Outer Gear Shopping Tips for Snow Season

Snow season is just around the corner and with that comes great opportunities to hit the slopes, go snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or just have a good snowball fight. Regardless of your winter snow activities, take the time now to be sure you have the right gear for your sport. If you are warm and comfy, you will enjoy yourself longer and also keep yourself safe from hypothermia. Here are some outer gear shopping tips to keep you going long and strong in your winter outdoor activities.

  • Moisture-wicking base and middle layers: The trick with most active winter sports is temperature control as you heat up and begin to sweat and then start to cool down on the lift or at a resting point. A most critical feature of your inner-most layer and also your mid layer is wicking capability so that sweat is drawn away from your skin. If your clothing does not do this for you, you risk not just getting chilled, but hypothermia. It’s always a safe idea to bring extra base layers to change into and get the sweaty ones off your skin.
  • Multiple middle layers for less bulk: Make sure you can peel off layers as needed, rather than going for a single, bulkier middle layer. This allows for greater flexibility depending on the conditions and how much you begin to sweat.
  • Vents and zips for temperature control: These are critical features to have in your outer layer. Sometimes you start to really heat up, but taking off your waterproof and windproof outer layer is not necessarily wise. Look for jackets that have multiple vents at the critical spots such as arm pits and sides.
  • A lightweight, yet wind and waterproof shell: Manufacturers are coming out with amazingly light weight storm shells for tucking away in a pocket to have as an option for weather protection if needed.
  • Moisture-wicking head gear: Whether you prefer a hat, head band, baklava, or neck gaiter, go for moisture-wicking properties. Baklavas and neck gaiters offer some variety of ways to wear them and moderate your body temperature.
  • Gloves specific to your sport: Depending on your sport and personal preference, you need to decide if gloves or mittens are best for you. Dexterity and ease of use depend on if you need to access zippers or smaller pockets. Regardless, you want a glove or mitten that comes with liners for moisture absorption and the ability to wash so you don’t get “glove stink”. Other great features to look for such as wrist leashes to prevent lost gloves and touch screen sensor capabilities are nice for using your smartphone without having to take of your gloves.

Check out this in-depth glove and mitten review to help you consider the right options for your winter sport.

So don’t go for the bargain basement deals when it comes to your winter sports clothing. Find the right features for you and your sport and you will be comfy and active all winter long.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

 

Trail Running Safely

Trail running is growing in popularity just as hiking is. However, even the most experienced road runners will tell you that trail running can seem like an entirely different sport. One issue that is less of an issue with road running is personal safety due to the backcountry challenges as well as varying and challenging terrain. There is no need to shy away from trail running as long as you consider safety precautions and take care to implement them.

  • Good form translates to safety: On a typical run, you don’t need to worry about catching your toe on a root or rock when you tire at the end of your run on uneven and unpredictable terrain. It is a different story on the trail. Take care to lift your feet and shorten your stride. When running downhill, keep your center of balance lower and arms looser down at your sides for stability.
  • Let someone know where you are: Leave a note, send a text, or even post to social media. If you should need help, people need to know where to go.
  • Consider trail running shoes as opposed to regular runners: They are engineered for more support and the soles have traction designed for the trail environment.
  • Know your surroundings: This is not the time to wear ear buds. Be alert and oriented to the route. Trails tend to look similar and even on a trail you run frequently, it can be easy to take a wrong turn or miss a landmark. Be alert and take mental notes as you go along of particular trees or large boulders.
  • Know your route: study a map ahead of time and carry a copy with you, especially if you are trying a new trail system.
  • Adapt constantly: The trails change often and repeatedly, you cannot expect to hit your stride and rhythm as you do on road runs. It is a completely different beast and you need to adjust accordingly.
  • Be ready for the hills: they come steep and long and you may need to actually “power hike” some of the steeper ones instead of running.
  • Protect yourself with pepper spray or other easily carried form of personal protection.
  • Wear bright colors, especially if it is hunting season.
  • Utilize a fanny pack or small backpack for extra food and water just in case your 1 hr. run takes some unexpected turns and you are out longer. It needs to be big enough for a basic first aid kit or the 10 essentials.
  • Have your cell with you for safety: Better yet, download a running app and set it going not only to log your run, but as a safety back up if you should get lost.
  • Bears: although bear attacks on runners or hikers are extremely rare, it is a factor you should consider:
    • Bears would much rather run the other way, so making noise, clapping whooping hollering or blow a whistle to send teddy packing.
    • If you run with a do, keep it leashed since most dogs will aggravate an otherwise timid bear.
    • Bears are less likely to bother groups, so run with a buddy.
    • Avoid running trails at dawn or dusk when bears are more active.

