Working out during the winter months takes incredible dedication. You’ve got your cozy bed, snuggly blankets, hot chocolate, and holiday cookies all working against you. But working out in winter is just as important as it is the rest of the year. Keeping your body in top shape means a regular fitness routine, all year long. When it comes to a frosty jog you, need the best of women’s winter workout clothes to keep you comfortable and healthy. Proper workout attire can help ease the transition from the heated indoors to the cold air outside and keep you safe from the elements so you can make it through the winter fit and frostbite free.
Keep your bod protected.
Keeping your fitness routine going during the winter months is super important, but you can’t just wear the same tops and shorts that were your go-to’s in summer. You need your whole body protected from the elements to make sure your fitness routine isn’t going to do you any damage. You know when you walk outside in the winter and the air is super dry and cold? That dry air is actually drying your skin. This means that in addition to stretching and warming up, part of your pre-run routine needs to be skincare. Marina Peredo, MD, FAAD, says that you need a well-rounded, hydrating skincare routine in winter. “In order to prepare your skin for running in the cold weather, make sure you hydrate before, during, and after your run to avoid dehydration.” This means drinking lots of water and stocking up on your favorite facial moisturizer. Peredo says, “Wearing sunscreen in the winter months is just as important as the summertime.” She says your pre-workout skincare routine should involve applying a layer of moisturizer, letting that soak in for a minute or two, then applying a layer of sunscreen. “After a run, make sure to rinse and again apply a layer of moisturizer.” Keep up with your moisturizing routine all winter and your skin is sure to thank you. There’s also the lovely issue of Raynaud’s syndrome—a spasm in your arteries that reduces blood flow to your extremities including your fingers, feet, and toes—which occurs when you’re subjected to a stress, like exposure to a very sudden temperature drop in a workout ensemble that doesn’t protect you. One cold-weather run may not trigger an episode, but according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, women and those who live in cold climates are at increased risk and severe Raynaud’s can develop into skin sores or even gangrene (which is the death of bodily tissues—something you definitely want to prevent). To avoid these potential issues, do a little prep work, wear your sunscreen, and choose winter workout clothes that will keep you comfortably warm and protected.
Opt for quality over quantity.
If you’re a diehard runner all year long but your budget is tight, we strongly suggest investing in a few key pieces of winter workout gear that will keep you protected. It’s better to do laundry a little more often than to go out in harsh conditions wearing workout clothes that could literally put your health at risk. There are several things you need to look for in winter workout gear. You want clothes that are going to keep you warm and protected from harsh winds and low temps, but are still breathable. You know you’ll still sweat—even in winter—so clothing made of fabrics that wick away moisture is your best bet. When moisture comes into contact with your skin, it helps you cool down, which is great during the summer heat but can pose a risk in winter weather.
Say no thanks to cotton.
A 2011 study found that the best fabrics for cold weather use moisture-wicking technology. This means no cotton (which does not wick moisture well), at least when it comes to the first layer of clothing that will be touching your skin. Studies show fabrics with increased moisture-wicking abilities made study participants feel more comfortable, and that added comfort was noted if a fabric was ribbed. Keep an eye out for ribbed thermal shirts and leggings made of moisture-wicking fabric. You can look for labels like Coolmax to see if an item is moisture wicking.
Outdoor Winter Workout Clothes
The colder it gets, the more layers you should wear, starting with a long-sleeve top and long pants as a first layer and adding layers of tops, jackets, pants, and accessories the colder it gets. You’ll have to use your best judgement (and maybe a little trial and error) to make sure you’re adequately prepared for the cold, but not overheating once you get into your groove.
Start off with a pair of performance leggings as your first layer. Something nice and tight that’s made of moisture-wicking fabric is a must. If you need more layers on your legs, it’s much easier to slip on a pair of sweats over compression leggings that fit like a second skin. Our recommendations are Under Armour’s ColdGear Leggings, ASICS’ Winter Tights and Thermopolis Tights, and Athleta’s Polartec® Sculptek Tight.
We like winter workout jackets to be light and breathable while still adding a lot of warmth (bonus points if they have reflective elements to ensure you’re seen by passing cars, whether you’re jogging before sunrise or grinding it out after work at night). The Under Armour Storm Layered Up Half Zip and the Nike Dry Fit Element Half Zip Running Top are perfect for when it’s definitely cold but you’re not going to be freezing. When the temps really drop (or when it’s raining or snowing), go for the Athleta Wind Sprint Jacket. It’s made with Primaloft Eco insulation to keep you warm, has a hood that packs down into the collar, and is water-resistant to help you brave the elements.
Shoes and Socks
Breathable shoes—like those with mesh vents—are necessary to let moisture out, no matter what time of year you’re exercising. Of course, this is a major double-edged sword in winter, since shoes that let moisture out can also let the cold—and moisture like slushy snow—right back in. When it comes to winter running shoes, look for a pair with Gore Tex, since it’s both breathable and waterproof. The Adidas Terrex Trailmaker Shoe and the Salomon Speedcross Trail Running Shoe are both great options. If an investment in your shoes isn’t in the budget, grab some Quik Solve Traction Shoe Cleats to help keep you from slipping and falling on snow or ice. Socks for running in winter need to keep your feet protected from routine workout perils (like blisters), keep your toes and ankles insulated, and keep your feet nice and dry. We’re really choosy when it comes to running socks! Our favorites for winter are the Balega Running Socks, SmartWool PhD Run Ultra Light Socks, and the Darn Tough Vermont 1/4 Socks.
