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Dressing For Success- Stefan Timms

Dress for Success

Stefan Timms

Power Suits, Bold Ties, High Cut Skirts – whatever it is you use to present yourself in your non-athletic world, your attire says something about you to your potential partners, employers, and clients.  The same can be said about the triathlon world.  If you are running around in cotton, then it says to the trained eye that either you enjoy chaffing and being cold, or you are new to the whole running outside thing.  The people you see out on their bikes in fully coordinated outfits probably live by the proverb: “it doesn’t matter where you finish as long as you look good!”  And who hasn’t enjoyed commenting to whomever they are with when they see someone jogging by in shorts and a singlet in zero degree weather.  Whatever you are wearing, the important thing is that you are out there training.  However, when the weather decides to challenge our desire to train outside by throwing rain or snow or sleet at us, it is important to understand how to dress so that you can complete you workouts in comfort, warmth, and safety.
So, if not cotton, then what?  Any technical running or cycling gear is now made of a wicking polyester fabric designed to transport moisture away from your skin and to stay light when wet.  You will find most major running companies, as well as a few clothing specific companies, producing high quality garment specifically designed to athletes to be comfortable when training outside in less than spectacular weather.
Layering is the most important aspect in being able to train in otherwise crappy weather.  Layering refers to the idea of wearing more than one layer of clothing as you train.  For some, you may do this instinctually and for others this may seem a foreign concept.  However, at the root of layering is the fact that the layer closest to your skin needs to be wicking moisture away and keeping your warm.  This idea of layering goes out the window if you decide to wear cotton as your first layer (the layer closest to your skin), as cotton loses its insulative properties once it is wet, and it holds water and becomes heavy, thus increasing the chance of chaffing.  Make sure to choose a wicking garment that fits snug, but not necessarily tight.  If your first layer is too loose, then not only will it bunch, but it will not be performing its function.  For a wicking garment to work, it needs to be in contact with your skin.  A loose garment that is not touching your skin will not be able to effectively transport moisture away from your skin.  The first layer is important because if it is not working properly, then anything you layer on top is effectively useless.
The middle layers are important in maintaining warmth and continuing to transfer moisture away from the skin.  In these layers you may be looking for something a little heavier than your first layer, and something with a zipped neck may be of benefit, in case you get a little too warm in your workout.  Generally this layer will be a long-sleeved shirt, and it should be a little looser fitting than your first layer, although nothing should be truly baggy.  This is the layer that will hold the warmth that your body creates close to your core, but allow the moisture to escape.  Depending on where you are or what type of weather you are dealing with, you may need a couple middle layers, but generally one layer will be sufficient as the amount of heat your body generates while in motion will help to keep you warm.
The outer layers are important for a few reasons.  Since it is the layer that is in direct contact with the elements, it needs to be durable and a little water resistant.  This is the layer that is breaking the wind and keeping the rain from seeping into your bones.  While the outer layer keeps the rain out, it also needs to allow for the release of the moisture that is being transferred out from your skin.  In addition, as this is the layer that most people are going to see, it needs to be visible, especially if you train at night.  The outer layers are predominantly light jackets or vests, and they should have some sort of reflective material on them.  All your training means nothing if a car hits you, so make sure that you are visible to all those out there.
Layering is most important on your upper body, but don’t forget your feet and legs.  Again, depending on wear you are, you may need a light pair of tights and a pair or running/cycling pants to break the wind.  Your feet should be wrapped in a good pair of running/cycling socks; which is probably the most important piece of clothing that you will buy. There are a number of accessories as well, items such as running toques and gloves, cycling booties, waterproof gloves, arm warmers and kneeckers, all of which will allow you train in more comfort, and keep your extremities warm.
All the aforementioned items, and the idea of layering them, are not only beneficial for looking good and training in relative comfort, but they will also help to maintain your health (as your immune system is not being suppressed by fighting off the cold weather) and your safety (reflective material making you more visible to those that may otherwise hit you with their car).  It is a wise investment to dress for success when training, one that will allow you to be outside when your competitors are looking out their windows, watching you go by!

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