Anyone familiar with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when the Griswold family is out in the middle of nowhere to cut down a Christmas tree and Clark Griswold’s (Chevy Chase) lips are going numb and he can’t pronounce words because it’s so cold and his daughter has turned blue and her eye balls have frozen?
Welcome to winter 2014!
It’s been quite awhile since any of us really had to face a winter like the one we’re looking at this year! Snow, ice, temperatures plunging (and staying) below zero, and wind chills well into the danger zone. I ran earlier this week — on a “warm” day…wind chill was zero at time…, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
You know when you run at even 6 miles per hour into a 20 mph per hour wind…that’s colder…and the wind may be sustained at 20 mph, but those gusts up to 30-35 mph drop the chill significantly! Yeah, even a short run can numb your toes, turn fingers into icicles, freeze tears to your face, give you some nice pinking of your skin (areas with not enough layers) and cause your lungs to want to collapse — happy, happy, joy, joy! : )
So, what do you do when it’s literally dangerous to run outside? Well, first off, ya don’t run outside! No one is paying you millions of dollars (thousands, hundreds or even a buck) to run, are they? Why ask that? Because it’s important to keep running in perspective of life. Running is something we do to stay healthy, achieve a goal, have some personal time, etc. But life is more than running. Runners sometimes get so fixated on “getting their run in,” that they forget to consider the consequences of poor running decisions. You have family, friends, a job, people who rely on you? Okay, although you may find running more fun than your job, let’s be honest — without that job, you’re not going to be running at all (running shoes aren’t free and neither is heating your home). And running is a poor second to family. : )
So, no running in dangerous weather. Well, what about just cold weather? No problem. I don’t have a problem in running in zero or above weather…and if there’s little to no wind, I can run in –10 below zero without much problem (because your clothing can retain your body heat better). You just have to dress properly and may need to shorten your distances.
Here’s my clothing list for a typical cold-weather run:
Thicker, polar-style running tights
Pair of running shorts over the tights — hey, they cut the wind and trap some heat (note the difference in the
color of your legs when you remove your tights…you’ll be able to tell where your shorts stopped).
Thin, tight first layer shirt (something to pull sweat away from the body to the next layer)
Heavyweight wicking turtleneck…not as tight as first layer
Relatively loose-fitting wicking running sweatshirt with zip up collar (traps in warmth)
If windy, I wear a wind vest over that
A wicking neck gator that can be pulled up over your mouth, if necessary
A good running hat (ski hats work fine)…if super cold, put a headband over your hat on your ears
Thick pair of running socks, wicking
Running gloves or mittens…or gloves covered by mittens : )
Lip balm — yeah, cold weather will crack your lips in no time
Put a good layer of quality hand lotion on your hands (moisturized hands stay warmer than dry, cracked hands)
Put a thin layer of petroleum jelly on your feet…helps to retain some heat…, which is better than none. : )
Running watch — you want to keep track of how long you have been out … in cold weather, chances are you run more slowly because you’re running with care, which expends more energy…so let’s say a 6 mile run that normally takes 55 minutes, could take 60 or 70 or more and be MUCH tougher of a workout because you’re placing your feet, you’re navigating ice and snow, and your leg muscle may never fully warm up! So use the watch at least until you’re used to running in difficult weather and run by time, instead of distance for awhile.
– and no sticking your tongue to random flag poles, either! : )
In addition, someone should know where you are running (your route) and when you expect to be back. Trust me, if you slip and fall on some black ice, you could knock yourself out or seriously injure yourself…and if it’s really cold out, you’re going to want to have someone looking for you ASAP. Can’t happen to me? Yeah, well…easy to say now. : )
One of the things you also need to keep in mind when running in wintery weather is that you’re going to have to adjust your running stride to the weather. Shorten your stride, run lighter on your feet, don’t allow yourself to run to exhaustion…why? Shorter stride means if you do slip, your hamstrings have “give” left (so you catch yourself rather than having a pulled or torn hamstring); lighter on your feet, because if you heel-strike, you have a better chance of slipping and going down in an unexpected hurdler’s stretch (ouch!); and you don’t push the distance in the bitter cold because as you tire, your form starts deteriorating and your reactions (to slips, for example) slow AND if you have to walk…that warm sweat next to your body when you stop will start to not be so warm in short order! When you walk, your body can’t maintain the heat to keep that sweat warm — especially if windy. So, again, don’t over extend. : )
Okay, sickness is also a huge issue this time of year. In fact, I’m battling something right now. For colds, seriously, as soon as I feel something coming on, I start taking Zinc and Vitamin C. All those fancy little sprays and stuff they’re selling on TV as cold-shorteners are Zinc-based. Also, get some hand sanitizer and use it regularly (especially if you’re in an area that is having a lot of flu issues). Germ-a-phobe? Hmmm. I don’t consider myself one, but I wash my hands and use sanitizer a lot more right now than during the summer when little flu seems to exist. And one last thing…not sure what it is, but there is SOME thing in chicken noodle soup…don’t know what, but sure seems like I start feeling better after eating it. OF course, if you have the “hurling” or “the runs” (or both) type of flu, then just try to sip gatorade to keep from dehydrating and saltines seem to be good…. Just don’t try to hurry back from the flu as your body has been weakened and you don’t want to relapse!
If you haven’t been able to run, and you’re just dying to get your heart pumping, I recommend buying an aerobic DVD video. Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred will cause most to break a sweat (add weights if it isn’t tough enough for you). Cardio workouts actually can be quite beneficial for runners because sometimes we can get complacent with our running effort…and a good cardio workout is much like a speed workout for the heart rate impact and let us know what we’re capable of (when it comes to effort : ).
Well, there’s a lot of info to digest here. Stay warm and stay smart when you make the decision (or not) to run!
Have an awesome run today (or as soon as the weather permits)!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!