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Workout Wear Layers

No matter what time of year it is, it is usually a good idea to dress in layers when you work out. The weather can always change, so by wearing layers, you can always make adjustments: zip up, unzip, remove or replace. Lots of people reach for that favorite cotton T when they exercise, but cotton, once wet, has little or no insulating value. It simply gets soaked and keeps you that way.

Here are the layers you should think about wearing:

  1. The Inner Layer (next to your skin). You'll want to keep your skin comfortable and dry and this layer is key. Look for wicking fabrics that tend to transport moisture from your skin to the outer layer you're wearing. Silk has been the fabric of choice for many years (and it's still the softest), but polypropylene and Cool-Max do the job well.
  2. The Middle Layer (temperature control). These are the adjustable garments that offer insulation even if they get damp from the inside (sweat) or out (rain or snow). Wool is the traditional choice, but polyester fleece materials are the current favorite. They are light, can be compressed and come in a variety of styles and weights. In colder weather, you might layer more than one garment-such as a lightweight fleece turtleneck with a medium-weight jacket or wool sweater. In milder weather, a wool shirt or fleece vest may suffice; and in the summer months, this layer disappears altogether.
  3. The Outer Layer (wind and water resistance). This layer is designed to protect you from the wind zapping your energy and the cold chilling your skin. The traditional choice is oil-soaked canvas, nylon and rubberized-nylon jackets. Gore-Tex started a revolution with materials that allow some amount of sweat, in the form of water vapor, to pass through them without letting rain come in. Now almost every manufacturer has a product that claims the same standard. The more challenging the conditions, the more you should go high-tech. For many warm-weather hikers, a reasonably priced treated nylon jacket will work fine. If you expect to be exposed to excessive wind and rain, consider wind/rain pants as well.