Thursday, November 19, 2020

A Winter Running Refresher

It's crazy.

I've had to stray from my usual routine in recent months (you know, #stressfracture). Yet, here I am...feeling ready, and raring to get back at it. Only now, the weather is a tad bit colder than it was three months ago.

As much as I dread the cold weather, it's a reality in Iowa. That said, I don't have to love it to tolerate it. After all, my attitude is all on me. 

Here's a few cold weather reminders that'll assist me in facing the winter in my running shoes... 

I wasn't always an outdoor runner. In fact, my first year of running happened almost exclusively on the treadmill. After I ventured outside in the warmer weather, though, it was really tough to go back inside when the temps turned chilly. My only option was to become a winter warrior. In doing so, I was able to take most of my runs outdoors.

Through trial and error, I figured out a lot of survival tactics for enduring the extreme cold of Iowa winters. I've had 15 years of winter running, via the great outdoors, and here are some of the things I have learned...

Consider the temps.
How cold is "too cold" will vary from one runner to another, so I don't believe there are any hard and fast rules on this. Even if the temp reads 35F (technically above freezing), if the wind is wicked strong, it's going to feel a good 5-20 degrees colder. Likewise, 35F at the break of dawn will feel different than those same temps at high-noon on a sunny day.

Consider the terrain of your route.
A flat route may feel colder than one that is laden with rolling hills. The inclines not only will block some of the wind (briefly, depending on which direction it's blowing), but your body will have to work harder as you climb those inclines, thus keeping your body temp elevated as a result.

Consider the location.
If you're out, on an open road, you will have ZERO protection from the wind. Conversely, a route that keeps you on city streets, with some wind protection (via buildings, houses, or trees), might make the cold temps more bearable. Often times, I map out my route in accordance to the wind....I prefer a head wind, right outta the gate, which will yield a tail wind for the return trip back home.

Consider the length of your run.
A short run (2-3 miles, for example) may not be long enough to get you thoroughly warmed up, so you may need to wear an additional base layer. A longer run (4-7+ miles) may have you feeling overheated if you wear too many layers.

Consider the many layering options available:
***arm warmers - my personal favorite. They can be (somewhat) easily removed if you start to feel too warm.

*** an extra pair of gloves -they can be layered over a lighter pair of running gloves and removed after the first few miles if they're no longer needed.

***wool socks
 - I wear these year-round (for moisture-wicking), but in the winter, I often layer them over a second pair.

***a headband - it may be worn on its own, or layered under a hat to give you a little more warmth.

***flannel-lined tights - these can be worn on their own, or as a base layer under a thinner pair of tights.

***a puffer vest - not necessarily a Marshmallow Man poofy endeavor, but anything with some extra filler. It will keep your core warm without the bulk of a full jacket.

***sunglasses - not a layering option, but a "windshield" against the wind as well as protection from the glare of sunlight on snow (believe me, your eyes will thank you). Also, I usually place the bows outside of my hat/headband (instead of under it) to keep my ears warmer.

Consider your safety.
If snow is a factor, step with caution. For me, this means more of a concerted effort to step "down" as opposed to stepping "out" with each foot strike. Ideally, a mid-foot strike will have a little more stability on a slick surface than a heel strike.  

If it's really early in the morning (or very late at night), you may be able to 
run in the middle of the street (if -and only if- there's no immediate traffic). Usually, the middle of the street will have the most level grade. Also, it's less likely to have uneven ridges (hidden under the snow) as is common on a sidewalk.

With the limited daylight, be sure to have a light source. Whether it's a headlamp, flashlight, or other handheld device, it's important to see where you're going.

It's also crucial for others to see you. Again, the light sources mentioned above are great, but there's also reflective gear...vests, arm bands, belts, etc.

It's also a good idea to 
have your phone with you, in case of an emergency. If the temps are especially cold, I stick my phone inside an extra fleece glove or mitten (and carry it in my hand) to help save the battery.

