Raindrops, wind or beating sun can affect your walking experience. Donít let the weather keep you indoors and derail your commitment to regular exercise. Proper clothing can help you exercise comfortably and maintain an ideal body temperature. Make sure youíve got the right items in your closet to keep you walking all year long.
Cold Clothing Strategies
During colder days, dressing in layers keeps you warm and allows you to remove one or more layers as you warm up.
- The innermost layer should be made of a material that wicks moisture away from your skin, for example: Coolmax®, Capilene® or Thermax®. Cotton t-shirts are fine until you start to sweat - then they hold moisture next to your skin and can chill your body.
- In colder weather, you may need a middle layer (look for microfiber fleece) to provide added insulation. Wool stays warm even when wet.
- The outermost layer should protect you from the elements. New fabrics are designed to protect you from the wind and repel moisture while maintaining breathability. Jackets with hoods allow you to stay dry on damp days without having to carry an umbrella.
- Wearing a hat or scarf in cold weather will help retain your body heat around your head and neck. Donít forget to keep your fingers warm! Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves. These items are easy to remove and put in your pockets as you warm up.
A common pitfall for walkers in cool weather is to overdress. Being too warm will increase body heat unnecessarily and leave you sweating inside your jacket. If you start out a little chilly, remember that youíll warm up after the first ten minutes and be glad you didnít pile on the gear.
Hot Weather Wear
When exercising in hot weather, protect your skin by wearing sunscreen (a minimum of 15 SPF), sunglasses or a breathable hat or sun visor. Dress in light colored clothing to reflect the sunlight. (Some fabrics such as Solumbra or Solarweave protect the skin from the sunís UV rays.) Dress in light-colored clothing to reflect the sunlight. Remember to slow down or shorten your walk on the first few days of a heat wave. Then gradually increase your distance and pace as you become acclimated. Staying hydrated and walking in shady areas will help you keep going longer in hot weather.
Weather Breathable Fabrics
Cotton absorbs moisture and dries slowly. This means wet material against your skin. Synthetic ďwickingĒ fabrics are better choices for shirts and socks. These are found in specialty stores that sell athletic clothing and running shoes. Wicking fabrics come under many trade names. Thin, double-layered socks can also prevent friction blisters. Chafing can happen in areas where the skin rubs against itself such as on the inner thighs and under the armpit. To reduce this, wear clothes that are thin (with flat seams) and snug, but not tight. If chafing becomes a problem, use petroleum jelly or products like Body Glide® on these areas to reduce the friction. This can be found in athletic stores or bike shops.
Wearing lighter colors can help you be more visible to cars during hours like dawn and dusk. If youíre out at those times, itís a good idea to wear reflective clothing. Many brands of jackets and running shoes have reflective stripes to keep the wearer safe. Reflective tape or vests (such as the orange reflective vests worn by many motorcyclists) are also a good idea if you want to make sure youíre seen. You can also carry a glow stick or flashlight.
While walking is not as vigorous an exercise as running, some women need more support than a regular bra allows. Sports bras have come a long way in past years and can be flattering as well as supportive. Look for a wide chest band under the breasts that is supportive yet not too tight. Shoulder straps should have minimal vertical stretch. Armholes must allow plenty of room, and clasps and seams should not be in areas that can cause irritation, such as the nipples. The sports bra should feel secure without allowing excessive breast movement when you jump or wave your arms. Although you may feel silly, youíre better off checking this while still in the dressing room!
Keep a Spare Pair of Shoes
To get the right fit for walking shoes, you may need to have your feet measured. Just because youíve been a size 7 all your life doesnít mean that youíre still exactly a size 7. Feet can swell when exercising due to increased blood flow, so itís not unusual to need a shoe thatís half a size larger than your street shoes. Shoes last longer when they are rotated with another pair. If you keep an extra pair in your desk drawer, youíll be ready to go anytime without having the excuse ďI forgot to bring my shoes!Ē
Although there are lots of high tech options available these days, you donít need fancy clothing to get out and walk. A supportive pair of walking shoes and appropriate weight jacket will usually do the trick.