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Winter Clothing for Endurance Athletes

Winter can be a challenge for endurance athletes. However, with the right gear, you can continue to train outdoors safely, effectively, and “warmly”. In this article, we will look at clothing strategies for runners, cyclists, and triathletes during the winter season, so that fitness goals are not compromised by the temperatures.

The Importance of Appropriate Clothing

To handle low temperatures successfully, choosing the right clothing is crucial. It is recommended to wear close-fitting, body-hugging clothes as they reduce the amount of air between the skin and fabric, improving thermal efficiency. Synthetic materials provide comfort along with high water repellency, allowing sweat to be drawn away from the skin and maintaining a pleasant warmth.

Avoid using cotton, as this material tends to absorb sweat and cool quickly, compromising thermal comfort. However, it is important not to wear too much clothing to prevent excessive sweating while running or cycling.

The Layering Principle

The key to dealing with icy temperatures is the “onion principle“. By wearing layers, we can easily adapt to changing weather conditions. Here’s a guide to the three fundamental layers:

  1. First Layer: Dry and Comfortable
    Choose functional clothing that fits closely to the body to transport sweat away from the skin. Avoid cotton and prefer breathable materials such as anti-sweat tank tops, thermal shirts, and sports bras for women. The thermal shirt acts as a second skin, usually elastic and designed to fit perfectly to the body. Choosing a size too large could create empty spaces between the shirt and the skin, affecting its effectiveness, while a size too small could be uncomfortable during training.
  2. Second Layer: Optimal Temperature Regulation
    This layer is crucial for maintaining body temperature under varying conditions. Choose thermal shirts, long-sleeved shirts, or high-quality softshell jackets to ensure
    the right balance between warmth and comfort.
  3. Third Layer: Complete Protection
    A waterproof hardshell jacket for cycling or running is key for protection against rain, wind, and moisture. Make sure it is lightweight and has zippers for ventilation control during physical activity. There is no need for a heavy jacket that restricts movement. Choose light, technical products with water-repellent material. In weather conditions like heavy rain or snowfall, a jacket with a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane is the optimal choice.

All three layers must allow moisture to evaporate from the inside, therefore the clothing must be breathable. Sweat is a problem during winter cycling or running, as excessive moisture near the skin can make us feel the cold more intensely. Additionally, it is better to purchase specific sportswear rather than opting for multi-sport clothing.

Protecting the Extremities

Hands, feet, and head are particularly sensitive to cold. Protect them with:

  • Winter Gloves: Avoid wool gloves and choose, for example, polyester gloves instead. For cyclists, it is advisable to choose specific cycling gloves that are resistant to adverse weather conditions and provide a good grip on the handlebars!
  • Winter Socks: Keep your feet dry and warm.
  • Neck Warmer, Cap, or Ear Band: Protect your head, neck, and ears from the cold (a significant amount of heat is lost through the head). You can also wear a light cap under the helmet. Avoid wool and cotton!

Vests, Pants, and Shoes

  • Vest: Often underestimated but valuable for keeping the core warm without restricting movement.
  • Pants:

    • Compression pants (winter leggins) are comfortable, breathable and help reduce the risk of injury during running due to less muscle vibration.
    • To protect the legs while cycling, we recommend special winter cycling pants (with or without padding). Leg warmers and knee protectors are also useful on less cold days. Choose thermal softshell fabrics that retain heat and protect against rain and wind. Make sure the clothing is windproof to prevent cold air from entering and that it is breathable.
  • Winter Shoes: Waterproof, protective and breathable, ideal for slippery surfaces. A Goretex shoe is an optimal material as it can provide all these functions. For those with cycling shoes more suited to the summer season, you can use shoe covers for additional insulation. If you live in particularly cold areas, or are a mountain biker, we recommend buying specific winter cycling shoes for more protection against cold, impacts, abrasions, water, and mud.

Safety and Visibility

Running or cycling in winter often means training in the dark. Ensure that you are well visible with:

  • Reflective Materials: Add reflective or bright clothing to be seen by motorists, or take the opportunity to wear brightly colored clothing.
  • Lights and Accessories: Attach lights to your ankles or use a headlamp to increase visibility.

Swimming in Cold Water

When swimming in cold waters, it is essential to equip yourself with adequate thermal protection measures.

  • Swim Suits: are a key element in such situations and provide thermal insulation to keep the body warm in cold environments.
  • Thermal Socks and Gloves: can offer additional protection for feet and hands, helping to maintain an appropriate body temperature while swimming.
  • Thermal Head Covers: the use of thermal hoods is recommended to protect the head and ears, retaining body heat and reducing heat loss through the head.
  • Thermal Tights: wearing thermal tights under the suit can help keep the legs warmer, especially in extremely cold waters.


Tackling winter requires a combination of determination, motivation and proper equipment. Investing in sport-specific clothing designed and adapted for the demands of winter weather allows you to continue to enjoy the benefits of outdoor training while maintaining your fitness level.

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