By no means should this post discourage or frighten you from the wonderful world of trail running. Just take these tips into consideration and stay safe as you put on the miles in a wonderful and fresh new environment.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Must-Have Gear for Wet Weather Workouts

For all you outdoor enthusiasts…and also fort those of you on the fence that need to know you can actually have fun slogging through the rainy season and still get in some outdoor workouts, we have some gear ideas and tips for you!

Making sure you are comfortable and safe is 80% of the game of wet weather workouts. When you are comfortable from feeling the worst effects of the weather conditions, you are able to relax and enjoy your run or other outdoor workout. But also, having some cool new gear to wear and use may be just the ticket to get you out there.

First of all think safety:

  • Before you even head out the door, make sure you know the forecast. This time of the year the conditions can change quickly. A good weather app for your phone is one of the most important pieces of high tech equipment for outdoor workouts. If a really bad cold front or lightening is coming, head to the gym or community center. Be safe!
  • Communicate: Your smartphone should be there for you in case of an emergency first and for your playlist second. Protect it with a water proof sleeve or even a baggie. Don’t head out the door with a low battery, so plan ahead.
  • Be visible: whether you are cycling, running, or power walking, have as much reflective strips on legs, arms, helmet as you can. You can even purchase a reflective construction vest to toss on over your workout gear and be assured of being seen. Reflective clothing is not enough, however. Cyclists should have lights on the front and back of your bike and even mount one on your helmet. Runners and walkers can wear headlamps sold at most sporting goods stores and even the hardware store
  • Get a grip: With your shoes, we mean. If your running shoes are getting worn and even smooth on the bottom, one step in the wrong direction on a wet surface can result in a bad fall and pulled muscles or even worse. The beginning of the wet season is just the time to start out with a fresh pair of shoes.
  • Be smart with layers: Starting from the outside in, have a nylon waterproof and windproof outer layer. In cold weather if you are soaked to the skin, you will lose body heat and chill quicker, putting yourself at risk for hypothermia. To allow for regulating your temperature, look for shells with arm pit zips and other ventilation options so you can adjust if you need to “breathe”
  • Top it off: a hat with a brim to keep from losing body heat through the top of your head and also for keeping rain out of your eyes for visibility.

Now think comfort:

  • Dry out your shoes when you are done by stuffing with crumpled up newspaper to help them hold their shape. Fight odors with these nifty little Stuffit’s, the antimicrobial drying inserts combat moisture and kill odor in shoes. Never put running or other shoes in the drier or in front of a heat vent. It can cause them to shrink and dry out of shape.

Consider your materials:

  • Polyester: Moisture-wicking, quick-drying polyester is marketed under a variety of names. Each has proprietary characteristics to enhance performance.
    • Merino wool:Its’ one of the best body temperature regulating materials for both cool and warm weather. Wool is also moisture-wicking and has fast-drying properties that are naturally antimicrobial and help fight bad odors.
    • Chafe-free seams:Look for flat or welded seams placed away from areas that could impede your stride or natural running motion.
    • Nylon:Quick-drying, moisture-wicking nylon is frequently used alone or blended with other fabrics and offers excellent durability in running shorts, pants and lightweight jackets.
    • Mesh vents:Many tops are augmented with cooling mesh panels for high-heat areas such as your back, underarms and sides.

