Thursday, November 04, 2010

walking to work part 1 - what to wear

A couple of years ago, I began walking home from work whenever possible. I got a bus pass, and took the community shuttle to work, then walked home. It takes just under an hour from my office to my house. It's a great way to end the day.

About a year ago, I got to thinking about how it would be nice to skip the bus and walk to work also. I had to start out a little earlier to make it to work on time. Walking is slower than taking the bus, but I found that I could do it. Over the course of the year, I have discovered many benefits. I have also found lots of ways to make the walk safe, comfortable and enjoyable. I'll blog about it over the next couple of days.

Today, I'm going to talk about what to wear to walk to work. Generally, I wear exercise clothing for my walk, and change into work clothing once I reach the office. I'll talk about packing work clothing tomorrow.

In warm weather, I generally walk wearing shorts, a t-shirt, light jacket if it's early morning, and running shoes. If I don't wear a jacket, I carry one in case the weather changes. I like to choose a jacket and shorts that have pockets for my iPod and my cell phone. Sometimes one of the kids will phone when I'm en route, or someone from the office will call. I figure it's also good if ever there is an emergency that I'll have my phone on hand. When it's sunny, I wear sunglasses, and I always use sunblock, even first thing in the morning. I have my backpack, and that's about it.

When it's wet outside, I switch shoes. I recently bought a pair of lightweight hiking boot/running shoe things that keep my feet nice and dry. They have come in handy once or twice on my walks up Burnaby Mountain. They have vibram soles, which provide better grip on the loose bits that make steep trails slippery. They're a bit of overkill for suburban sidewalks, but that's okay. I'll try them in place of my snow boots this winter, and see how they match up. The downside of these shoes is that they are less flexible than my running shoes, so a bit less comfortable, but they fit well, and my feet feel good in them for the walk.

I layer yoga pants and a t-shirt and hoodie with rain pants and a rain jacket on wet days. My rain pants are wonderful. Before I got them, rain would splash up from the ground and drop down from the sky, soaking my legs. Now I stay toasty warm and dry, even in a monsoon. I got gore-tex pants, which are great for breathability, and a a waterproof nylon jacket, which is not. When I save up a bit more money, I'll spring for the gore-tex jacket. Please let me know if you see a good sale! I still like to carry an umbrella. I know that's not very athletic of me, but it suits me fine. I have a folding one that fits into my backpack on threatening days. The pants and jacket roll up too, into practically nothing, so I take them in the pack if it looks like it might rain.

My latest find is a waterproof cover for my knapsack. Even with an umbrella, an unprotected pack gets wet during an hour in the driving rain. The water drips off the edge of the umbrella and gets on the bottom half of the pack. I have been packing my belongings inside a plastic bag inside my pack, then taking everything out in the evening, and hanging my pack to dry so it's ready for the next day, but that's a drag. Now I have a lovely device from Mountain Equipment Co-op that promises to cover my pack and shed water on rainy days. It folds up into a slim pouch that fits inside my pack if it looks like rain outside. I haven't tried it in the rain yet. I'll let you know how it works.

When it gets cold I just layer up. Same yoga or track pants, t-shirt, sweater(s) etc. My rain pants add a layer of warmth even if it's dry out. I have insulated snow pants if it's really cold (which is rare where we live). Gloves and hat are the most important pieces of the outfit. My Dad always told me that a hat is worth a sweater (or two) and is the best thing to keep heat in. I have discovered on wintry walks home from work that this is very true. I have two insulated jackets - one with poly fibre fill, the other with down. I don't need the down one very often, but it's good to have, and so toasty warm I never shiver when I have it on.

When it's dark out, I wear reflective velcro bands on my wrists and ankles. My jacket has reflector strips, and I fix small blinking red LEDs to my pack and the front of my jacket. These little lights are available at the hardware store and at pet stores. They're the same as people put on their dogs' collars to walk them at night. They are very visible. I have seen drivers slow their cars as we approach one another on a dark street. "What's that? OH! It's a walking mom with flashing red lights attached to her clothing!" I know how difficult it is for me to spot pedestrians on dark corners on dark nights when I am driving. I want to give those drivers all the help they can get, spotting me!

It's taken me a while to assemble this wardrobe of walking clothes. Dressing for the walk definitely helps keep me comfortable, safe and happy. The wet and cold weather gear helps me keep my walking commitment through the winter months.

Tomorrow: how to pack for a walk-to-work day

question: where do you walk?

mompoet - walk, walk, walk to work

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