The ABCs (and D) of suiting up for winter running
The bonus of winter running is a double up on the calorie burn—we burn calories to run and we also burn calories to stay warm. Plus, there is a special joy in being the first to make fresh footsteps in the snow; don't pass up the excitement of a crisp sunny run through the early morning or the delight of an evening run through the darkness as large snow flakes float through the stillness of the evening.
These cold winter days build character—the kind you can use in the late stages of a long run. Think back to the challenges you overcame during those long winter runs. So here are some tips to get you ready for this year's Running Room Resolution Run.
Winter Running Tips
The following are some cold-weather running tips. Most of the tips involve some good common sense in the severe conditions.
- Adjust the intensity of your workout.
- Keep your head covered and your hands and feet warm as a significant amount of our heat loss comes from our extremities.
- Warm up properly, start your runs at a comfortable pace and slowly build up the pace to a pace slower than your normal training pace.
- Shorten your stride to improve your footing on icy roads. Wear Ice Grips over the soles of your shoes for greater traction.
- Carry your cellphone and carry cab fare in your pocket.
- Wind chill does not measure temperature; it measures the rate of cooling. On a day with high wind chill, prepare for the wind.
- Run into the wind for the first part of your run and with the wind on the return portion.
- When running by yourself, run in a loop in case you need to cut the run short.
- On your first few runs on snow or ice, you may experience slight muscle soreness in the legs. That is because your supporting muscles are working harder to control your balance on the slippery surface.
- Cover all exposed skin. If you or your running partner have exposed skin, be aware of each other to prevent frostbite.
- In the winter it's dark, so wear reflective gear and run facing the traffic in order to be more visible.
- Mittens are warmer than gloves.
- Drink water on any run over 45 minutes.
- Use a lip protector (like a lip balm such as ChapStick) or Body Glide on your lips, nose and ears.
- Gentlemen, wear a wind brief.
- Do speed work indoors on dry surfaces.
- Be aware of hypothermia for both yourself and those running with you. Hypothermia is a drop in your core body temperature. Signs of hypothermia include incoherent, slurred speech, clumsy fingers and poor coordination. At the first sign, get to a warm, dry place and seek medical attention. You are more likely to experience difficulty on a wet and windy day.
- Do not accelerate or decelerate quickly in the cold weather.
- Make sure your changes in direction are gradual to avoid slipping or pulling muscles that are not properly warmed up.
- Freezing your lungs is just not possible. The air is sufficiently warmed by the body prior to entering the lungs. If you find the cold air uncomfortable, wear a face mask; it will help warm the air.
- Wear a single pair of thermal socks to stay warm.
- Take your wet clothes off and get dry ones on as soon as possible.
- Wear your water bottle under your jacket to keep it from freezing.
- Review runner safety. Safety is even more important in the winter with less light and far more ice and other obstacles on the running paths and roads.
Weather and Running
We know that not every day will be a nice fall morning or a brisk spring evening, so we need to prepare. What do you wear? How do you alter your training schedule? How do you protect yourself from the elements? These are some of the issues we will deal with.
Cold-Weather Running Tips
With the temperatures such as they are I wanted to point out a few simple rules to keep in mind if you are going out in this weather.
First, if it is -30°C (-22°F) or colder, you do not have to be a hero. Find an alternative to running outside. This could be a great day for cross-training.
- Wear three layers: base layer, insulating layer and windproof shell. Some clothing is quite efficient, such as Fit-Wear, and if you have this then two layers will suffice.
- Do not expose too much skin. Keep all extremities covered, i.e., ears, hands, wrists, ankles and neck. Your respiratory area (nose and mouth) will stay warm because of the breathing business going on.
- Apply Bodyglide or another type of body lubricant to any exposed skin to help protect it from the wind and drying effects of the cold.
- Run in small loops close to your home base. If you find it is getting unbearable, you will not be too far away from shelter.
- Bring cab fare, cell phone and I.D.
- Tell someone where you are going (route map) and give that person an idea of your approximate time of arrival.
- If you start to detect frostbite, seek shelter immediately and warm up. Do not stay out any longer.
How to Know if You Have Frostbite and What to Do if You Get It
Frostbite is nasty stuff. Once you have been frostbitten, you can be scarred for life and you can have circulation problems in the effected areas for the rest of your life. You get frostbite when you have skin exposed to severe cold temperatures for a period of time (the amount of time depends on body type, size and other factors) and your body stops sending blood to that area to save the rest of the body. Once this happens, freezing is not long off.
You know when you have frostbite because the effected area is numbed or deadened to feeling. The area becomes white and can have blotchy patches. If you pressed into the effected area the flesh will not come back into shape immediately. There will be a depression from where you pressed in.
When you come into the warmth and you start to thaw, there will be a tingling sensation and then you can have some pain. It can vary from mild to excruciating. Severe frostbite can result in the affected parts having to be amputated.
The best method for bringing back warmth to the affected area is to use warm (not hot) water. Soak or rinse the area until feeling comes back.
If you get frostbite, seek medical attention.
Excerpted from Running Room's Book on Running by John Stanton pages 104-109