There are all kinds of fun techie gadgets with GPS heart rate monitors, altimeters, barometers, and compasses to do a whole lot more than just tell the time. But make sure your first focus is safety and that your gadgets don’t distract you from being aware of your surroundings and changing conditions.

So get set with some of our suggestions and get on out there and have some fun this rainy season!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Tips for Walking or Running Safely in Wet Weather

For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, running, walking or exercising in the rain is a given unless you plan to stay indoors 9 months out of the year. People who are new to outdoor workouts may not yet realize that some of your best workouts can occur in inclement or wet weather. The trick is to be prepared, consider your safety, and have appropriate gear.

We have some basic tips for you to consider and plan for to keep you active and moving all fall and winter long!

  • Layers: This standby is not only appropriate for the trail or the slopes. Insure that the innermost layer that touches your body is a wicking fabric that draws moisture and sweat away from your skin. A wind and water resistant jacket is helpful for your outer layer. Look for breathable options with zip vents for helping to regulate heat. If it is extremely cold, a middle, thermal layer is appropriate. While running in winter weather, I am prepared to peel off one of those layers as needed and tie around my waist.
  • Reflective clothing: This can be all out reflective jackets or shirts, or even just those with stripes or sections that have a reflective portion. It is amazing how these increase your visibility to motorists.
  • Be aware: I am constantly amazed (and at time startled) at how pedestrian walkers and runners forget how much more difficult it is for a motorist to see you than the other way around. Make eye contact at crosswalks and corners to be sure the driver really does know you are about to cross.
  • Get a grip: Make sure the soles of your running or walking shoes do not have worn tread and actually can give you some grip on slippery sidewalks. It is a small price to pay to invest in a new pair for the rainy season if they help prevent falls. Take extra precaution when taking corners or running on changing surfaces that may be more slippery than the last.
  • Communicate: Make sure someone from home knows which route you are taking and when you expect to be home. A simple text will do.
  • Warm up and cool down: This is especially critical in cooler weather. Nursing a pulled or torn muscle is not a fun way to spend your fall or winter.
  • Fuel up: Your body has to work extra to regulate your temperature and if you plan to head out on a long run or walk, make sure you are fueled adequately and not heading out on a completely empty stomach.

These are just some starters to keep you safe and out there on the road/track/trail through the colder and wetter months. If you have some wet weather running tips for us, please share, we would love to hear what works for you.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Top Features for Your Fall and Winter Fitness Clothing

Outdoor workouts in the colder fall and winter months can be invigorating and offer refreshingly new settings and conditions. The colder temperatures and added rain or even snow can make for challenges, put a damper on a workout, or even post risks of injury. Having the right kind of winter fitness clothing can go a long way in increasing your comfort and keeping you in the game. Layering allows you to customize your comfort according to the changing conditions as well as your body temperatures.

  • Inner Layers: Cotton, while it is breathable and soft is usually one of the worst choices for cold and wet conditions. It doesn’t wick moisture away from your body and the moment you slow down or stop, you begin to chill. Cotton also traps sweat and can impede proper cooling of your body. The same issue occurs with cotton socks. However the result of trapped moisture usually is blisters in addition to the cold. Look instead for moisture wicking fabrics especially for the layers close to or immediately next to your skin. On the label, look for technical or performance fabrics such as polyester and Lycra. Smart wool or merino wool are great options for the colder regions. The “no cotton” rule applies to your undergarments as well, so check those before you head out into the elements.
  • For insulation or middle layers, fleece is one of the best materials on the active-wear market. Consider your activity as well as duration and make sure to pack along options for layering and removing layers as your activity level and body temperature changes. If you are running, make sure to keep an additional dry top to quickly change into in your car when your run ends. Natural fibers such as down and wool make wonderful insulation layers. The only drawback is they lose insulation factors as they get wet, so using these with an outer shell or on days when you know for sure there is no chance of encountering wet conditions is advised. Fleece options range from light weight such as Polartec 100 to heavier and wind resistance such as Polartec WindPro and Gore WindStopper.
  • Outer-Shell Layer: This one is for weather protection. If you are running in town and just encountering wet and a bit cool or cold temperatures, a lighter, water resistant shell is sufficient. Those with zip vents at the arm pits are especially nice for running to help regulate your temperature. Shells that are both water proof and breathable are the more expensive options, but allow for lighter weight and still offer waterproof protection for mountaineering, hiking, or skiing. Garments made with eVent and Gore-Tex are some of the best choices. Some shells come with a zip-in fleece layer which allows for more flexibility.

