Monday, February 24, 2020

Winter...a tricky test of a runner's tolerance


Ugh. I'm just not a fan of Winter.

Granted, I can tolerate it, and I do try to get most of my runs done outside.

I also try to make it  outside everyday for a walk if the conditions aren't too frigid. But Winter definitely is my least-favorite season because it's so tricky and temperamental, especially in terms of running.

First of all, the temps (and weather conditions) are ever-changing. It's usually gonna be cold, at least that's one constant, but exactly how uncomfortable that cold will feel is always a guessing game. Even when the air temps are frigid, they won't feel too bad once you get moving. If it's a lucky rare day with no wind, that's a total jackpot! Then there are the days when the temps plummet below the freezing range...even adding an extra layer won't do the trick if the wind is having a blowing tantrum.

Did I say wind? Oh yes, the wind! Let me tell you... in the Midwest, the wind can be the main deal-breaker. In the summer, a gentle breeze is often welcome, but not so in the winter. I still haven't figured out if I prefer a constant wind or intermittent gusts. Truth be told, I'd prefer no wind (which does happen on occasion, but not too often). Most of us have been advised to run into the wind for the first part of a run, then you'll have the wind at your back for the remainder (assuming you have a turn-around on your route). Unfortunately, it's not always possible to avoid the wind, no matter which direction you're facing when you head out or come back.

Then there's the terrain underfoot. Snow can be slick, and often times there's ice hidden underneath. The snow usually gets plowed into thick piles along the street. Even if those piles aren't too slippery to navigate, your feet will still get cold running through them. Let's not forget about the cars we have to share the road with; often times those cars have just as much difficulty negotiating the slick surfaces as we do. If you care to test your luck on a trail, you won't have to worry as much about traffic. Those trails, though, will probably be covered in snow, which can also hide tree roots, divots and brush, making it difficult to know just how deep said snow is or how massive the hidden objects are. If there's been some melting and refreezing, you can bet you'll have anything but a smooth surface awaiting you and your ankles, especially if there's been any cross country skiers or snowmobiles sharing the path.


I mentioned the inconsistent weather and changing temps. For myself, it seems like I'm in a constant flux of (1) acclimating to (current) cold conditions, (2) enjoying a brief  (but welcome) warm-up, then (3) having to re-acclimate all over again. Throw in some wind (because it's usually a factor, by default), and it really is a guessing game in terms of layering up before heading out. What I choose to wear is not only contingent on the actual temps, but also the windchill, how far of a distance is on the plan, as well as which route will be utilized (Out in the open? On the streets, sheltered from some of the wind?). Just when I think I've gotten the metrics nailed, I'm often times humbled. And cold. 
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Lastly, no matter how many Winter Running Layering charts one can peruse, there really are no perfect universal answers. Just like we all run at a different pace, most of us will have a unique level of comfort in terms of coldness and warmth. I'm usually more cold than warm, no matter how fast or far I'm running, so I prefer to err on the side of dressing too warm (as opposed to too cold). Either way, I know I'm gonna sweat so I'd rather have an extra layer to combat some of the cold air and/or wind.

So, yeah. There are many factors that are never constant. Even with 15 years of winter running under my (fuel) belt, it's still a game of trial and error. I'm much better at it nowadays, thankfully, but I still feel like a work-in-progress when there's a sudden shift in temps. The past couple of winters have been brutally cold, and this year it's been pretty mild...so it's been another season of re-learning.

Let me add, though, that winter running isn't all bad.

It is quite tranquil being out there in the crisp air, hearing the snow crunch underfoot and seeing the glistening snow on a sunny day. Also, all of those early morning runs I do? Sometimes, if there's a clear sky, the snow is so bright (from reflecting the moonlight and stars) that it's almost as bright as day...even with no hint of sunshine happening for a couple hours.

That said, just because I can tolerate the cold of winter doesn't mean I have to love it. I still prefer the heat of summer. Hands down, without any argument, my body embraces shorts-and-tank-tops weather.

So, there you have it, my friends. A few reasons why Winter is not my favorite time of year, and how it tests my patience as a runner.

A couple related posts:
Winter Running: We Got This
Winter Running - Tips, Tricks & Safety

How about you? How do you feel about Winter...love it? hate it? love to hate it? or simply tolerate it? If you had to pick one season as your favorite, which would you choose?

I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up
I'm also linking with Debbie,  RachelDeborahLisaSmitha and Jenn for the Runners' Roundup

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37 comments:

  1. I really admire how you brave the elements and get out of your warm, cosy bed every day and face the cold, freezing and dark morning. It takes discipline. But as you say, the rewards are great!
    Keep it up, spring is around the corner!

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  2. I guess I don't give winter much thought. It's a fact of life in the Midwest so we deal. I do love the fresh, crisp air and a blanket of snow is magical for running. That said, I feel no shame using the treadmill when I feel like it too.

