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...But Baby It's Cold Outside

October 29, 2015

written by Ben Phenicie

So, if you are reading this, chances are that you are intrigued by the title, perhaps hoping to glean some relationship advice from the experts here at Student Activities. However, the knowledge I have to share with you is how to enjoy the outdoors during the frigid months of Lynchburg’s bipolar winter. Disclaimer: weather here in the 434 is extremely fickle, so you might find a sunny, seventy-degree day in January to go hiking in your short-shorts. But I’m concerned about the cold and icy days, so for those, I have a few tips.

Do the Math The first thing you’ll need is your iPhone calculator and favorite weather app. Open the app, check the weather for the day you want to be outside, and find the Feels-Like temperature. This number usually includes wind-chill and other factors, so I find it more helpful than the listed temperature. Next, compare that to the type of activity you plan to do. More strenuous activities like cross-country skiing and trail-running will make you generate a significant amount of body heat, while lower-energy activities like light hiking or walking will produce less body heat. So where’s the math? It is right here: Take the Feels-Like temperature, add or subtract an additional number to it based on your anticipated level of activity, and then dress as if that new number is the actual temperature. For example, let’s say I’m going trail running, and it is 30 degrees outside. I would add 15 degrees to the feels-like temp, unless it is really windy in which case I would only add 10 degrees. So, I would dress as if it is 45 degrees, 40 if it is really windy. Everyone is different. Some people are very intolerant to the cold and need to bundle up all the time, and I also know people that will always wear a t-shirt and shorts no matter how cold it is. This process may take some experimentation but I have found it to be a very effective strategy for my outdoor activities and I think it’s worth it. Hopefully it can be helpful to you, too.

Dress Smart Enough talkin’ about numbers. You want to go outside! You may be thinking, “Great, now I’m halfway to receiving a meteorology degree but WHAT DO I WEAR?” I am glad you asked. Ok, here is my number one rule concerning what to wear when you exercise in the cold, or at all, ever, anytime, anywhere. DON’T WEAR COTTON. Ugh. Cotton is miserable for exercising. It is really nice and soft when its dry, but when you exercise you sweat and then the cotton soaks it all up and then it gets heavy and scratchy and chafe-y. Ew.  Just don’t wear it. Instead, wear moisture-wicking materials: polyester, spandex, Lycra, and wool are all great for exercising. Now before you say “Waaaah, Under Armour is too expensive”, I’ll share my secret: Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Burlington Coat Factory. These places usually have an ample supply of moisture-wicking clothing at really low prices. Sometimes the items are weird colors or have the logos in the wrong spot, but they are cheap and functional. Apply this philosophy to all of the clothing you wear, including socks, underwear, shorts, shirts, hats, etc. Stocking up on some of these items will make dressing for the weather much easier.

My second rule is to dress in layers. Layering is a very effective technique that lets you modulate your temperature while you are out exercising. You have much more flexibility in your dress if you wear three light layers than one heavy layer. I usually start with a tight, long-sleeved, moisture-wicking base-layer, then I wear a middle loose-fitting, short sleeved layer for extra insulation, and if it is really cold I will wear my super-light and packable windbreaker jacket to help keep some of my body heat in. Hats and gloves are also very useful tools to have in your wardrobe. Think of your blood as a warming system for your body. Your blood leaves your heart very warm, it circulates through your body and then it returns to the heart to receive oxygen and then gets re-circulated. Your blood vessels are very close to your skin in your hands, feet and head. Wearing a hat, gloves, and warm socks helps to keep your blood warm when it circulates out to your extremities and is closest to the cold air of the outdoors. I find that if I wear a warm hat, socks, and gloves, I can usually ditch one of my other layers.

Where and When My last tip for enjoying the outdoors is to consider where you will be going and when. The weather and the topography of your venture will affect the temperature. Hiking on a high ridge or peak of a mountain tends to be windy, but finding tree cover can sometimes break up the wind and reduce the wind-chill. Also, the time of day is important. Even on cold days, you can still use the daytime to your advantage. If you are trying to stay as warm as possible, exercise in the early afternoon when the sun is high and go where it is sunny.

Well folks, that’s about all I have for you. I have been using these tips and tricks for a while and I actually enjoy running outside now. I used to hate running in the winter but I have learned to conquer the cold. I hope you will do the same!