How to Dress for Outdoor Exercise

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By T.D. Jackson, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs

Spring is in the air and it’s time to put that spring in your step! Whether you’re running to get in shape or simply for fun, this three-part series will help novices and seasoned vets make their jog more enjoyable or at the very least more productive.

Part one addressed how folks could literally prepare their bodies for outdoor activity. Part two studies the science of what to wear outdoors and part three will encourage getting started and goal setting. Fact or Fiction?

Dale Weiler, the running coach of the Baxter YMCA in Indianapolis, prepares to run with his morning running group.
Dale Weiler, the running coach of the Baxter YMCA in Indianapolis, prepares to run with his morning running group May 18. Weiler advises that when running outside to wear comfortable clothes and on sunny days wear a baseball cap with a brim or sunglasses. (U.S. Army photo by T.D. Jackson)

Only Soldiers have to wear reflective gear and it only needs to be worn at sun up and sun down. Fiction: “All Soldiers and personnel on Camp Atterbury have to wear reflective gear during poor visibility,” says Sgt. 1st Class George McClamb Jr., of the post safety office. Additionally, McClamb said it is post policy that reflective belts/vests be worn with the physical fitness uniform at all times.

Reflective belts will be worn around the waist except when wearing the physical fitness uniform jacket or Army Combat Uniform. When worn with a jacket, reflective belts will be worn diagonally across the body from shoulder to waist, left to right.

Running Coach Dale Weiler of the Baxter YMCA in Indianapolis explains that runners should check the tread on the soles of their running shoes every so often..
Running Coach Dale Weiler of the Baxter YMCA in Indianapolis explains that runners should check the tread on the soles of their running shoes every so often. Running in old or worn out shoes can lead to an increase in running injuries. The estimated useful lifetime of a running shoe for runners is approximately 350550 miles. (U.S. Army photo by T.D. Jackson)

All Soldiers running on post must wear the physical fitness uniform. Fiction: Soldiers who work at Camp Atterbury are pretty much free to wear what they want during outdoor running, however, whether they work here or train here, what any Soldier wears is still at the discretion of the unit or commander, says McClamb.

As long as a shoe is designated as a running shoe, it doesn’t matter what type or brand. Fact: “All the shoes are good,” says Dale Weiler, running coach at the Baxter YMCA in Indianapolis. “There isn’t one brand better than another brand. If you get a brand that fits you, all the brands are good.” Weiler said there is a catch, though. “You need a shoe that fits your style of running,” he said. Weiler said if you’re flat-footed you need a particular kind of shoe, if you have a high arch you need another type of shoe and of course if you’re neutral you need a different shoe. Knowing what kind of foot you have is critical to picking the right footwear. One way to learn about your feet is by taking the “wet test.” Wet the bottom of one foot and then step firmly onto a piece of cardboard or brown paper bag. If you have a flat foot, you’ll leave a fat, mostly complete footprint. A flat or low arch calls for stability shoes or motion-control shoes. If you see just your heel, the ball of your foot, and a thin line on the outside of your foot, you have a high arch. A foot with a high arch is best suited for neutral-cushioned shoes. A so-called normal foot or normal arch is somewhere in between. With a normal arch one can wear just about any shoe, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a stability shoe or a shoe that provides moderate arch support. “If you just go out and buy a running shoe that doesn’t fit your style of running you could actually hurt yourself,” said Weiler, explaining that injuries tend to occur in the knees, hips, and shins.

When running outdoors, Dale Weiler, far left, suggests moisture wicking clothing helps keep your body warm or cool.
When running outdoors, Dale Weiler, pictured on the far left, suggests that moisturewicking clothing is helps to keep your body warm or cool depending upon the temperature. The material wicks or absorbs the sweat and pulls it away from your body keeping you dry. (U.S. Army photo by T.D. Jackson)

There is nothing wrong with wearing Spandex in the summertime. Fact: “It keeps your muscles tight and warm, but in the summertime, if it’s really hot, you’re really gonna sweat a lot,” said Weiler. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Whiteside of Camp Atterbury’s fitness center agrees. “Spandex retains heat, which helps stabilize the muscles,” he said. Additionally, warm muscles help to prevent muscle strain and fatigue.

Even if it’s cold you should not wear too much clothing while running. Fact: “When you start running you could warm up 10 or 15 degrees and you’ll be too warm and you could get dehydrated,” Weiler said. Weiler recommended wearing just a couple of layers. “Maybe the top layer is a windbreaker and the bottom layer should be a [moisture] wicking shirt,” he said. “If you can withstand the cold you can wear shorts but that’s an individual thing. If it’s below 40 I wear long pants.”

Compression wraps and ankle braces don’t really work. Fact and Fiction: Weiler explained that it goes both ways. The wraps and braces work if they are used properly but if wrapped or worn improperly it could worsen your injury or soreness. Compression wraps, such as hamstring, shin and knee wraps, are designed for muscle strains and tears and involve wrapping the injured area with an elastic bandage to offer support and enhance the healing process. A compression wrap is most effective when used in conjunction with resting the muscle strain to avoid further injury, using ice packs to reduce swelling and keeping the injured area elevated, which also reduces swelling. Braces, such as those for your knees and ankles, are generally used to immobilize a joint or body segment. Some people also where braces to prevent injury. Your doctor is the best resource when seeking guidance about wearing a brace.

You should wear sunscreen even if you will be sweating. Fact: “You could get a sunburn even when the sun is not out,” says Weiler. More than 1.1 million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer each year, according to The American Cancer Society. If you will be running or walking outdoors for more than 20 minutes, lather up. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going in the sun so it can bind to the skin and prevent sunburn. If you sweat a lot, use a waterproof sunscreen and reapply every two hours.

Sweatbands, wristbands, sunglasses and water pouches are more of a hindrance than a help while running. Fiction: Weiler said these things can be very helpful to some and to others it might seem like too much to wear or carry. “You should always have water with you,” he said. “You always need something to keep you hydrated – winter and summer – and on long miles.” Weiler added that he also thinks sunglasses are definitely useful. “If it’s a real sunny day, I would recommend a cap with a bill and/or sunglasses.”

Additional Clothing Tips: SOCKS are just as important as your shoes. Thick cotton socks hold the sweat in and when wet cause the heavy fabric to rub against your skin and create blisters. Look for moisture-wicking socks or at the very least, socks made of light-weight material. MOISTURE WICKING CLOTHING helps to keep your body warm or cool depending upon the temperature. The material “wicks” or absorbs the sweat and pulls it away from your body keeping you dry. WHITE/LIGHT-COLORED CLOTHING reflects the heat of the summer sun, rather than absorbing the heat as black and darker colors do. When deciding what to wear, consider how much sun you will encounter and what the air temperature is.

By T.D. Jackson, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs