The Best Cold Weather Training Gear
The best choices for running
Winter is a great season for park running in North London: the paths are quiet, the light bright, and I don’t have to worry about my running buddy – a year-and-a-half-old cockapoo named Piper – overheating. (She needs more baths though.)
But dressing smart for exercise in cold weather can be a challenge. Despite the boom in activewear over the past decade, the overlap between functional workout clothes and good-looking workout clothes remains slim. By default, I ended up with a workout wardrobe consisting mostly of Lululemon. The designs aren’t exciting, but the Canadian label’s wicking and antimicrobial technology is excellent, and not a single part has worn out after (in some cases) over a decade of use. The seams are also in the right places.
My latest addition to my running wardrobe was a Patagonia knit headband which, in addition to keeping my ears from burning, has a Fair Isle pattern that I love. Here are my other tried-and-true essentials:
Nike Essentials running jacket, on sale for £53, prodirectrunning.com
Ideal for drizzly or moderately cold days, this lightweight, water-repellent jacket has handy back and side pockets for keys and gloves.
Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Gilet, £40, uniqlo.co.uk
Although not designed for exercise, this ultralight down vest is a great lightweight layer for running, which I also use for hiking. Zipperless pockets are deep enough to store house keys and a roll of doggie bags.
Lululemon Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve Shirt, on sale for £49, lululemon.com
I have four of these stretch knit shirts, which I love because they are thin but warm, and woven with “anti-microbial” yarn that keeps them from smelling even after 10+ years of use. They also get softer over time.
Patagonia Powder Town Headband, £30, eu.patagonia.com
Designed to fit under a ski helmet, this super soft 100% recycled knit headband stays in place and keeps my ears warm on long runs and hikes.
Lululemon Run For It All Gloves, £25, lululemon.com
These soft, water-resistant, touchscreen-compatible gloves are wonderfully versatile – I wear them for running when temperatures drop below zero and layer them under ski gloves on the slopes.
Top Picks for Outdoor Swimming
On a recent visit to Kenwood’s Ladies’ Pond in Hampstead Heath, I came across a brochure pinned to the notice board listing obscure words applicable to winter swimming. In addition to “apricity” (the warmth of the sun in winter) and “psithurism” (the sound of rustling leaves), there was “kalopsia”. Seemingly neither widely used nor deemed acceptable in Scrabble, definitions of the word vary, but go along the lines of “the state in which everything and everyone is beautiful” (even if they are not).
It’s the state of being after a cold winter swim: the height of natural euphoria. The mist is more misty. Birdsong is more melodious. Life is Beautiful. I feel beautiful stepping out of the toad-green water with a few wet leaves stuck to my creepy paws, but I don’t look it. My skin turns red, my lips a little blue, I have woolly hair. But I really don’t care.
To me, winter swimming is the antithesis of the kind of narcissistic gym culture where you train in front of a mirror to admire your 12-pack. The women I sometimes swim with and I have fancy bathing suits, but in general, practicality is queen. I don’t wear a wetsuit as it deadens noise, but I do favor wetsuit gloves and sometimes neoprene or Yulex socks.
For the rest, a poncho-towel that can be changed underneath is practical (especially on a pebble beach). Flip flops or pool shoes provide a barrier between the feet and the cold ground before putting on your shoes (avoid delicate shoelaces as frozen fingers are not always adept). Along with a wool beanie, cashmere gloves and an old puffer jacket, I love a thin merino base layer. And then there’s the oldest trick in the playbook for keeping warm: a bottle of tea.
Patagonia R2 Yulex Gloves, £50, eu.patagonia.com
Patagonia’s wetsuit gloves are made from 85% Yulex (derived from rubber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) and 15% synthetic rubber, making it a more environmentally friendly choice than the conventional neoprene.
Sloactive surf leotard at Yulex, £260, sloactive.com
I feel more like a “secret agent on an underwater mission” in this slick Yulex issue, though it’s pretty high-end.
Dryrobe towel, £50, dryrobe.com
A Dryrobe offers protection from the winter air when you get out of the water, and a kind of portable changing room.
Sweaty Betty Springboard Swimsuit, £60, sweatybetty.com
The choice of swimsuits in the winter is minimal, and even fewer have decent bust support. This stylish and practical option is made from recycled nylon.
Bombas Colorblock Merino Socks, £21, bombas.co.uk
Thick socks are a must when your feet look like ice sculptures. The bombas are warm, stretchy and do not bunch up inside the boots.
Cos Merino Turtleneck, £45, costores.com
A merino layering piece makes a huge difference in heat levels after a dip and doesn’t cause that clammy, trapped feeling that synthetic versions can create.
Top Picks for High Intensity Workouts
There’s nothing better than doing a kickboxing session in the cool early morning air of east London’s Victoria Park, a treat I discovered when the pandemic forced me to leave my crowded dojo. Exercising outside lifts my spirits in a way that being in a gym never did.
Getting up for my 8am workouts was no problem, but adapting my indoor gear to withstand the unforgiving British winter was a challenge. To meet my trainer I take a brisk 40 minute walk along Regent’s Canal, which can be freezing, but kickboxing warms you up pretty quickly, so clothing that can be easily taken off and put back on is essential. minimal fuss.
Flexibility is also important. I wear black leggings all year round for head shots. I’m not a fan of hats or gloves, and with no lockers or changing rooms, I keep my accessories to a minimum, but hoodies and wraps can provide a little extra warmth.
AYBL motion seamless long sleeve crop top, £27, eu.beaybl.com
This long sleeve crop top is the perfect piece to layer between a sports bra and a t-shirt when temperatures drop below 10°C. It’s so comfortable that you feel like you’re not there at all.
Pangaia high neck sweatshirt, £120, thepangaia.com
Kickboxing involves using both the upper body and the lower body. A soft, slightly oversized sweatshirt is the best option for comfortably throwing hooks and uppercuts while locking in heat. The orchid purple color brightens up my usual black and gray ensembles.
Nike sportswear technical fleece, £100, nike.com
I use this soft men’s hoodie as a cozy jacket when it’s not raining, zipped up over my long sleeve top, t-shirt and sweatshirt combo. However, it limits movement, so I wear it for warming up and lose it for the actual workout.
Nike windbreaker, £90, nike.com
A waterproof windbreaker is essential when the morning breeze turns into a barrage of wind and rain. I like to size up so I can fit into my winter layers (up to four for me).
Jaxjox metal jump rope, £15.99, sportsdirect.com
When all else fails, jumping is the quickest way to regain some warmth. Jaxjox’s lightweight and adjustable option can be inserted into any bag.
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