Seasonal running: how to lace up and go

November 4, 2016


Admittedly, I have never been a huge fan of running outdoors in cold weather.  The cold air hits my lungs and they start to burn from top to bottom, a feeling that brings me back to spending too much time in the snow as a child. That unpleasant feeling kept me on a treadmill from October to April for many years, which not only killed my endurance for hills and terrain, but drained my love of running by replacing the sensation of moving my body through the beautiful world around me with the dreary taunting of an analog clock slowly counting every passing second. 


This season, my husband and I decided that we wanted to participate in some local races, so I needed to find a way to get myself out of the gym and onto the trails.  With numerous words of advice from friends and family, countless runner's articles and many fitness catalogs, I began to piece together some possible solutions to my problem.  After plenty of trial and error, I'm happy to report that I am officially a converted winter runner, and I'm here to help you become the same.

Temperature prep:
The news might tell you that it's 45 degrees outside, but you've got to dress yourself like it's ten degrees warmer than that.  While you might be chilly as you leave the house, right around the first mile mark, your body temperature will have increased enough to initiate sweating, which will warm you from the inside out.  You might think you need to double up on your sweaters, but once you get going, that second layer is going to feel more like a firey, cumbersome hell.


Wick the sweat:
Many people think that sweat wicking clothing is only for summertime wear, but it is very important for cold weather sports. Once your body temperature increases and you start to sweat, if you are not wearing sweat wicking clothes, the moisture will pool on you and begin to chill, lowering your body temperature back down and, in extreme cases, causing hypothermia. Sweating will definitely make the run more comfortable, but only if it's not sticking around.

Keep things covered:
If you fingers, toes, ears or nose tend to get uncomfortably numb from the cold, make sure they're covered before you begin.  Hats are always a good option, but if you find them too overbearing, try ear warmers.  Scarves are a great option to put over you mouth and nose to keep your face covered and your breath warm; gloves keep your fingers from getting stiff; and extra warm socks can keep your toes warm and cozy (as long as you re-lace your shoes to make room for the thicker material.)

Breathe steadily:
Running in warm weather gives you plenty of wiggle room with your breathing, but cold weather demands that you keep an easy, steady pace.  Really try to focus on the "one count in, two counts on" rule, which will ensure that you're not bringing in too much stark cold air at once.  Once you warm up, the breathing will get easier, but you still run the risk of those burning lungs from too deep of an inhale. 

Be patient with yourself:
No one is perfect, and some runs are going to be less successful than others.  If your first attempt at cold weather running isn't great, take careful notice of what worked and what didn't, and try to troubleshoot next time.  Some people will find that stretching helps them out before a cold run because the drastic temperature change between inside and outside causes them to cramp up; some need to hydrate more than usual because the cold air dries out their mouths; some need a longer warm up walk or jog to get their bodies ready to run.  Listen to your body and don't give up after a bad trial. 

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