Winter — something that officially starts around December 21 each year — has already hit most of America, including Chicago and several other major cities.
On November 11, it was in the 60’s as folks ambled merrily through the Chicago Loop carrying their jackets. The next day, it reached a high of 33 and turned much colder for the next couple of weeks with daytime highs barely struggling up into the 20’s. Morning commute wind chills, also called “real feel,” got down to below zero, inched up into the single digits and didn’t rise above the teens for days on end.
This was so sudden, with no chance for a body to properly acclimate to this climate change moderately over time. Locals are expressing frustration over nature’s sudden deep freeze. It could be we really are in for another challenging winter.
Don’t stress, dress for it. Never mind that it’s only November and it’s often pleasant at this time of year: pull out your full arsenal of winter wear, because brutal cold is nothing to take lightly. Ready yourself for comfort in the cold and, importantly, strive to stay well.
Clothing & Accessories:
o Don your heavy-duty wind-resistant winter coat.
o Consider wearing a longer coat as opposed to a short jacket to protect more of your body from the cold.
o Hoods, especially detachable hoods, are oh-so practical for every coat and jacket you own if you live in Chicago, but if yours don’t include hoods, you could wear a hoodie under your coat, pull out the hood and use it.
o Don’t leave your neck exposed; scarves are important.
o Cover your head, especially your ears. Check out ear muffs and headbands with built-in headphones.
o Don’t bare your hands, risking frostbite. Get a pair of gloves you can keep on while using your device’s touch screen and for texting.
o You’ll find you stay warmer in boots than shoes, but make sure they can withstand water and snow. If they’re not naturally waterproof, spray them with a water-proofer you can buy in the shoe department or at a shoe store.
o Choose the fabrics that will be closest to your skin with great care. Be aware that cotton is known in the outdoor world as “the fabric of death” and keep in mind the slogan “cotton kills.” Philip Werner on his site Sectionhiker.com explains this aptly and recommends the best modern fabrics for outdoor cold.
o Layer up with sweaters that you can remove indoors.
o Slacks are warmer than skirts or dresses.
o Slacks or skirts can be supplemented with warm tights, long underwear, fleece leggings, leg warmers.
o Get yourself some nice wool tights.
o Thermal “long underwear” tops and bottoms make a distinct difference in warmth.
o Warm leggings, especially the fleece leggings they sell at Walgreens, will keep your legs so warm that you’ll probably want to remove them once you’re indoors.
o Leg warmers, popular in the 70’s and 80’s, are back in style, and cuter than ever.
o Some gals go without a hat because they don’t want to ruin their hairstyle with a hat that flattens their locks. If your hair is big and/or curly, wear a hat into which you can put your hair up to protect the style.
o Weather this cold calls for thermal shirts or maybe even union suit long johns if you have a long distance to walk or will be in the cold for an extended period of time.
o Pull out your extra heavy flannel shirts, the type you wear for your cold-weather outdoor adventures.
o After you bathe or shower, coat yourself with body lotion, no matter your gender. Doing this can help protect your skin against winter chapping and insulate you for warmth.
o Give yourself more time than usual to put on extra clothes and winter accessories.
o Remember that walking warms you up, so don’t overdress. You don’t want to be sweating under all those layers while you’re outdoors.
o It’s also important to wear materials that whisk sweat away from the body so you will stay dry under all those layers.
o Don’t put your outerwear on too soon before going out lest you overheat and leave the house in a sweat.
o Warm your clothes up, especially outerwear like gloves, on a radiator or in a dryer (but not too long, lest they shrink), putting them on just before going out.
o Take off your warm stuff once you’re indoors again, even if you have to go into a washroom to remove your leggings or long johns.
o If your lungs react poorly to super cold air, use your asthma inhaler just before going outdoors and breathe through your nose, not your mouth.
o Stay calm, knowing that you dressed smartly for the cold and you will survive.
o If you need to hail a cab, depart for your destination earlier, as cabs are harder to get in the cold.
o Try to walk swiftly enough to stay warm, but not so much that you cause your body undue stress.
o Use pedways and cut through buildings — but when you do, loosen your outerwear, possibly even taking off your hat, scarf, and gloves — so you won’t overheat and sweat before returning to the outdoors.
o Walk on the sunny side of the street, and when you do, turn your face to the sun; the sun shining on your face makes you feel almost instantly warmer all over, plus you’ll get some Vitamin D. Have your sunglasses handy.
o Keep what you’ll need — like bus pass, keys, etc. — handy so you won’t have to stand in the cold digging around for them in your purse or briefcase.
o Long term, get fit: build more muscle — because even though body fat hold can hold in warmth, muscle is what generates that warmth for the body in the first place.
Baby, it’s cold outside! Best wishes to my readers everywhere for good health and stamina this winter!