THE STEVE: The Five Principals of Outdoor Workout Gear
With winter approaching, it’s a good time to think about the gear we wear during outdoor workouts. Depending on where you live, you will face different climactic challenges, but the same principles will apply whether it’s fifty or five below.
Collectively, I call these principles The Steve because they are based on the temperature reading from my iPhone (that Steve Jobs made—get it).
The purpose of The Steve is not comfort—it’s to wear just enough gear that you will be neither too hot or cold during the majority of an outdoor workout. If you are looking for comfort, you probably need to find an indoor gym you like because discomfort is a feature of an outdoor workout, not a bug.
STEVE PRINCIPAL #1: Have A Plan
The time to decide how much gear to wear is not two minutes before you leave the house. That’s not a plan, it’s a reaction.
When I was in the military we had a simple plan. We had a summer PT uniform (shorts and t-shirt) and a winter PT uniform (add sweat pants, sweat shirt, hat and gloves to summer PT uniform). Whether we wore one or the other depended upon the calendar rather than the thermometer. “Winter” started on November 1st and ended on April 1st. When it was “winter” we wore the winter PT uniform, regardless of how hot it was. When it was “summer” we wore the summer PT uniform, regardless of cold it was.
That plan was excellent in its simplicity. I spent zero seconds deciding what to wear. I just looked at the calendar. Simple, but not very flexible—there were many mornings that I was too hot or cold with little I could do about it.
The Steve is much more flexible because it’s based on the temperature rather than the calendar. The colder it is, the more gear I wear. Alas, it’s not nearly as simple as my old Army plan, which is why Steve Principal #2 is necessary.
STEVE PRINCIPAL #2: Make A Chart
Initially, I tried to keep this all in my head, but I found that it was too complicated for that. So I made a chart or, more accurately, I started making a chart. It took me awhile to get my chart right. Ultimately, this is where I landed:
My chart covers the three different kinds of workouts I do (bootcamp, running and rucking) because I have found over time that each one has its own gear requirements. For example, once the temperature drops below fifty, I know that I will need work gloves at a bootcamp because my hands will be in contact with the ground a lot and the cold ground sucks heat out of the body.
In contrast, I will only need wool gloves at a running workout when the temperature gets to thirty-two. Above that, my hands will be hot with gloves because running produces a lot of heat and my hands will not be touching the ground (unless I fall).
It took a lot of data for me to refine my chart. Over the course of a full winter, I experimented and kept track of the result. By the end, what I had worked well enough that I have made only micro-adjustments since then.
If you don’t have a chart, my chart would probably give you a good starting point. But you can’t take it as gospel because every man is different. We all run a little hot or cold compared to other people, so you need to experiment to find what works best for you based on your body and where you live.
STEVE PRINCIPAL #3: Start Cold
The primary goal of The Steve is to neither be too hot nor too cold for the majority of the workout. If your chart has you donning enough gear that you are comfortable at the start of the workout than you are very likely to be too hot for the remainder of the workout. Most people take about ten minutes to warm up, which means that you have to start cold to avoid shedding gear at the eleventh minute to keep from overheating.
That means your Steve chart has to be calibrated to have you starting cold rather than starting comfortable. If you start cold, you will warm up enough after about ten minutes so that you are not too cold, but you won’t get too hot either.
To ameliorate the discomfort of starting cold you can stay in the car until the workout is about to start or you can get out of the car and loosen up wearing something that is easy to discard at the last second, like this:
When the temperature drops below fifty, I wear my sweatshirt and workout sarong (no, that’s not a towel) to loosen up in and throw it in the car at the last second. That way, I don’t go from the warm car to the cold air without loosening up—which is it’s own problem.
STEVE PRINCIPAL #4: Feels Like, not Feelsies
One of the great features of the IPhone weather app is that it gives you a reading that factors in humidity and wind, the “feels like” temperature:
So, for example, it’s 39 degrees as I write this, but it feels like 34 because there is 70%
humidity and an 8 mph wind. Since I’m going to a bootcamp workout this morning, my chart tells me that I’ll be adding both work gloves and a long-sleeve shirt.
The feels like takes the guesswork out and helps me resist the temptation to listen to my Feelsies, which sounds like but is wholly unrelated to the feels like reading on my IPhone.
The feels like is a meteorological computation based on objective and measurable data. The Feelsies are the way I feel about the weather (or just about anything). The Feelsies is that voice in my head that gives me horrible advice about just about everything.
For example, my Feelsies often tell me that I’m not gaining weight because I feel thin, regardless of what I have been eating. Periodically (despite how much I know better) I listen to my Feelsies and start skipping my morning LBZ (weigh-in plus tape of my FUPA).
Without the Accountability of my LBZ, I start wolfing carbs and sugar and BOOM—gain five pounds. When I finally step back on the scale I (of course) curse my Feelsies, but I know that it’s my own dang fault. The scale and tape never lie, but the Feelsies always do.
It’s the same way with the weather. My Feelsies will always tell me that it’s colder than it actually is, which means that I would don more gear than I need. I have to ignore my Feelsies on the weather just as much as I have to shut my ears to its siren song on my waistline.
STEVE PRINCIPAL #5: Ignore the Rain
Whenever I tell anyone about The Steve I know that they will ultimately ask me about the rain. “Sure” they will say, “sounds good. But what adjustments do you make for the rain?”
Answer: none. I make no adjustments for it. Cold water sucks out body heat, but physical exertion creates body heat. It’s not a perfect trade-off, but over time I have found that if I have enough gear on for the feels like, it doesn’t matter if that gear is wet. It still keeps me warm enough. Not comfortable, but warm enough, which is the goal of The Steve.
At the end of the day, the weather is a Condition to be overcome not a Problem to be solved. The Steve will help you keep that in perspective and not use it as an excuse to let your King decelerate.