6 dressing tips for cold-weather exercise

Runners, walkers and avid bikers don’t let winter cold or snow drive them off Connecticut roads and wooded paths. Here are six dressing tips for vigorous, cold-weather exercise.

1. Dress in layers. Start with a base layer: a long-sleeve, fleece-lined, sweat-wicking shirt. Wear running tights (there are fleece-lined tights, too). Depending on how cold it is, you may add a long-sleeve running shirt, pullover or half-zip as a medium layer. Top it off with a running jacket to block wind and keep warmth in. You can, if you get too warm, take the jacket off and wrap it around your waist or carry it. In extreme cold, you may want to add a second layer over tights.

2. Avoid cotton clothing, including socks. Cotton gets wet and doesn’t dry quickly. That causes your body to lose heat. And that can be dangerous. The no-cotton rule includes your socks, which should be made of smart wool — warm, itch-free and odor-resistant.

3. Wear ‘throw-away’ clothes.  If you are running a race, keep yourself warm before the starting pistol by punching a hole in an oversized garbage bag to make a disposable poncho. Some runners keep a stash of “throw-away” clothes that they shed as they start running. Make sure to discard clothes or bags on the side of the course so no one trips on them. Large races often collect discarded clothes and donate them to charity.

4. Cover your extremities. Wear a cap or hat to cover your head and ears. A sweat-wicking buff works well. It’s a tubular, stretchy garment worn around the neck that you can pull up to cover your ears, head, and even mouth and nose. Wear gloves that you can easily take on and off. Best choices are cheap mittens, in case you lose them (see “throw-away” clothes, above). Pack hand warmers on the coldest days to insert into mittens or gloves.

5. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is your friend. Rub it all over your feet before you put on your socks. It will help keep your feet warm if you’re running in snow, slush or freezing rain. It can help prevent blistering, too. Use Vaseline on your lips and cheeks to spare your face from the wind.

6. Prepare to have a runny nose. When you breathe in cold air, your nose increases fluid production to protect your lungs. Bring a handkerchief, bandana or durable tissue. Of course, some runners use their gloves or clothes as handkerchiefs. But if you’re brave enough to exercise in cold weather, you get a bye from social etiquette.