Wow! What a year for running! Penguins, polar bears, walruses rejoice!! HOWEVER, if you don’t happen to be a penguin, polar bear, or walrus then 2019 has started out a tad bit on the chilly and snow-filled side . . . along with ice and (my favorite) crazy winds. You know it’s a crazy winter when wind chill is in the single digits and you're EXCITED for the “nice” weather. For us in Southwest Missouri, in addition to colder-than-usual temps it’s the black (invisible) ice that can be really fun.
Of course, what would make good meme material is when you’re trying to talk with your running buddies and you can’t form words with those numb things once known as lips . . . and who doesn’t love being desperate for a bathroom, finding a port-a-potty, and your butt is so numb you really can’t tell if you’re seated or hovering? Ah, yes, the joys of running in butt-numbing weather. : )
So, what’s the answer to getting miles in when the conditions are VERY less than ideal? Well, if indoors and a treadmill, elliptical, or some type of aerobic cross training isn’t an option, then maybe it’s time to think more creatively. For example, it may be boring, but many high school tracks are made of this rubberized black rubberized material and POTENTIALLY they could be one of the first surfaces to clear off and provide a clear running surface. Get permission from the school’s athletic director first and stick to the outer lanes, but this can be a good option, ESPECIALLY if the wind is howling (as typically there’s a grandstand that can block wind).
One of my favorite all-time running tricks in brutally cold weather is to run with the wind, whichever way it’s blowing and work out a ride home. 10-mile run, run 10 miles and have my wife or pick me up at a pre-determined time (or park a running buddy’s car at the finish area and drive back with my car and run to his). Today I ran and it was probably 18 or so, but the wind had flags blowing straight out . . . made the mistake of finishing into the wind (yeah, I was good and sweaty by the time and it was c-c-c-cold that last mile or so)! Which makes the point, if you’re not going to run with the wind all the way, start out against the wind and finish with it so you don’t have sweat freezing on you.
I’ve recently mentioned other cold-weather running tips in recent posts, like using hand lotion on your hands before you run and petroleum jelly on your feet along with a gator on your neck, but I would also advise a heavy-duty lip protectant, tight and wicking base layers, and use those handwarmers in mittens (instead of wearing gloves).
Of course, in winter conditions (snow and ice), it’s important to shorten your stride . . . guarding against slips and falls, not to mention pulled muscles. Hydrating is important as well, but as I’ve found, if you run WITH water, it tends to freeze up within a few miles (if you have a pull spout, it could freeze shut as well). If you can help it, don’t go inside of a building when running against the wind unless it’s a necessity to get warm, to get a drink, or to use the bathroom . . . when you go inside, within seconds you’ll break out into a sweat and that will freeze quickly when you go back out into the wind.
Finally, use common sense. Don’t take chances that are tied into pride. If you’re saying/thinking things like, “I never miss a run,” or “no weather is too cold to run in” it’s time to check the ego at the door. Anytime you run in bitterly cold weather, you should run with someone AND let someone know when you’re leaving, when you should be back, and what route you’re running. Why? Here’s a true story: This winter, while on his way to a run (headed to his car), a friend of mine slipped and fell on the ice and hit so hard he fractured his leg and hip. He also dislocated his shoulder. Yes. He landed as wrong as you could land! It was 8 degrees out before wind chill. He was alone. He couldn’t pull himself to the house or stand up, so he started yelling . . . fortunately his wife was a light sleeper (and he fell just outside their bedroom window), heard him, and found him — an ambulance was there in 10 minutes. Imagine if he had fallen on a sidewalk at 5 a.m. with snow piled up on either side . . . not a whole lot of people drive with their windows down in bitterly cold weather.
Yes, that’s an extreme story, but none of us ever walk out the door thinking we’re going to fall or run into the unexpected, but in extreme temperatures it doesn’t take much time to suddenly find yourself in a very dangerous situation. It’s an old saying, “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.” Well, when you don’t respect nature or think you’re somehow tougher than “she” is, it’s only a matter of time before mother nature will demand your respect and reveal who really is tougher. Always take precautions and if you’re going to make a mistake, make it on the safe side.
So, it may be hard, but you may have to step back from running (or greatly shorten runs), get into indoor exercise activities, or do something that’s likely a lot harder for you than running – spend your running time on strengthening your core and really get those abs burning and screaming and begging for mercy! : )
Have an awesome run (or ab workout : ) today!
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