by Dick Vincent
Four seasons does make a year and for each season runners have these common complaints about the weather.
WINTER: It was too cold and icy to run. My training suffered.
SPRING: It is too rainy and muddy to run. My training suffered.
SUMMER: The heat and humidity were unbearable, My training suffered.
FALL: The weather is perfect for running. I wish I was in better shape.
I have tried telling all of these excuses to the finish line clock and despite my desperate pleas, it just kept ticking. One trait about the finishing clock is it isn't prejudice; it hates everybody! If the clock isn't important to you then insert “blood pressure” or “scale” in place of clock.
As we finish up the running season for 2018 we are looking ahead to the dark, cold months of 2019. The idea of training in frigid weather without much daylight makes most runners blood run cold. But if you prepare for the winter properly, you may not love it, but you can endure the dark, the cold, and the wind somewhat joyfully. Winter is a perfect time to lay down a solid base foundation to build on the remainder of the year.
The first thing you must do is discover what kind of a runner you are. I say this because if you ask around the running community you will get a lot of advice, most of it is dependable as long as the person giving that advice is the same type of runner as you. If you are a gazelle and fly along at a quicker pace than most, you generate lots of B.T.U's. Faster runners generate more heat even if their cardiovascular systems are working at the same rate as a slower runner. The muscles are moving faster and generating more power. That means their heater is hotter. But if you are like me and moving at a much slower pace, even if my effort is high, I won't generate as much. My muscles aren't contracting with the force that a faster runner does with a similar effort. These days, I need to wear a lot more clothes than I did 30 years ago. But if you can run along at warp speed, you are probably going to sweat bullets if you dress like me. If you are slight in stature, you don’t generate as much heat as a more muscular or thicker body type running the same speed. The Arabian horses do better in the heat than the Clydesdales.
If you are one of those who hates the cold of winter running, let's start with a fresh approach this winter. The worst part of running in the winter is the intimidation of being cold. Once running it isn't so bad but getting out the door to face that first mile can be frightening. Dress warmly for that first cold run. Start out with a short loop that brings you by your start/finish area and if you are over-dressed you can ditch a layer. If you are still cold, add something. Run a few “test runs” in different conditions but it always helps to have that short loop to give you options to adjust once started.
Layer clothing that you can peel off or unzip. You do want to start your runs feeling a little cold but you shouldn't be freezing. If possible, run into the wind to start and finish with the wind at your back. There is nothing worse than working up a lather only to turn for home with a cold wind in your face.
Be brave and think what is best for you and forget about what everyone else thinks a winter runner should wear. At this past year’s Boston Marathon, despite the cold temperatures and driving rain, many runners, including the elites, dressed according to how they thought a fast runner should dress. The exception was women’s winner Desi Linden who wore a rain jacket, gloves, and a hat. When the other runners battled hypothermia all day Desi cruised away to victory. She was brave enough to make her own fashion statement. Winter especially is no time to be a slave to fashion.
Let's make your first goal this winter of running to get comfortable enduring the elements. Allow your sedentary neighbors to shake their head as you go running by as they are shovel their car out. When I hear about the arctic cold front or heavy snow coming I try to look forward to the challenge of whatever Wally Weather is sending our way. Running in the bad weather isn't so much about the weather as it is about how you dress and prepare for it. Regardless of what Old Man Winter serves up, there is proper clothing and gear to handle the situation. Think ahead and build your weather war-chest now. Then look forward to putting up your dukes to whatever the Nanook of the North serves up.
Here are some extra items you can add to your winter gear bag.
Traction devices: There are an assortment of things like Yaktracs on the market and in a pinch, you can simply screw ⅜ in. hex screws into your shoes to help on the ice.
Face masks: Neck ups, scarfs, a neoprene mask, there are many that work. I am old school and I often smear petroleum jelly over the skin.
Hand Warmers: For about a buck a pair you can get them to put in your gloves. They last for 8-10 hours and if you find you are still running by the time the hand warmers fade you have bigger problems than cold hands. Toe Warmers are available too.
Reflective Gear: This is not an option: get it!
Headlamp: If you are going to run in the dark, it is a must.
It sounds so simple but bring lots of warm clothes for before and after. I am amazed how many seasoned runners are freezing after the workout or on the warm down because they don't have extra clothes. It might be bearable to stand around before a workout starts, but afterwards when you have worked up a lather and clothing is damp, if you don’t change you are going to be uncomfortably cold. Bring dry shoes and socks too. Be prepared.
Now get out there and have fun being the crazy neighbor everyone is talking about.