Lifestyle and Fitness: Outerwear to Combat Winter Weather

By Rachel Zavala

Boston’s winter weather triumvirate of chilling temperatures, wind, and snow leaves many wanting to hibernate. Few published studies have questioned if people exercise less in inclement weather, perhaps because it is easy to draw conclusions about the results. One recent study conducted by an exercise physiologist at Michigan State University found that Michigan residents expended roughly 15 to 20 percent more calories in the spring and summer months than the fall and winter months.

As such, preparing for New England’s unforgiving weather conditions with the appropriate athletic apparel is essential in order to maintain your physical activity level in the coming months. Fortunately there is hardy, high tech active wear that will keep you running, biking, and snowshoing through New England’s fierce elements.

Don Mergele, Director of the President’s Marathon Challenge, recommends the “20 degree rule” when running outdoors—if it is 30 degrees out, dress like it is 50 to accommodate for the heat the body builds up while exercising.

“It’s wild stuff out there, but your body gets used to it and responds. Wear anything synthetic, form-fitting, and lightweight and you’re going to be fine,” he says.

Staying warm and dry without overheating during active outdoor pursuits requires layers, a key component stressed by many of Boston’s active wear specialists that greatly affects whether you experience a miserable, soggy run though Cambridge or a peaceful, dry run admiring snow along the Charles River.

According to Runner’s World, the best strategy is to wear a base layer, a thermal layer, and an outer layer (if necessary) to protect against heavy rain or snow. The layers act to trap warm air close to the body, while breathable materials and vented designs wick away sweat and regulate body temperature.

Choosing synthetic fabrics is also an essential component of staying warm. Though pricey, these fabrics’ multifaceted properties are carefully designed to help maintain an even body temperature. Mergele warns that wearing cotton can become a form of self-torture because it will soak-up moisture and become cold and clammy against the skin. “If you wear cotton first, you heat up real fast, and it can start chaffing against the skin, which is very uncomfortable.”

Winter’s shorter days in which dusk settles at 4:30 p.m. translate into more running and biking in the dark. Being extremely visible to cars in the dark is a necessity that requires reflective panels built into clothing and eye-catching bright neon colors, says Colleen Kendrick, a sales associate at REI.

Here is a selection of highly recommended products from REI, Patagonia, and City Sports that will leave you with no excuses for braving Boston’s notorious winter. For cost saving deals Mergele recommends going to T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. “They have all different colors and sizes, and it really can save you a ton of money…students have gotten good stuff there.”

REI

Boston REI store
401 Park Dr.
Boston, MA, 02215
(617) 236-0746

Brooks Nightlife Jacket, $100
This attention-grabbing neon outershell is made of polyester microfiber fabric that is water resistant, wind resistant and breathable. A large rear vent in the back of the lightweight jacket enhances breathability, and durable water repellent finish forces water to bead up and roll off of the shell. Kendrick adds that the lightweight jacket is “surprisingly warm” when paired with a long-sleeve thermal layer.

Under Armour ColdGear SubZero Mock, $50
This popular thermal layer, “flies off the shelves during the holiday season” and receives rave reviews from customers, according to Kendrick. This compression-fit piece boasts superb moisture-wicking capabilities, and is made of a double-layer cationic polyester and elastane combination that circulates body heat. Mergele notes that Under Armour is a popular brand among his team as well and “seems to be the best” at speedily removing sweat away from the body so you do not chill.

Under Armour ColdGear Frosty Tight, $50
The Frosty Tight compression leggings are ergonomically designed with flatlock seams to support the major leg muscles and eliminate abrasion. Kendrick says that wearing these tights alone in the winter may suffice since the leg muscles “are generating a lot of heat, and [the tights] do a great job at regulating body temperature.”

Patagonia

346 Newbury St.
Boston, MA, 02115
(617) 424-1776

Wind Shield Jacket, $150
This slim-fit soft-shell “hybrid” jacket has polyester wind-proof panels strategically placed in the front and along the arms, while single-sided fleece on the back and underarm panels is made from Polartec Power Dry® fabric that’s breathable, wicks moisture, and dries quickly. “This is perfect for running and snowshoeing…it’s very lightweight, flexible, and moves with you,” says Jake Imlay, Patagonia sales associate. “The windproof panels won’t let you catch a chill in the front, while the back lets built up heat escape.” The wind shield jacket is finished with a durable water repellent to shed away precipitation.

Capilene 4 Zip-Neck, $85
An “excellent” lightweight layering piece made of Polartec Power Dry® fabric with a brushed jersey finish, Imlay says the interior grid-pattern of sets this piece apart from its competition. “The small grid design on the inside traps heat and also wicks moisture right off of you.” Acknowledging the company’s commitment to creating environmentally-friendly products, this capilene baselayer is recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program, and is made from 50% recyclable materials.

Cool Weather Tights, $95
Imlay asserts that Patagonia directs a large portion of its consumer research into technical fit, and these slim-fitting pants with an articulated knee offer a “perfect fit that does not restrict movement.” Made of a quick-drying nylon, polyester, and spandex blend, the tights have specially cut seams at the knee designed to bend with its natural movement, which is absent from most cool weather tights, he adds.

City Sports

480 Boylston St.
Boston, MA, 02116
(617) 267-3900

Nike Thermal Running Gloves $20
The staff recommends a lightweight glove that will not feel “too bulky or heavy” since hands warm-up quickly after a few minutes of being active outside. This model is popular among runners because it is made of Nike’s ThermaFIT® fabric, which keeps hands insulated, but does not trap sweat.

180s Ultralight CRG $25
This windproof and waterproof convertible running glove/mitten is suitable for active pursuits when the weather drops to the single digits, according to staff. Lightweight yet durable, the polyester glove features Tec Touch 2.0 fabric at the index finger and thumb to allow operation of most MP3 players, touch screens, and cell phones while keeping the glove on. The retractable polyester hood “mitten” can be used during extreme temperatures for extra hand warmth, and neatly tucks into the cuff when not needed.

Nike ThermaFIT Running Headband, $15

Staff observe that many people prefer a headband to keep ears warm during a run, and will layer a synthetic beanie over it when temperatures fall close to zero. This headband snugly fits over the head’s contours, and the ThermaFIT® fabric efficiently wicks away sweat.

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