Tips to Gear Up for Winter

by the staff of the Moody Standard

courtesy/Christian DeKnock

Colder weather is creeping in, and all too soon, Chicago will be coated in glittering layers of ice, frost, and most likely snow. To help students prepare for what can be a culture shock of an experience, the Moody Standard staff has put together a list of tips, below, for how to survive winter at Moody.

Dress for the cold: If you’re venturing outside into the city this winter, keep in mind that you’ll need to dress far more warmly than you would for a quick dash across the Plaza. Waiting at a bus stop in sub-freezing temperatures while the wind howls off of the lake is a different challenge altogether.

  • Get a good winter coat
    • Go for something lightweight that has a wind rating, and buy a size up so you have room for layers under it. Thrift shops are good sources for cheap winter coats, but you could also invest in a coat from REI or erehwon.
  • Dress in layers
    • Layers trap air (providing insulation) and also allow you to adjust your clothing to help regulate your body heat when you exercise or enter overheated buildings. (The worst thing you can do is get all sweaty indoors and then go outdoors again—the evaporation of your sweat will suck away all of your body heat)
    • For extended outdoor activities, get some long underwear. Lots of stores have it on line, but check out The Vermont Country Store for the real deal (it’s COLD in Vermont)
    • For ladies who still want to be fashionable, fleece-lined leggings are in order. You can find them at Walgreens and at Bed, Bath, Beyond.
  • Pick the right fabric
    • Cotton is very loosely woven and holds moisture (trapped sweat will chill your skin and cause you to lose body heat). Wool, on the other hand, holds in body heat even when it gets wet.
    • Regular jeans are dreadful at keeping out the cold. Try flannel- or fleece-lined jeans from retailers like LL Bean or Lands End
    • The closest layer to your skin MUST wick away moisture. So avoid cotton and go for silk, non-itch wool, or synthetic wicking fabrics. Wintersilks makes long-sleeved undergarments, and Under Armour is a good brand for thin synthetic layering pieces that hold in body heat.
  • Protect your head
    • Cover your head with a good wool or fleece hat. H & M sells a great hat that has wool on the outside for warmth and fleece on the inside for softness.
    • The tips of your ears are excessively prone to frostbite, so make sure that any hat you buy covers them well; otherwise, use earmuffs.
  • Mittens over gloves
    • Your fingers help to keep each other warm, so don’t separate them. Go for mittens unless you’ll be doing work with your hands; avoid loose knits, as the wind will cut right through. Fleece-lined wool is ideal.
  • Warm feet
    • Buy boots that are waterproof and warm, making sure they have room for thick socks; cramming your feet into small boots slows down your circulation and will make your feet cold, no matter how warm your socks are.
    • Invest in a few pairs of Smartwool socks (available at REI and The Walking Store). If you buy a thick pair, make sure your boots are big enough to accommodate them or you’ll end up crushing your toes, which defeats the purpose. Smartwool also makes thinner, dressier socks from the same wool blend.
  • Outdoor exercise
    • Cold Killer pants are excellent for running outside. Mrs. White has personally tested them down to 15° (that’s about -9° Celsius). Available for women at Athleta. Google the brand for the men’s version. The brand also makes a great jacket (also tested by Mrs. White).
    • Smartwool makes wool athletic socks that keep your feet very warm
    • Use a fleece head covering that can cover your face and comes off easily as you start to get overheated. Basically, it looks like a hood without a jacket and is available nearly everywhere.

Dry, heated indoor air: Words cannot describe how dry, dusty and stale indoor air can get during the winter. This is bad news for your soft tissues (lips, throat, nose, etc.) and for your skin.

  • Dry air
    • Invest in a cold-mist or evaporation humidifier, available at hardware stores, pharmacies, Target, and Wal-Mart. Run it a lot, especially when you sleep. Bed, Bath, Beyond sells a small portable version that operates with a standard water bottle (bottle not included).
    • Plow and Hearth makes cast-iron pots that you can fill with water and place on your heater
    • Plants in your room can also add moisture to the air (provided you remember to water them)
  • Nosebleeds
    • Keep your nasal tissues moisturized to prevent random nosebleeds. Non-medicated saline nasal sprays are effective for this, as are neti pots. NeilMed saline rinse is a modern version of a neti pot that is available at CVS and Target, as well as other stores.
    • Once you’ve used a saline rinse or spray, swab the inside of your nose with a tiny bit of petroleum jelly to keep the moisture in
  • Irritated nose & dry throat
    • Increase your liquid intake (e.g., water, juice, and herbal tea) but avoid hot beverages before you head outdoors, as they dilate your blood vessels and cause you to lose body heat. Throat Coat from Traditional Medicinals is a very soothing and tasty tisane available at Jewel, Treasure Island and any health-food store.
    • The outside of your nose can get rubbed raw, even if you don’t catch a cold, because frigid temperatures can trigger runny noses. Lotion-infused tissues can help.
    • Lansinoh, a purified lanolin marketed to nursing mothers, works well on raw noses and cracked skin. A tiny bit goes a long way, and it doesn’t rub off easily. Find it at most pharmacies and at Buy Buy Baby.
  • Dry skin
    • Cut down on the number of showers you take, reduce the temperature of the water, and use a milder moisturizing soap.
    • Splash your face with cold water in the morning, pat dry and apply moisturizer, rather than scrubbing with soap (guys, reverse that—splash and moisturize in the evening, shave in the morning).
    • Put on lotion or bath oil immediately after showering while your skin is still damp. Switch to richer lotions for your face and body.
    • Bag Balm, available at most pharmacies, is great for elbows, knuckles and heels.
    • Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand lotion works very well on extremely dry, rough skin.
  • Cracked lips
    • Keep lip balm with you at all times, and go for something richer and thicker than you would in the summer. Chapstick and Burt’s Bees lip balm are good choices.
    • Lansinoh and Bag Balm are both good for severely chapped lips

Winter blues: Reduced hours of sunlight can make you feel draggy and slow in the winter time. At its most severe, this is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which acts a lot like depression. Going to a tanning salon won’t help, as the light needs to enter through your eyes to be effective.

  • Keep up with your nutrition
    • Vitamin D is in short supply when the sun goes away. You can take supplements, but be careful, as it is toxic at high doses
    • Increase your intake of vitamin-D milk
    • Eat mushrooms, one of the only natural dietary sources of vitamin D
  • Exercise and get out in the sun
    • Keep up with your workouts, and even consider increasing them or just changing to something new. Roku streams a channel called All Fitness TV that is free and has a wide variety of workouts available. Also check out Daily Burn.
    • Sunlight lifts the mood; thankfully, Chicago has lots of sunny days in the winter. Get outside and walk, run, or skate. Sunny days tend to be really cold, so dress appropriately
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