by Benita Zahn
Face it. We've been spoiled by the glorious, long, warm autumn. My gloves remained tucked in the winter bin along with my hats and I even ran/walked a few times in late October with capris and no windbreaker! That's pretty daring for a gal who's always cold. But the temperatures will get frosty and we need to be prepared. As a health coach I ask my clients what they'll do when the weather is cold, gray, even rainy/snowy. You've got to have a plan or else you'll find your easy chair calling once too often and before you know it your training plans go off the rails.
A keyway to brave the elements is to dress for them. But what's best? It depends on who you ask and your personal tolerance for cold. I asked accomplished triathlete Debby Goedeke how she keeps warm on those long training runs. Her go to (and mine) is a neck warmer, the kind that you can also pull to cover your face, the back of your head, or even when it's relatively warm, you can use as a sweatband. I also wondered what temperature she considers too cold to run in. Debby says she trains indoors when the mercury dips below 20, noting "cold air in your lungs is not a good thing." She's not wrong. Research finds the cold dry air can irritate your airways and trigger a bronchospasm. You might feel a tightness in your chest, even a burning sensation, shortness of breath and a cough. Dr. Rachel Talerico, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic says to reconsider outdoor running when it's 10 degrees or colder.
A guy who hates running in cold weather but surely knows about doing just that is Ryan Udvadia. Granted he broke the tape for men in the 10K at the 2018 Troy Turkey Trot, which was “painfully -7 degrees”he remembers. He wore 3 shirts, long tights, head scarf, hat, gloves and mittens on top. In short, when you really want to run you do and layers are your friend! Udvadia says he starts layering when the temperature dips below 60 and the first thing he dons are gloves. When it's 30 degrees or below you'll find him on the treadmill. Lucky for him the recent Marine Corps Marathon was a warm day (he likes running in the heat) and this first time marathoner scored 3rd overall, clocking a 2:27:36 (5:38/mile)! I don't think I even bike that fast!!
Jim Gazzale is hardcore! This runner and owner of SENS FITNESS shares that, as long as the temperature isn't in minus territory, you'll find him hitting the pavement. He told me that in the past 3 years he's only climbed on the treadmill to run twice. Like Udvadia, gloves are his must, along with a wind blocking top layer.
Does any of this sound like your 'dressing plan'? Is it a good one? Just ask Charlie, as in Charlie Woodruff, owner of Fleet Feet and an accomplished distance runner. He says the key to staying warm on those cold upstate runs is fabric, and that fabric is changing all the time. So the gear you got for Christmas 15 years ago, while it may look good, won't perform for you the way newer models will. Like your shoes, apparel has gotten lighter but at the same time more able to manage moisture and keep the wind and rain off you. He shared that during a recent training run with a group the jacket he wore was as thin as a piece of paper (almost) and he was dry as if there were clear skies. And this points up price vs. performance. As Charlie explains, we THINK apparel has to be heavy to keep us warm and dry and we're willing to pay for that, but when we see these newer materials and they seem flimsy, we balk. The truth is, as he shares, the lighter goods are the better value because they perform so much better. So, what's the best fabric? He says you need to know your needs: do you perspire heavily, do you like loose or tight fighting clothing, do you get cold easily or not.
Merino wool, says Charlie, is incredible for managing temperature. You can wear it on a 95 degree day and a 10 degree day because it's so effective at managing temperatures, keeping them at a steady state. A newer material is BreathThermal from Mizuno. It makes an 8-12 degree difference in body temperature vs. the ambient temperature. You feel it heat up and it stays warm. It's now in hats, mittens, socks and other outer layers. It's a hollow core fiber, so the heat and moisture you emit is absorbed into the fiber. In this way it dries your sweat and returns the heat to you.
Hat? Earband? Your preference, but as Charlie reminds us, it's not just the top of the head where we lose heat but the back of our neck. So, Debby Goedeke's neck warmer is a great choice. And there's an array of mock and full turtleneck tops that can do the job.
Gloves vs mittens? For those with very cold digits (that's me) it's mittens. There are gloves with a mitten topper you might like. Frankly, I haven't found any that really keep my fingers as warm as a mitten.
From fingers to toes, Charlie suggests Merino wool or mohair socks. The mohair is a heavier sock; 200 needle count for those counting. That provides more cushioning, something you can appreciate on those cold days when your shoes feel like bricks. Yes, midsoles do get harder as the temperature drops.
As for your legs, you want something that'll cover your quads and let the heat out the back. So look for pants/tights with a wind block panel on front when the windchill drives the temperature.
The only thing money can't buy is your get up and go. So, craft a winter training plan. Pick out a springtime race. In short, have a goal and the clothing you feel good in to keep the call of the easy chair quieter than the lure of the road.
About Dr. Benita Zahn
Benita is a certified Health and Wellness Coach working with clients at Capital Cardiology Associates. Benita spent more than 40 years as a health reporter and news anchor at WNYT in Albany, NY. She covered issues such as wellness, treatment breakthroughs, aging, nutrition, and the latest health care trends. Benita’s work has taken her around the world and across the USA. She continues to produce and host “Health Beat” a digital health interview program that posts every Monday and Thursday on wnyt.com and can be heard on the station’s podcast. Benita is a contributor to the weekly “Live Smart” page in the Times Union, the HMRRC Pacesetter and the new magazine 55+LIVING. Benita also created and co-hosts the podcast EVERYTHING THEATER.