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    1. Yes, it's a (cold) harsh fact LOL There are some aspects I do like about Winter, but I definitely prefer the warmer seasons. I don't feel shame in treadmilling...just dread LOL

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  3. Team Simply Tolerate here. Weather is always an issue but it doesn't have to be an excuse. The first few years that I ran, I would always stop in winter and today I'm so much happier running year round with the treadmill's help when the weather is bad.

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    1. After my first year of (almost exclusive) treadmill running, I venturedoutside for the spring/summer/fall...adn then really struggled on the 'mill for a few weeks when it got cold. I eventually had to suck it up (and pull up my big girl tights) and learn how to run outside in the cold. The 'mill is just not my friend anymore...I can tolerate it if it's extreme outside, but it has to be very extreme. Kudos to you for all your 'mill miles (#fistbump)

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  4. I think my tolerance for the cold has been affected this year since I'm not really training for any races, and that's not a good thing!

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    1. I have learned to not have any races that necessitate training through the winter, because I just don't want to feel obligated to run. It's bad enough when I'm stuck inside with Milly...but it's usually of my own accord. If I "had" to get XX miles - no matter what - I'd be in a world of turmoil.

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  5. You have it much more rough than lots of us do! I can adapt to the temps, don't love the wind. The ice underfoot is kind of scary. Luckily we have not had any this year. Way to get out there and get it done! Thanks in advance for linking up

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    1. The Midwest treats us to all kinds of extreme weather ;-) Lucky us, right? I can adapt to the temps, as well, but the cold of winter is a different ball game than the heat of summer...

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  6. I agree, I definitely prefer the warmer months of the year! I've been grateful that we've had a pretty mild Winter this year but I know we can't always count on that.

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    1. Our winter has been cold at times, but mild in comparison to the past few years. But still, the cold temps are just not my favorite.

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  7. I don't prefer the heat of summer. I'd much rather run in winter -- except for the grayness, the ice, and the wind, LOL!

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    1. Thankfully, it has been more sunny than gray here...but I still prefer the summer heat. I know I'm alone on my own island with that ideology ;-)

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  8. I don't know, the winter doesn't bother me so much. It's all part of living in the midwest. I just don't like the wind.

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    1. The wind is really the worst aspect of the winter season. It seems like once it starts blowing , like in October, it doesn't take a breather until July.

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  9. You've done a great job getting out there despite the conditions!

    I think I've become so heat-intolerant that I'm always happier to run when it's cold out. The wind is a deal-breaker though...and I'm definitely grateful to have the mill to avoid icy conditions.

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    1. I'm thankful I'm not heat-intolerant...I survive these crazy winters just for the reward of summer ;-)

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  10. Thank you for once again making me appreciate my desert life. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be a runner if I lived in frigid temperatures. More power to ya!

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    1. You're welcome ;-) Believe me, there was a time when I'd never imagine running outside in these temps. There also was a time when I never thought I'd run a marathon....

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  11. I love winter, but not necessarily for outdoor running. We got a few inches of snow last night and it's still coming down lightly. I was outside cleaning off the car and thinking of how beautiful it was...but I will take my run on the treadmill today!

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    1. All the snow that was forecast missed us...and now we're supposed to have another warm weekend. I hope we've seen the last of the "major" winter stuff.

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  12. I love winter because it is a novelty here. Summer is where we have to watch out for humidity, sun intensity, dew point, UV rays and UNlayering LOL. We've had a cold winter here, and it's going to be in the 30s again this weekend. It's kind of weird to have it go so late in the year and I wish I could be out running in it.

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    1. Wow, in the 30's? We're supposed to have another warm weekend...temps in the 40-50 range. Totally NOT complaining ;-)

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  13. We have barely had a winter here in PA. It was very wimpy so far. My hubby got me a running vest for Christmas to wear in the cold but I haven't even had a chance to wear it yet. Actually, that's OK with me. I love summer running. Bring on the heat and humidity!

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  14. This all serves to remind me how temperate it is here in the UK. But the rule of wind is that it's ALWAYS in your face, whichever way you turn!

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    1. You got that right...the wind is ALWAYS in your face LOL

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  15. I am also not a big fan of winter running. This year hasn't been bad for us at all. The wind is my least favorite part about running in cold weather!

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  16. Yeah HARD PASS on winter!! I've surprisingly ran outside A LOT this winter but that's because it's been fairly mild and I've had lots of running buddies for long runs. But dang it, I am DONE with this weather. Give me summer.

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  17. I don't like winter either. I trained for my first marathon last winter and it was 'eh' and this year the weather has been pretty tolerable, so I guess I'll take it!

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    1. I can tolerate winter weather, even when it's extreme...but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it LOL

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  18. You are just awesome for running at all in winter. Winter running for me means long tights and maybe (just maybe a long sleeved top). The roads - no ice, no snow, no anything, just black tar. Wind? Hardly. If you hear me complaining in my winter about running... please just tell me off!

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  19. I don't mind Winter running too much now because I have the gear that gets me through it. I do hate the snow and wind. I have no problem running on the treadmill because the last thing I want to do is fall...again. :-) Well, I guess even if there is no snow, then I can still fall. Haha.

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