The world is made up of warm-bodied and cold-bodied exercisers. The former are the ones you see running in T-shirts and short shorts in 20-degree weather. And then there are the rest of us, who depend on the kindness of the exercise garment industry to keep the winter chill at bay. This year’s forecast calls for practically Antarctic conditions here in D.C., so you might want to snap up some of these finds.
$200, Smartwool.com: This is a midlayer garment: garbtalk for something you’d sport on its own if the temperature were, say, in the 40s, and maybe wear under a warmer jacket on a more frigid day. It has a quilted synthetic body vest on the front side to warm the core and a merino wool back and sleeves, designed to keep your body at the right temperature by wicking away sweat. The Full Zip kept my torso warm on a jog with temperatures in the 30s and a bike ride in the upper 40s, and my palms appreciated the thumbhole option. But since the wool sleeves are thin compared to the rest of the Full Zip, my arms needed 10 to 15 minutes to heat up. (On a not-too-cold day, I sweat through the wool, leaving me feeling fairly damp.) My wife, meanwhile, found another use for Full Zip. One Sunday morning, she donned it in our chilly kitchen and reported: “It’s so comfortable. I feel like I’ve been warmed by a toaster.”
$120, Brooksrunning.com: “That’s a sharp jacket,” a co-worker said, admiring the black-and-gray plaid pattern on the slim-fitting hoodie. (Note to wife: When you said it looked like pajamas, you were wrong! And you can get the lady version for $110.) But the beauty of the Utopia isn’t just its skater-dude hipster style. Made of 85 percent polyester and 15 percent spandex, the lightweight, pound-and-a-half jacket is a winter wonder. Even a bicycling test produced excellent results — with temps in the low 30s and frost streaking the grass, I didn’t shiver once during a 40-minute outing. Kudos to the head-warming hood, the zippered side pockets, the mesh pouch for an MP3 player inside and the thumbholes to partially protect gloveless hands. I’m especially fond of the brushed, fleecy interior finish, which made running with just a T-shirt underneath feel super cozy.
$85, Thenorthface.com: This is the ultimate pair of cold-weather man leggings (“meggings”). They’re snug, but calf zippers aid in the donning and removal of the tights. The double-layer synthetic fabric with “VaporWick” finish does indeed draw off leg sweat and also carries built-in protection from ultraviolet rays. On a windy day run and a nippy morning bike ride, my legs were cold only for the first five minutes. There’s a zippered pocket in the back for energy gels and other tiny items; I would have preferred more accessible side pockets. But you can add storage and modesty by slipping on a pair of shorts.
What about socks, you ask? Don a pair of merino wool socks. Put your feet in plastic bags like the one your newspaper is delivered in. Put on another pair of socks. The bag creates a micro-climate that keeps your feet comfortable (albeit sweaty). So sometimes low-tech trumps the latest technical garment!
1. What the Fluff Jacket ($248, Lululemon.com) sneaks warm goose down into a slimming silhouette with a fleece hood, thumbholes and a secret skirt that can cover your rear.
2. Nike Pro Hyperwarm Print Tights ($55, Nike.com) pair snow-bunny styling with a technology that traps heat, but not moisture.
3. Reflective Run Headband ($19, Athleta.com) keeps your ears covered, lets your ponytail fly free and makes sure you’re spotted.