January 1, 2015 Happy New Year!

Many new starts come our way with a new year. If you are willing and open to change, it can be a time to live differently and maybe even better than previously. There is just something about January 1st that whispers–“you know, a change might help or be fun or is entirely necessary.” Can you hear it? Many can’t or don’t want to but that whisper can start you on a better path to wherever you want to head.  Most people want improved health and at this time of year, we are flooded with advertising claiming to be able to take us there. There are many gimmicks and tools packed with promises that we’ll lose weight, gain muscle, look younger, thinner, sleeker and of course, healthier and happier. I’d like to suggest another way to approach this new year.

Go outside and get active. Oh, I hear the naysayers already…”I hate the cold…” Except in extreme conditions, the “cold” weather known as winter is quite easily managed. Letting it stop you from enjoying all there is on the other side of your front door is quite honestly, foolish. I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys being cold, but I know many people who know how to live in the cold without suffering. It really isn’t difficult at all.

Let’s assume you have no clothing for the cold weather and want to assemble a wardrobe that will enable you to get outside in the upcoming three months and live life. What would you need to obtain to be comfortable outside on a winter’s day?

First, you need wool blend socks. Your feet will sweat with activity and unless you have wool in your socks to wick the moisture away from your skin, your feet will get cold. No one likes cold feet. Your footwear needs to fit properly so the blood can circulate in your feet. Whether you are in sneakers for a walk around the park or in hiking boots going off on a local trail, your footwear has to fit properly with the wool socks. Invest time and a little money to achieve this. Wool socks come in a wide variety of weights and prices. You won’t break your budget buying them and they last a long time. Take care of your feet so they can take you on an adventure.

Next, you need a base layer of clothing that fits snugly against your skin. This used to be called “long underwear” but the power of layering clothing for cold management has left this term in a pile with the cotton long sleeve T-shirt. Your base layers should also have wool content for wicking moisture from the skin. The prices vary significantly for base layers and I would recommend getting the best your wallet can handle. You can sleep in them, wear them for errands (especially in a mountain town) and if cared for, they will outlast many frosts. Honestly, most real winter enthusiasts get at least two days worth of wear before switching them out and that is probably a low estimate. Your base layers are invaluable and worthy of your love and attention.

The next two layers are a bit more “activity specific” but warrant mentioning here as you prepare to enjoy winter beyond your couch. A mid-layer on your upper body helps to guard your body heat while also allowing you to “cool off” should you overheat. My favorite is a 1/4 zip long sleeve top with thumb holes to keep the sleeves in place over your wrists. The zipper from just below your chin to your upper chest allows for a quickly accessible cool down when you feel overheated from activity. It is efficient and easy way to spill off some heat without interrupting your activity. Over your 1/4 zip, feel free to layer with a flannel (wool blend recommended) or vest before donning your outer layer or jacket.  Avoid bulk as this is a hindrance to movement. The current day fabrics are designed to keep you warm without bulk and this is blessing. On your lower body,  your pants act as the mid and outer layer for most winter activities. Pants should block wind and moisture while allowing adequate movement.

The outermost layer of the upper body is the jacket and there are many options from which to choose. This is also where “sport specific” choices can be important. Generally speaking, pick a properly fitted jacket that accommodates your mid layers while allowing you to move comfortably whether you are raising a camera or reaching forward with a ski pole.

Lastly, never ignore your head, hands or eyes. ALWAYS cover your head (headbands don’t count-leave them in the 1980s). Wear gloves or mittens (leather or knit depending on hand use needs). The winter sun can be bright and even a cloudy day can offer enough glare to be annoying so protect your eyes with goggles or sunglasses (no metal frames until spring).

Protect your lips and skin against the cold air with the products of your choice but do use something. Drink water before and after your adventure.  Get out in footwear that offers support, warmth and traction and head out your front door to all the adventures that can be found in winter. See you there.

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