Feeling the burn outdoors

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baby it's cold outside, but the holiday parties, feasts and treats make exercising a necessity in the winter months and the easiest way to burn some calories is by getting outside and taking a walk, run or bike ride.

The benefits of that outdoor activity are numerous, but so are the woes. Your nose tends to run as much as you do; your knuckles go numb from the wind; and inevitably you overdress and end up burning up halfway through the route.

Technology comes to the rescue. Sports clothing lines have come up with countless apparel and accessories to help you out.

The most widely available brand in this area is Under Armour. You can find it in almost every sports store. The material will wick away the sweat -- absorb it from your skin and bring it to the outside of the fabric where it dries instead of weighing down the clothes like cotton would -- but the winter gear is thick enough to also keep you warm.

Layering helps for when you start cold and warm up through the miles. Get a thin, windproof jacket for the outer layer that lets heat out, but blocks the cold air. Flaps over the zipper will keep the elements from sneaking in, and some models have zippers in the armpits that serve as vents.

For the extremities, two words: hat, gloves. Runners can get by with thinner gloves, but walkers will need a thick, protective glove to keep the fingers from freezing.

Brooks, a popular and trustworthy running brand, carries Vapor-Dry Gloves that not only wick sweat from your hands, but are made partially of a softer fabric that's great for wiping your face or that pesky leaking nose. Just make sure to wash them often or they'll start to either smell or, well, they can get a little crusty.

Look for gloves that have grips on the palm so you can still operate a music player or hold your keys coming or going.

Your head releases heat like a chimney. A hat can keep that heat in or let it out. Find one with a drawstring around the top so you can adjust the flow as necessary. An option if you know you don't want full crown coverage -- or to fit under a bike helmet -- is a headband that will cover your ears but leave your head open for venting.

Now you've got the coverage taken care of, make sure to do some internal maintenance and preparation. Cold weather calls for more of a warm up than the summer because in those months the heat helps warm your body naturally.

Also, running or riding past snowy yards and hills can be fun and exhilarating, but watch for patches of ice that can send you sliding.

So, no more excuses because of the elements. Get out into the cold and burn off that sugar cookie and the bread pudding and the eggnog and the ...

Now you know.

Have a quest? Features Editor Chris Harris is ready to hunt down the answer. Send questions to charris@semissourian.com, post on semissourian.com/blogs under "Quest for the Healthy Grail" or c/o Quest, 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63703.

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