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The well dressed Penguin

Almost every runner seems to start running in the same outfit an old pair of sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt. If you're shaped like I was, it's even better if that T-shirt is long enough to cover your belly and your behind. I would have run in a rain poncho if I had thought it would cover more of me.

Eventually it becomes clear that being a runner means buying running clothes. Real running clothes - shirts and shorts that are designed to work with a body that is in motion and clothes that are made of materials that will make you more comfortable.

Experienced runners will tell you there are only two conditions in which we run: weather that is either too hot or too cold. In either case, it also may be too rainy, too windy, too dry, too humid, and so on. The conditions are rarely ideal.

High-quality running clothes are designed to close the gap between the real conditions and the ideal. They are designed to keep you cool, or warm, or dry. Different manufacturers have different names for fabrics, such as CoolMax, Polartec, Dryline, and Dri F.I.T. that accomplish this. They all try to perform the same functions: to help the body control its temperature and to keep your body dry.

Regardless of the outside temperature, your body heats up with effort. In warm weather, a lightweight shirt made of something like CoolMax will help pull the sweat away from your body, allowing you to stay cool. In cold weather, that same material worn under a wind-blocking shell will pull the moisture away from your body to the next layer of clothing to help keep you warm.

The same principle applies to every piece of clothing you wear when you run, including shorts, socks, and underwear. Look for words like "wicking", which simply means drawing moisture away from the skin.

In cold weather the secret is to layer lightweight garments so that the clothing works together to keep you dry and warm. Materials like polypropylene and polar fleece are designed to keep the body temperature steady, while wicking the moisture away from your skin to the surface layer of clothing. Because these fabrics wick rather than absorb moisture, your clothes don't get soggy and heavy as you sweat.

At first, your new running clothes may not seem as comfortable as that old pair of sweats and oversized T-shirt, but in time you'll get used to the lightness and breathability of these new clothes. And you may just find that you look really good in neon green!


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