Although quality winter weather gear can be spendy, making the investment in your comfort and safety is worth it and well made products with a good warrantee will last you for years with proper care.

Stay warm and safe and keep on getting out there!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Rainy Day Workouts

Sometimes even the toughest and most committed are just not in the mood to brave the elements after a long day at work. While a gym membership is a great perk, it is not always an option. There are some creative ways you can get in a good workout even on those days. Regardless of which rainy day workouts you decide to do, make sure it consists of balance between resistance training (for your legs, chest, arms, and shoulders), Core work, cardio, and flexibility.

Very little, if any gear or equipment is needed. You can incorporate jogging in place, burpees, various bodyweight exercises and jumping rope. Check out these Plyometrics for explosiveness and metabolism burning. Just keep moving!

  • Stadium climb. Most of us live not too far from a high school or even a college. Running the stairs under the stadium roof is a great way to punch up your heart rate. Just be really aware of differing stair treads and risers and of course, any slippery places where water might be collecting. You can use the bleacher benches for triceps dips, bench pushups, and v-sits for your abs.
  • Go Military! Workout, that is! These twenty minute workouts developed by military.com are sure to get you in boot camp shape.
  • Since you are gaining altitude, try the stairs in your office building. It is amazing how quickly your heart rate climbs as you hit the stairs. Every other landing, stop and do some planks, crunches, and push-ups
  • Take it to your computer! There are an amazing choice of really great and full body workouts on YouTube. This HIIT Rainy Day Workout is not high on the Hollywood production bells and whistles, but it sure is effective and a challenge!

Remember to do a sufficient warm-up and cool down and drink plenty of water. After these rainy day workouts, you will be surprised at how much you have challenged yourself and kept pursuing fitness even on the wettest of days.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Safety Tips for Fall and Winter Outdoor Workouts

The weather outside is not frightful, yet, but if you plan ahead and are well prepared with the proper safety gear, you will be ready when those nasty days hit and you can continue your outdoor workouts in stride.

Taking some essential precautions and having the right gear will keep you safe and also comfortable (sometimes a relative term). This helps to go a long way in fighting the temptation to wait until the weather clears up. Word of warning: threat of lightening is no reason to tough it out and put yourself in danger. Head to the gym or community center on those days.

  • Know your conditions: There are a myriad of great weather apps out there for trail conditions, weather fronts coming in, and temperature changes. Make sure you have the apps that are applicable to the types of outdoor activities you will be doing, such as snow pack levels or tide/water conditions.
  • Make sure you are seen: Reflective clothing and also arm band lights and ankle lights insures that you can be seen in the dark or even low light of the late afternoon.
  • Have ID: one form of ID is essential. Make sure to choose workout gear with small pockets or zips just for this purpose.
  • Dress in layers and moisture-wicking clothing: When you can shed or add layers depending on your body heat and perspiration, you can control your exposure and manage your body temperature.
  • Know your surroundings: this includes not only knowing your route and where you intend to go (this is not the time to explore), but also consider removing the ear buds so you can be more aware of traffic and people around you on those dark nights. Choose paths that are well travelled.
  • Be a Buddy: Having a partner for those cold, dark nights can not only keep you on your plan, but there is safety in numbers and help if something should go wrong. At the very least, make sure someone knows your running plan and start and end times
  • Know the signs of Hypothermia: You don’t have to be back country skiing to risk exposure. Just about any outdoor activity in winter or wet weather can put you at risk. You only need to experience one of the following conditions to be in the early stages of hypothermia
    • Drowsiness
    • Uncontrollable shivering
    • Weakness
    • Confusion
    • Slowed breathing and/or heart rate
    • Pale, cold skin
    • Loss of coordination

