Bundle Up and Bulk Up — Essential Tips for Exercising Outdoors in the Winter

exercising outdoors in the winter
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The colder months are officially upon us — and with gyms, fitness studios and other fitness businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic many people are evolving their exercise routines to be as safe as possible. Working out at home is a definite option as we’ve seen at-home luxury exercise equipment like spin bikes, treadmills and weights surge in popularity throughout the health crisis. However, sometimes you need to get outside and breathe fresh air — even if that air is at close to sub-zero temperatures. There are only so many squats and sit-ups you can do on your living room floor with your dog licking your face  — we get it. The good news is colder temperatures don’t have to rule out exercising outdoors, in fact if you prepare in the right way hitting the trails in the snow can be a great way to move and celebrate the season at the same time.

The most important thing to keep in mind when exercising outdoors in the winter? Make sure you’ve got good gear. There’s no such thing as bad conditions — only bad gear, and you want to make sure you’re armored with sweat-wicking, waterproof, reliable, high-quality clothing as you head out into the wind chill. Snow pants, running tights and a great parka are a given, but what about your hands and feet? Running gloves and even snow cleats might be necessary to keep your extremities toasty. We’ve got nine essential tips for exercising outdoors in the winter, and we’re going to run through each one accompanied by gear recommendations. Winter isn’t coming, it’s here — and you can still get your movement in with a bit of extra preparation.

1. Stay as Dry (and Warm!) as Possible

Trying to stay as warm as possible is a given when exercising outdoors in the winter, but the best way to do that? Stay dry. One of the quickest ways to lose body heat and have your temperature drop is to get wet, so you’ll want to dress in high-performance fabrics designed to wick sweat away from the body like nylon, polypropylene and polyester. Your base layer should be made of one of these fabrics — as it’s the first fabric your sweat will touch during your workout.

Hanes Men’s Cool Dri T-Shirt

This base layer shirt from Hanes is made of 100% polyester, a moisture-wicking, rapid-dry fabric that’s perfect to throw on for an outdoor workout. It’s lightweight but protective, and thin so it’s perfect for layering. It has a narrow ribbed collar to keep your upper body warm and a 50+ UPF rating for UV protection — something that’s equally as important in the winter as it is in the summer, if not more so.

Hanes men's long sleeve shirt, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


Patagonia Peak Mission Men’s Tights

These running tights from Patagonia are a blend of recycled nylon, polyester and spandex for a comfortable, sweat-wicking fit that’ll keep you warm and dry on runs, hikes and walks. The fabric has a brushed-terry back for added comfort, and the elastic waistband lays flat for a solid fit. It has a gusseted construction for full mobility and they have a reflective logo that adds visibility in poor conditions. These tights also have Polygiene odor control built in and a zippered center back pocket holds your phone, cards or keys.

men's mission running tights, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of REI


2. Brighter is Better

It’s crucial to mind the conditions when you’re planning to exercise outdoors in the winter — if it’s snowing or raining and visibility is low it might be safer to wait until the weather improves to embark on your workout. That being said, if you’re out on the trails or in the woods and a storm strikes you’ll want to be wearing brightly colored and/or reflective gear so you’re seen. This is especially important if you’re running on roads frequented by cars or trails with other hikers. Here are a few ways to stand out on a blustery day.

ReflecToes Reflective Running Gloves

These gloves kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, as they’ll keep your hands warm in the cold and alert others of your presence. They’re made with 50% high reflective and 50% day glow fluorescent green with rubber grips for extra safety. They’re touchscreen compatible in case you’ve got to text or make a call, and they’re designed with a thermal fleece lining that’s warm and comfortable.

reflective running gloves, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


247 Viz Reflective Running Vest

This reflective vest will surely alert others of your presence, as light explodes off of the neon colors from a thousand feet away. It’s made of lightweight, breathable material that’s quick-drying so it won’t impede your performance fabric and it has an adjustable waistband for a comfortable fit. This vest also comes with reflector wristbands for added visibility.

reflective running vest, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


3. Mind Your Layers

As with all cold weather, layers are key. Not only are they great in terms of temperature flexibility and the ability to shed as you and your workout heat up, each one serves a slightly different purpose in keeping you warm and dry. The first layer should be a lightweight polyester or polypropylene fabric that wicks away sweat, keeping you dry and warm.

Your second layer, if it’s cold enough, should be a wool or polyester fleece vest or pullover for added warmth. The third layer should be a waterproof or water resistant shell of some sort — something to break the wind and keep rain or snow off of your fabric layers. This way, you can shed the middle or top layer once you get moving and add it back if the temperature drops.

Amazon Essentials Men’s Full-Zip Polar Fleece Vest

This basic vest from Amazon Essentials is the perfect middle layer. It’s 100% polyester and is mid weight — so it’ll add some bulk and warmth without puffing you up too much. It has a high collar for keeping your neck warm and side seam pockets so you can keep your wallet and phone close at hand. It also comes in a wide range of colors so feel free to experiment, even if it’s only going underneath another layer.

Amazon Essentials men's vest, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


MARMOT Men’s PreClip Rain Jacket

This jacket from MARMOT is the perfect outer layer to your outdoor workout ensemble because it’s made of waterproof, breathable fabric and is 100% seam-taped to keep water out. It has PitZips ventilation under the arms for optional body temperature regulation and has an adjustable hood that you can roll into the collar if you’d prefer not to use it.

MARMOT men's rain jacket, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


4. Extremities Are Key

Alright, now that you’ve got your base layers down it’s crucial to think of your extremities. As you’re running, hiking or walking and the cold wind is whipping your hands, feet, the top of your head and your ears can feel the cold the most. Blood flow is normally more limited to these areas in colder temperatures so it’s important you cover them properly so you don’t lose feeling after a long workout. Wearing a hat or headband can help your head and ears, proper gloves can keep fingers from freezing, warm socks and winter running shoes can help keep feet warm as well. If you want to go above and beyond, hand and feet warmers that activate with time are another great option for keeping your extremities warm throughout extended time outside.

