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As the cooler days of fall approach, comfort and safety become important issues for the outdoor fitness enthusiast.
What do you wear to stay comfortable with the mix of warm and cool weather? And what should you do to stay safe on the streets and on pavement?
The answer to the first is layering.
To the second, a combination of technology and street smarts.
Layering means adding or subtracting pieces of lightweight clothing as the temperature changes. If you begin your workout early in the morning, you peel off the layers as the day warms. Conversely, when you exercise from late afternoon to early evening, you add a layer to keep from getting cold. Most pieces should be moisture-wicking, meaning the fabric should move sweat away from skin to the top of the fabric where it evaporates. That's why the good old, bulky, cotton sweatshirt often isn't the best choice for most vigorous activities, especially endurance sports. You'll feel damp and maybe too hot in no time.
A base layer typically is a breathable, thin, short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirt. For warmth, the next layer can be a choice of a pullover, vest or zip-up jacket in synthetic fleece. This can be the top layer in the fall and the middle layer in the winter. And for activities such as cycling, running or inline skating in which wind might be a factor, you can wear a windbreaker with vents or mesh panels to allow sweat to escape. Some of these shells are so light, you can roll them up and stuff them in a small pouch or pocket or tie around the waist.
For a safe workout on the streets, making yourself visible is essential. Stick to light colors. Clothes, shoes or accessories made of reflective fabric or trimmed with reflective materials may help.
IllumiNITE and Reflexite's Radiance are state-of-the-art fabrics made for this purpose. The surface of the fabrics contains microscopic pieces that act like millions of mirrors reflecting light back.
But never rely on clothing for visibility and safety. If anything, always assume the worst that the motorist heading your way cannot see you in time to stop. By the time a driver spots you, it's probably too late to hit the brakes safely.
Fitness activities in the evening that invite danger include jogging, running on the street even when a sidewalk is available and riding a bicycle without lights front and back. If you have no choice but to run or walk on the street because there is no sidewalk, do so facing oncoming traffic.
Darkness limits vision, so we rely on other senses to keep us aware of the potential danger in our surroundings. It's a good idea to take off the earphones when exercising at dusk, twilight and at night, so you can hear what you may not always see.
We're told to drive defensively. The same principle applies to working out in the great outdoors. Exercise carefully and be prepared.
(Lisa Liddane is a health and fitness writer for The Orange County Register and an American Council on Exercise-certified group fitness instructor. Write to her at the Register, P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, Calif. 92711 or send e-mail to email@example.com.)
(c) 2003, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.