Following these safety tips for your fall and winter outdoor adventures will increase your personal safety and also help you to feel more confident to continue with your workout plan into those colder months of the year.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

How to Choose the Right Footwear for Hiking

Let’s face it, getting out on the trail and enjoying the back country, fresh air, and challenging yourself is so much more enjoyable when your feet are happy and comfortable. While it is not necessary to spend top dollar on the most expensive name brand footwear out there, it is equally important not to scrimp and go for the cheapest. You’ll want to choose the right footwear for hiking – whatever the kind you are planning to do.

One of your first considerations is what kind of hiking that you intend to do. Trail running, short, local day hikes, or longer (8 + miles) multi-day backpacking trips over rocky and mountainous terrain? The variety and features to choose from allow you to find just the right shoe or boot for your style of hiking, yet it also can be a bit baffling wading through the information and not getting overwhelmed by all the options. Let us help you narrow things down and if you keep some of these tips in mind and you will get yourself in just the right pair of footwear for you.

Trail runners can be all you need for local day hikes and carrying light loads. They are low cut, usually light weight, and have a flexible midsole. A very experienced backpacker friend of mine is all about ultra-light and even uses his light weight trail runners for long backpacking trips.

Hiking shoes will offer more support than trail runners, will have a bit less flexibility, but

Offer a bit more rugged sole for short to medium hikes than do trail runners. If you are not carrying a huge, heavy pack, a well made hiking shoe can be all you need to get you where you need to go.

Hiking boots can be mid to high cut and comfortable enough for day hikes, yet offer support and protection over longer trips with sturdiness to take you over the most rugged of trails. Hiking boots tend to weigh more than hiking shoes and also a down side to hiking boots can be the need to break them in, depending on the pair.

Backpacking boots are for long, multi-day trips carrying a heavy load. The outsole will be more rugged, able to handle rocky terrain and they will have a higher cut and less flexibility than hiking boots. Of course, insulation and water proofing are some of their features as well as the ability to accommodate crampons for ice and snow.

In addition to the above styles and purposes, you need to consider if you plan to hike in damp or cold weather and may need waterproof shoes. I love my low cut, light weight hiking shoes, but wanted the option to also snowshoe with them, so gaiters and waterproofing were a part of the consideration.

Footwear durability and protection for your feet are determined by the materials. Look for full-grain leather for the greatest support and durability as well as weather resistance. Full grain leather also is less breathable and can be a plus or minus, depending on your needs.

Nylon and split rain leather or suede will provide more light weight features and breathability, especially with mesh panels. This is wonderful in the summer and dry months, but not so great if you plan to hike in wet or cold conditions, so consider this.

When you try on your shoes or boots, make sure to also be wearing a thick sock as you would also wear for hiking so that the fit is accurate. The shoe should not allow your foot to slide forward, yet there does need to be a bit of movement so that you have plenty of circulation. Pay attention that your heel doesn’t slip as you walk.

Most well reputed outdoor gear stores have well educated staff in the footwear section, so take advantage of their knowledge. Try on multiple pairs and styles, taking time to squat, lunge, jump to see if there are areas where the shoe may rub or chafe. Also ask about the return policy in the event that once you are out on the trail it becomes quite clear the fit or model is not for you.

You are investing in your feet and comfort, make the decision wisely and enjoy those trails!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

The Perfect Science of Layering for Fall Outdoor Workouts

For outdoor enthusiasts, a key component to success and sticking with a new outdoor pursuit is comfort. In the cooler fall and winter months, that means considering types of fabric and construction for garments and also smart layering. More important than even comfort is safety. Hiking or snow sports can be deadly when proper caution is not taken to stay warm and dry whether you are actively participating or at rest in between runs. Even if you are not hitting the mountains but prefer walking in the winter, smart layers should be considered.

