or snow, this outside layer will keep you dry and toasty throughout your workout. 

Depending on the temps where you live, you won’t always need so many layers. Yes, there is such a thing as too warm. Oh, and don’t forget the headwear, insulating socks, and the gloves to keep your fingers, feet and ears warm. 


Material Matters

When it comes to cold weather workout gear, material matters. Because honestly, no two materials are alike and each functions in its own useful way. If you’re trying to narrow down your selections, it comes down to which layer you’re talking about. 

Cold weather workout gear

For your inner layers, opt for gear made from hi-tech, synthetic materials made to keep you dry. For these base layers, you want to avoid heavy, thick, natural materials like cotton- they really aren’t made for wicking away sweat. However, middle insulation layers are the perfect place for warm, cozy natural materials, like wool. Finally, your outer layers should be durable, water resistant, and windproof. Think items like lightweight, down-filled puffer coats and vests. Hoods are optional, but can come in handy on days when the weather is especially crummy.


Winter workouts look different for everyone. Whether you like to hit the ground running when the first snow falls, or you just prefer to keep using the outdoor beach gym year-round, the key is to layer up with the right materials. Cold weather workout gear is your BFF when it comes to sweating it out in cooler temps, so make sure you don’t skimp on the details so that you can perform your best, even when it isn’t summertime anymore.

Taryn W


Taryn Willis is an avid fitness junkie. Born and raised in Indiana, she grew up playing sports and continues to this day. When she’s not spoiling her three furbabies, she’s busy kickboxing, running, doing some deep downward dog yoga, or playing intramural soccer. A creative mastermind and wordsmith by nature, she graduated from Indiana University in 2020 with a degree in Communication Studies. She currently writes for several publications as a freelance blogger and copywriter.