As a longtime DC resident, autumn is my favorite season -- in large part because the horrid, swampland humidity that smothers the nation's capital has finally departed. But even without that welcome change in temperatures, fall provides prototypical conditions for hiking, walking, running, and working outdoors, from the crisp air to the palate of changing leaves.
Autumn also offers rollercoaster of weather conditions. And for some, those cold mornings can be reason enough to forego a workout. To help you avoid that excuse, here's a full-proof strategy for weathering fall variable temperatures.
Start Off Cold
If you feel perfectly comfortable (or even warm) the moment you step outside, you're going to be roasting ten minutes into your workout. Endure some chilliness as you warm up, and by the time you've hit your stride, your body will generate enough heat to offer that perfect equilibrium.
Dress in Layers
Fall starts off cold, warms up by midday, and cools off again at night. And rain can hit pretty much any time. By layering, you can adjust your ensemble to match those variable conditions--shedding clothes as you warm up, donning more as things get colder.
Start with a merino wool base layer. The super-soft, all-natural fabric will keep you warm if you sweat, and doesn't retain body odor. Then, add a mid-layer, typically a medium-weight long-sleeved shirt made of polyester or merino. The ones with generous zippers that drop to your sternum will help you micro-regulate your heat.
Finish off with a soft shell. These jackets may not be as bombproof against the elements as a hard shell jacket, but soft shells protect you from about 90 percent of the foul weather you'll encounter. They also breathe better, which will make you more comfortable while performing outdoor aerobic activities. Runners should go with a lightweight shell, while cyclists should consider thicker, windproof jackets since conditions are amplified when traveling at faster speeds. Some jackets also come with zippered vents to rapidly expel heat when things get really active.
Vest are also a great, low-weight way to keep your core warm without constricting your arm movement. Consider one in lieu of a jacket in milder conditions.
Shorts or Pants
Let the activity (and your own comfort level) guide you to the right apparel for your lower extremities. Running and cycling -- activities that keep the blood pumping in your legs -- are perfect for shorts (and you can wear a pair of funky socks if you're fashionably inclined). Hiking and less intense activities? Go with a pair of stretchy pants or tights. But guys, if you wear the tights, do the world a favor and toss a pair of running shorts over them.
Keep the Head Warm
What your mother said was true: most of the body heat escapes from the head. Go with a thin merino wool stocking hat, which will let the head breath while also keeping you warm and comfortable. It also nicely absorbs sweat without making you feel cool. Polyester cycling hats worn under the helmet also provide a surprising amount of warmth. But if you find you overheat with a hat on, try a stretchy polyester band to keep your ears warm.
Unless you're engaging in an activity like cycling, where your hands are fully exposed to the elements, the hands and fingers become naturally warm as you work out due to increased blood flow. If you're prone to colder hands, try a thin pair of runner's gloves; otherwise try long-sleeved shirts with thumbholes at the sleeves. This lets you pull the cuffs about halfway down your hands for a bit of added warmth and protection.
By Nathan, Pure Matters