When you layer your clothing you are able to stay warm when you are resting, yet also prevent overheating for outdoor workouts. Layers allow you to flex and adjust your insulation as you fluctuate between the two.

The three basic layers for all winter sports are your base layer next to your skin, your middle insulating layer, and your outer layer. For certain sports such as mountain climbing, people may opt for two insulating layers for greater flexibility and options.

  • Base Layer: The most important function of this layer is to wick sweat away from your body. When you sweat and moisture is insulated next to your skin, you chill faster. Wicking ability in the bas layer keeps your skin dry and therefore avoid cotton at all costs. Look for fabrics such as Thinsulate, Thermax, and Thermion, silk and polypropylene. Even your under-skivvies should not be cotton, so consider investing in undergarments just for your fall and winter sports.
  • Insulating layer: This is important to keep you warm when at rest or when you are not going really hard at it. Wicking ability is also important for this layer since some people will sweat all the way through their base layer. Vests or shirts that are easy to peel off are extremely helpful. Zip vents and even zip off sleeves and legs such as seen in convertible clothing articles are a good option. Fabrics to shoot for are fleece, wool, down. What you choose for this layer depends on the elements you will be facing. Wool and down are highly suggested for more extreme elements. Make sure to size this layer for fitting over your base layer and not constricting movement.
  • Outer Layer: This is your protection against direct contact with the elements such as rain, snow, and wind. Invest is a good quality water proof, windproof and breathable jacket or shell. Zipper options for ventilation when you get hot, offer that much more customization for your comfort. Zippered ankles make it faster to adjust and take off clothing over boots or shoes.
  • Head, Face, and Hands: Wicking for sweaty heads and hands is also a consideration for hats and gloves. Fleece is a good option, but with gloves, making sure to have a weather proof outer-mitt is essential. For extreme conditions, a full hood face mask offers face and neck coverage and flexibility to pull it down around your neck when not needed.

It is not necessary to spend top dollar on the most expensive gear. You can find amazing choices at thrift stores if you know what to look for. Just be sure to choose quality and flexibility for your greatest comfort and you will be enjoying those outdoor pursuits even in the most extreme of conditions!

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

Cycling Form: Getting Started on the Right Track

If you are new to cycling, it’s important to get started with good form so to avoid bad habits that lead to injuries or chronic strain. If you have been cycling a while, now is the time to clean up your act and check your form.

Cycling puts extra strain on the back, shoulders, neck and arms. It is important to create good habits with your cycling form, right from the start, so you can keep in the saddle in comfort.

  • First and foremost, keep your hips rotated forward and don’t allow them to rock in the saddle.
  • No locked elbows. This can be an indicator of your bike stem too long, which can be fixed with a simple adjustment. Locked elbows will transfer that tension up your arms and shoulders and make for a very stiff day the next day.
  • Long torso! Pull your stomach in toward your low back as you lengthen your torso. At the same down, bring your shoulder blades down and chest lifted.
  • Keep your eye on our line. Look further down than the front of your wheel. While this may sound like a no-brainer, but keeping your sight of vision down the road not only helps you to watch out for potholes, debris, etc., but it keeps your back and shoulders in correct position, as well.
  • Shift in advance: Plan ahead before you hit the hill and anticipate an easier gear a bit before you really need it. This will result in smoother transitions and help your shift to occur during a single crank revolution and not lose momentum. When your shifts are smoother, your back and shoulders can stay in good position and your leg power will be more efficient
  • Keep your knees in good pedal line, not moving in or out at the top of the pedal stroke. Excessive movement like this is usually the result of a tight inner thigh or IT band as well as a weak glute. When you keep your range of motion in the legs in a clean line you will be more efficient and less prone to knee injuries.

If you have continued strain or stiffness, you may need a better fit on your bike. Sometimes just a seat stem adjustment will do the trick. Stop by your local bike shop and get some advice, it can make all the difference in your comfort during and after rides.

Additionally, good pre and post-ride stretching sessions will help alleviate stiffness and prevent injuries.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com