Skull Cap Running Beanie

This running beanie can be worn on its own or layered inside a ski or snowboard helmet for added warmth. It’s 89% polyester so it’s made to wick away sweat and it’s lightweight, comfortable and easy to wear. It has brush thermal lining that’s made to be worn in the winter and it stretches further than a regular beanie does and covers your ears. The stretchable fabric also fits a variety of head shapes and sizes.

skull cap running beanie, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


Fleece Muff Winter Headband

This winter headband/dedicated ear warmer is another solid option made of high quality fleece and polyester that’ll make sure the tips of your ears don’t freeze in cold temperatures. This headband is great for women who prefer to keep their hair in a ponytail when they workout, and it’s made in a circle shape designed to stay in place during strenuous activities.

fleece muff winter headband, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


SIMARI Winter Running Gloves

Most gloves will work during activities like skiing, snow shoeing and ice skating — but for running you’ll want a pair designed for just that. These gloves are designed super warm, are anti-slip and designed to be used with touch screens. They’re also designed to have reinforced grip strength and abrasion resistance if you’re using dumbbells or kettlebells outside during the winter.

SIMARI winter running gloves, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


HotHands Hand & Toe Warmers

These are super handy (pun intended) during the winter as they introduce more heat to your extremities in case it’s cold enough for socks and gloves to not get the job done. These hand and toe warmers produce safe, natural, long-lasting heat that’s odorless and multipurpose. They’re air-activated and heat up in 15-30 minutes once unpacked. They’re designed to be used for your hands and toes, but they can be placed anywhere on your person for added heat.

hothands warmers, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


Merino Wool Socks

Wool socks are seven times warmer than cotton and great at staying warm in colder temperatures. The Merino Wool Blend evaporates sweat fast, keeping feet comfortably dry — and the socks have a full cushion at the heel to minimize chafing. These socks are also excellent shock-absorbers and have arch compression for support while running, walking or hiking.

merino wool socks, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


VJ XTRM Winter Trail Running Shoes

These running shoes are top-rated by Runner’s World for their grip which is a must-have when running on snow and ice. They’re made for running on rocky and technical surfaces with cushioning units in the front and heel for maximum comfort and stability. The outsole is made of Butyl rubber and a strengthened rubber toe cap protects toes from rocks, sticks, ice and other hazards. The upper of the shoe is made of a blend of Kevlar and polyester, quick-drying, tough and durable.

VJ XTRM OCR winter trail running shoes, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


5. Warm Up! For Real!

So obviously the goal when it’s cold out is to “warm up” in a temperature sense, but here we’re actually talking about doing a proper warm up for every workout. This is a MUST, has your muscles, tendons and ligaments will all be tighter in the colder weather. It’s much easier to pull something in the winter, so don’t skimp on the dynamic movements before you hit the trails.


6. Sun is a Factor

Contrary to popular delusion, you can still get sunburned in the winter even if it’s not hot out. Sure, the UV index is probably lower but because the sun is bouncing off of snow and ice you’re actually getting hit with those rays twice. Anyone who’s ended a day of skiing with a ridiculous goggle burn will tell you — the sunshine is real in the winter. So, SPF it up! The solution is pretty simple — make sure you’re covered sunscreen-wise on all exposed skin, and don’t forget the lips!

Neutrogena Face Sunscreen Lotion

This Neutrogena sunscreen is great to use on your face for protection without massively clogged pores. It’s designed to help prevent sun damage and signs of aging, and it’s made with Helioplex and broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection. It also contains moisturizers to help replenish skin’s hydration, a key in the dry winter months.

neutrogena face sunscreen, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


Banana Boat Sport Performance Sunscreen Lip Balm

One of the most neglected areas when it comes to sunscreen? Your lips! They’re one of the most likely body parts to be uncovered in the winter, so it’s crucial you use a performance lip balm with SPF to keep them covered. This lip balm has broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

banana boat chapstick Courtesy of Amazon


7. Mind Your Traction

Slick, icy roads are a factor in the winter — so make sure the wheels on your car and shoes in your feet are set up for stability. We already included a pair of running shoes designed to grip, but if you’d prefer to convert your current shoes you can also purchase snow spikes to wear for extra traction. Avoid running on trails that are icy and not well-maintained, and try to stick to roads that have been plowed and salted, if possible.

willceal Ice Cleats

These ice cleats are made for use with a wide variety of shoe types including running, walking, hunting, snow shoveling and fishing. They come in a few different sizes that cover a wide range of men and women’s shoe sizes, and are easy to take on and off. They offer full foot protection from slipping from heel to forefoot and are lightweight enough to fold up into your pocket when you’re done using them.

winter ice cleats, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon


8. Stay Hydrated + Moisturized

You’re less likely to feel thirsty in cold weather, but staying hydrated while exercising is just as important, if not more so. Cold, dry air is likely to zap more fluids from your system during your run, walk or hike so staying on top of your hydration and moisturizing is crucial. You can replenish your fluids easily with a CamelBak backpack or water bottle belt that carry your water for you.

CamelBak Zoid Ski Hydration Pack

CamelBak makes hydration backpacks that are convenient to carry and make it easier to stay hydrated through not having to carry a water bottle. This one has a low-profile design that’s perfect for wearing on top of your layers. It has a pocket for essentials and a key clip, and the Crux Reservoir design delivers 20% more water per sip and the pack has an ergonomic grip for easy refilling.

CamelBak hydration backpack, exercising outdoors in the winter Courtesy of Amazon