winter running


it was one of my favorite kinds of runs: the winter landscape was still blanketed in snow but the air temperature was warm enough to melt whatever hadn't already been cleared from the roads and sidewalks. the contrasting temperatures brought out a thick fog that beckoned me into it's void and it suited the dreamy morning very well. i had the unusual luxury of a couple hours alone to move at my own pace, so i enjoyed my morning coffee before setting out into the grey. once en route, my thoughts coordinated with my movements along the road, whimsically jumping around with impressive agility. if the conditions had better matched their surroundings, it could have been the perfect run, but avoiding icy patches and dodging on-coming traffic made for a bit more stress than what is ideal.

winter running is a tricky thing. there's not much to consider if you've got a treadmill at home or membership to a fancy gym - on blustery days, they are probably the safest options. i'm not generally a fan of treadmill running (it can be like a form of torture to me), but i'm not a total purist and will bite the bullet if the conditions are bad enough. it's not the most romantic setting for a run, but if you want to get it done, you need to embrace your inner hampster. that said, i'm still pretty stubborn about running indoors so i will gladly set out in most weather... so. long. as. i'm. prepared. with the arctic blast that's due to hit pretty much the entire country, i thought it might be helpful to share some cold-weather running tips for the week ahead:

dress the part
running in pretty much any condition is really not that bad if you're prepared. rain, snow, heat, cold are all manageable with the right gear. when it comes to winter running, layers are essential. you can always take off, but once you're out you can't magically produce another layer. jackets are good because if you get warm a mile in, you can easily unzip and tie that bad boy around your waist. i like ear warmers better than hats  because things on my head feel weird, so if the band is bothering me, i'll pull it down around my neck and then BAM i've got a neck warmer. i prefer mittens to gloves because my fingers stay warmer when they're all nestled next to each other, sharing the heat. a lot of base layers made these days are long in the arms with thumb holes at the end - that extra bit of fabric is nice on the hands. running in the cold can put quite a load on your heart because it has to work double-time to exert your body and keep the internal temperature warm, so help that little organ out and dress warm.

be visible
run when it's light out and wear bright colors. there's a reason stop signs are red and traffic signals have yellow and green. you might be able to see the on-coming hunk of steel and it's headlights, but the driver that's texting behind the wheel might not see you. neon limbs flailing about? maybe. so think like a seven year old girl and dress with the most vibrant clothes you've got. did you're mom buy you a reflective vest when you were a freshman on the high school cross country team? well mine did and you can bet she made me wear it a couple of times. i was the cool kid at school.

stick to sidewalks and paths
the shoulder disappears under nasty grey snow in the winter. if you have to run on the road, get as far left as possible and face traffic. where i live the drivers don't share the roads well with pedestrians or cyclists. when you do encounter a courteous driver that swings wide or slows down for you, give them a smile and a wave. kindness is contagious and maybe they'll tell their friends. (we'll make a change doggonit, one aggressive and angry driver at a time.)
go slow
muscles are cold enough when they've been idle and freezing temperatures only make them tighter so warm up slowly into your run - you don't want to pull anything. another reason to take it easy on the pace is so that you can watch for ice or uneven footing. slippery spots can sneak up on you and a whole lot more than your ego can be bruised if you bite it hard on asphalt. oh and don't forget those traffic signs: BRIDGE ICES BEFORE ROAD.

you probably won't notice right away, but you use all kinds of muscles that aren't normally used when you run in wintery conditions. all the lateral hopping to avoid puddles and ice will make your IT band, tibialis anterior, and a whole bunch of other stabilizing muscles sore. if you caught a slick spot during your run, chances are that the cat-like reflexes which prevented you from falling used every muscle in your torso (back and abs) to keep you upright. all that twisting is going to make you sore so do a good ten minute stretch and cover all muscles groups, just in case. if you don't, you'll likely feel it the next day.

get out of your wet clothes ASAP
dawdling about the house in damp, sweaty clothes is a great way to get sick or catch hypothermia. take that stinky ish off and hop in the shower!

drink lots of water.
even though you may not sweat as much when it's cold you still need to hydrate. the air is very dry in the winter and i can just imagine the millions of little pores that cover out body desperately agape, begging for water. drink up!  while you're at it, heat some in a kettle and drop a slice of lemon in - it's tasty and it'll warm you up , from the inside out.

that is all. happy and safe running, friends!


Caitlin Bullock said...

Looks like you're still rocking the NC State colors! NIce! Go ACC!!!

lucinda smith said...

heck yeah, go pack! ;)


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