Accessories for Fingers, Face, and Beyond
Other things you’ll need (but may not have thought of) are mittens, ear warmers, and eye protection. In general if it’s not too frigid, opt for gloves like The North Face Women’s Etip Gloves. They’ll keep your hands protected but won’t weigh you down. That said, if it’s particularly cold, mittens are your best bet for trapping warmth and keeping your fingers protected from the cold. The Carhartt Insulated Breathable Mitt is an awesome option for freezing days, but they can be bulky. If you need a little more flexibility, opt for lululemon’s Run Fast Gloves, which are a mix between gloves and mittens that give you the best of both worlds. As for ear warmers, we like fleece options that will keep your ears nice and warm while you run. The TrailHeads Ponytail Headband is great because there’s a slot for a ponytail to slip through so longer-haired gals don’t get all tangled up. The Turtle Fur Heavyweight Headband doesn’t have the same ponytail slot, but it is kitten soft and ultra warm. If you’re headed out on a freezing cold day, up the ante and go for a full balaclava. The Self Pro Fleece Hood will keep your whole head and neck covered and you can slip off the head covering if you get a little too steamy.
Protecting Your Peepers
Although we all love a good winter snow, the reflection of the sun off an endless surface of white can be painfully bright. Invest in a pair of running sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun rays and fast-falling snow. The RIVBOS Sports Sunglasses and the Duduma Sports Sunglasses will both get the job done. If you’re exercising in inclement weather—or maybe skiing or snowboarding—opt for a pair of UV-blocking ski goggles. The COOLOO Ski Goggles will do the trick, keeping the sun and all the other elements out of your eyes.
Winter Gym Gear Guide
While winter workout gear may inspire a frosty jog, who’s to say you’ll do every single one of your winter workouts outside? Some of us become gym rats the second the temperature drops because even though the outdoors afford us scenic views, a treadmill gets the job done without the necessity of braving the elements. Switching up your workout routine to include indoor-only days isn’t a bad idea during winter, but dressing to go from the chilly outdoors into the gym and back again is important. Here are our winter gym recommendations:
The dreamy lululemon Get Set Long Sleeve offers an extra bit of warmth thanks to its long sleeves while still being super cute. It has an open back that is downright fashion forward and will serve as a heat vent during sweaty spin classes. If you need a lighter top without the long sleeves, we’re digging the Athleta Yogini Tank and Studio Crop Tee. Both offer a loose fit for days when you’re hitting the pilates studio or a hot yoga class.
We want our sports bras to have support (without being suffocating), be wire free, and—please!—be attractive if at all possible. The Queenie Ke Cross Back Sports Bra, Adidas Training TechFit Bra, and Under Armour Eclipse Mid-Impact Bra all get the job done. Plus, each of these has a thoughtful detail on the back that would be perfect peeking out of the lululemon open-back top.
Pants and Leggings
The legging options from Girlfriend Collection are amazing. They’re compression leggings, so they’re very tight (which makes your butt look incredible, by the way) and extra soft. We also love lululemon leggings like the Align Pant that are super soft and made of moisture-wicking fabric. For more low-key workout days, suit up in fitted sweatpants. They’re easy to move in and keep you cozy. Our top pick is the budget-friendly C9 Champion Jogger Pants, which are also moisture wicking, meaning they’ll keep you dry and warm. You could also wear these sweats over compression leggings if you’re going to be doing some traveling inside and out. We like to have larger layers for our outerwear so it’s sure to fit over our gym clothes. Another option is to kick it oldschool with these Adidas Warm Up Pants.
Go for something casual that will fit inside your gym locker no problem. The lululemon Fluff the Cold Parka may look big and puffy, but it squishes down with ease. You won’t mind wearing it when you’re out and about, too, which means its versatility goes beyond the gym. For an athleisure vibe, try the Champion Tech Fleece Asymmetrical Jacket. It’s way more interesting than your standard hoodie.
Winter Transitional Workout Clothes
When the winter weather is finally starting to let up (can we all get excited for that yet?), we like to lighten things up a bit. These transitional workout picks are cute enough that you could run errands in them before or after pounding the pavement. They’re still made of moisture-wicking fabrics to keep you comfortable, but aren’t quite as heavy duty as some of our previous picks.
Jackets and Vests
The luxe lululemon Light as Warmth jacket is made from a lightweight fleece so you can wear it over a workout top and underneath a heavier winter jacket if you need to. Our lighter, sportier picks are the Adidas Designed 2 Move Track Top and the Urban CoCo Zip Hoodie. These both ensure that extra layer of warmth without any added bulk. Of course, the weirdest weather to dress for is that time right between winter and spring. It’s still chilly enough that you typically want a little more than one of those light jackets on, but a big puffer jacket is just too heavy. This is when we turn to cute vests. We’re a little in love with the lululemon Down For A Run Vest, The North Face Mossbud Swirl Vest, and the Columbia Heavenly Vest.
Top your transitional look off with a cute scarf and a headband and you’re looking downright stylish for your pre-run school pickup or trip to the grocery store. We’re digging this lululemon Vinyasa Scarf because you can loop it up for several different looks. Or opt for this Reflective Knit Neck Warmer, which is a great option for shorter days since it will keep you visible and safe when running in the dark. Regardless of whether you’re hitting the running trail or the treadmill, we hope you keep your fitness goals going this winter! Not only is getting exercise in good for your whole body, but it can help you pep up when you’re feeling the winter blues. Just make sure to layer up, and don’t forget your mittens!