It never hurts to bring a friend. A lot of my early morning runs are with a friend. Often times, some of the daylight runs (on the weekends) are done that way as well. Not only is it fun to have someone to chat with, it's also great for assistance should either of you need it.

A few final thoughts:
As much as I prefer to be outside this time of year, this is a very personal choice and I respect not everyone will eagerly want to head outside. It's no secret that I will choose a cold run outdoors over a sweaty session on my treadmill, but if there's ice or extreme (sub-ZERO feels-like temps at play), I either keep it inside or I skip the run altogether. Also, I have run in the early morning hours (in the dark) for several years, and I feel very safe in doing so in my area. That's also a very personal choice. Nobody needs to be a hero; if outdoor running, especially in the winter or in the dark, is not your thing, then don't do it.

So, your you venture outdoors in the winter, or prefer to keep it inside? Any favorite tips for winter running? What's the coldest weather you've endured in your running shoes?

Much of the text of this post, and some of the images, first appeared in a previously published post,  Winter Running - Tricks, Tips & Safety

I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey for the Friday with Fairytales and Fitness link-up. 

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  1. When I started running, I learned pretty quickly that if you only run when the weather is nice you're not going to be running very much. Winter and summer both have their "challenges" but it makes sense to learn to deal with both. Realistically I will have to take my weekday runs inside soon but hopefully the weather will play nice on weekends.

    1. You're right about the winter and summer challenges! The winter ones are more painful for me, though LOL

  2. I learned to run outside so it's just my preference as well. I never thought about the hills blocking some of the wind and temps. The only time I won't run outside is in ice.

    1. It took me awhile to adjust to the winter running thing, but it beats the treadmill...says the gal who would rather be sweating it out on a hot summer day LOL

  3. I am always trying to get it right at the beginning of the season. I tend to run hot so I have to remember not to overdress. Also wind and clouds make it colder than sun and no wind.

    My DIY arm warmers have been a god send. I can get away with just a vest and add them. If I'm warm, I just roll them down. Always wear gloves and a beanie (now a buff/gaiter).

    1. All of my (late season) biking gave me a bit of an edge this's colder on the bike, so I had to figure out the layering earlier than usual. I think it gave me a chance to acclimate without realizing it.

  4. Very interesting about the hills. I admit I've never thought about that! Also consider that the same temperature in fall/winter feels much colder than in Spring. The shorter days means the ground never gets as warm as it does when the sun shines longer.

    And don't forget to look at the "feels like" temp. Today may be in the 40s here, but it's also wicked windy & it's going to feel a lot colder.

    1. The "feels like" temps are so tricky, but a huge factor. Although I n=much prefer the heat of summer, even I admit to loving the tranquility of a cold run (sans wind, of course).

  5. Oh, Kim...I can't believe you wrote it. The dreaded "W" word! Ugh!!! I'm not ready. But, ready or not, winter is coming. I'm hoping for a mild one. I am going to enjoy my trail run with some buddies this morning. It's supposed to be 60 degrees by the time we meet. Yay!

    By the way, I have 2 pairs of flannel (or fleece)-lined tights. They are the best, especially on a windy day!

    1. Yes, I had to do it...the "W" word is unavoidable LOL I'd love a mild winter, too. I think we're due!

  6. I was going to ask of y'all got snow already this year but then I read your disclaimer!

    I think as runners, we can endure a little more cold than non runners. Ever since I started running regularly( almost 10 years ago) I don't remember us having a real bad or real cold winter. Now we have had a cold snap for a week or two but that's it. But I think it's all about perspective. I probably won't venture out if it is below 32 but I do have a favorite therma fit top and fleece tights I love to wear but if I wear them in anything over 40 Its way too With that said, I do enjoy the treadmill too! Thanks for linking up! -M

    1. We have already had two substantial snowfalls...back in early-mid October (I think?). Thankfully, the snow didn't even last 24 hours, but it was a big buzzkill when it arrived that early!