An avid runner, she plans to compete in some of the upcoming Snowball Classic Series Races in St. Louis. However, when the temperature falls, she says you should protect yourself with the right clothing and gear.

Emily Klockenga of Springfield, Ill., doesn’t have to worry about getting enough sun during the long, dark winter. She hardly ever lets cold weather stop her workout.

An avid runner, she plans to compete in some of the upcoming Snowball Classic Series Races in St. Louis. However, when the temperature falls, she says you should protect yourself with the right clothing and gear.

Dressing in layers is still recommended. But if you haven’t updated your athletic wardrobe in awhile, you might be surprised how little bulk you might need to stay warm thanks to synthetic fabrics.

“If it is 38 degrees or warmer, you can still find me wearing my running shorts/form-fitted compression shorts, along with either ... arm sleeves with my singlet or a long-sleeve (Nike) Dri-FIT shirt, gloves and my ... running skull cap.”

Klockenga advises people who exercise outdoors to wear synthetic socks instead of cotton socks, which absorb moisture.

“(Synthetic socks) wick away moisture ... and help prevent blisters and cold, frostbite feet,” she says. “Also, avoid tight running shoes, as they decrease circulation to the toes.”

If the temperature is colder than 38 degrees, Klockenga wears running pants. For high winds and blowing snow, she wears a face mask and fleece mittens.

To beat the extreme elements, Klockenga likes to wear clothing made with fabrics designed especially for the cold. The Nike Dri-FIT, for example, is lightweight and breathable to help dissipate sweat; Nike Therma-FIT is designed for heat retention; and Nike Storm-FIT repels rain, wind and snow.

Other clothing manufacturers, including Asics, New Balance, North Face and Under Armour, offer cold-weather exercise garb as well.

Avoid medical problems

Dr. Aamir Banday, emergency room physician for St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill., says the right clothes are especially important when it’s cold outside. He sees patients in the ER each year who suffer from hypothermia, frostnip and frostbite.

Frostnip, he says, is the earliest stage of frostbite, when blood flow starts to decrease, causing a numb, heavy or burning sensation in the extremities, like the hands, feet or ears. The symptoms of frostbite, which can permanently damage skin, include itching, burning, numbness, blistering and a deceptive warming sensation.

“Prevent problems by wearing multiple layers to keep the skin warm,” Banday says. “Cover your head, nose, ears, hands and feet. Keep your socks and gloves dry, and watch for symptoms (of hypothermia or frostbite) that include red skin, weakness, dizziness or nausea.”

Because sweat evaporates more quickly during exercise in cold weather, staying hydrated is important. Drink 15 to 20 ounces of water for each hour of exercise.

“Hydration is key,” Banday says. “Drink water and eat the right amount of carbs for energy (before going outside).”

Preparing your body

According to the American Chiropractic Association, outdoor winter exercise can pose risks for people who are not used to exercising or being in the cold. Winter sports, such as skating, skiing, sledding and even just walking, can cause joint pain, muscle spasms, strains or tears if you aren’t in good shape, according to

The ACA website recommends easing into a winter exercise routine. A good warm-up and layers of warm clothing to prevent pain and injury associated with exercising in cold weather is the best defense.

Tips to stay safe outdoors

If you have a pre-existing condition, such as asthma, heart problems or Raynaud’s disease, check with your doctor before going outdoors to exercise. Dress in layers: Start with a thin layer of synthetic material like polypropylene, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation, and top with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. Wear a facemask or scarf if the temperature is very cold. Consider your activity: Stop-and-go exercise, like running-and-walking intervals, can make you more vulnerable to the cold than if you continue the intensity of your exercise. When it’s cold, your blood flow is concentrated on your body’s core. Protect your hands and feet with layers of gloves and/or mittens and socks. Protect ears with a hat or headband. Choose footwear with adequate traction. Don’t forget sunscreen. Your skin can suffer damage from UVA and UVB rays even during winter. Wear goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes. Exercising in extreme cold and/or wet conditions can be unsafe. If the temperature dips below zero degrees, stay indoors.

-- Source: MayoClinic.com