I don’t know about you but this time of year, while I’m out running at least 3 times a week. I like to say I’m like a postman, delivering the mail. Neither snow, nor ice, nor heat – (I’d Like to see some heat right now in February!), nor gloom of night will stay ME from getting outside and completing my running circuit! But if you really love running, there’s not much that will stop you from getting outdoors to put some miles behind you.
But at this time of year, I have to admit there are days when bending over to lace up my winter-running shoes, (they are closer to a hiking boot than shoe) I feel a twinge that travels from my lower back right down my thighs to my calf’s. Not to mention the inevitable runny nose, numbness in your toes, and an overall stiffness within your body and joints. If this doesn’t have me thinking twice, about saying not today and go back to the couch and put on “The View” than I don’t know what does?
So how do you combat these cold weather feelings that turn into obstacles, in order to run outdoors, this time of year? Follow these tips for better winter runs, again, these are only suggestions that have worked for me.
One of the most common complaints I hear from a lot of “Newbies-Cold Weather Runners:
I WEAR LAYERS BECAUSE IT’S SO COLD, BUT INTO MY RUN I’M SWEATING AND OVERHEATING.
THE REASON: Whenever you begin an activity in cold weather, you’re bound to be cold because you don’t have any blood flowing yet, so it’s normal to dress warm. But once you start moving, your body temperature rises and you begin to sweat. Location also plays a part in what to wear. “Dressing for winter running can be tricky depending on where you live,” says Stephanie Rothstein Bruce, pro-runner and marathoner. “If it’s a 30-degree day in the humid east coast climate, dressing for 30 degrees makes sense because the sun isn’t out to warm you up and humidity keeps cold trapped in. By contrast, a 30-degree day in sunny, dry Colorado would suggest dressing for a 50-degree day because you’ll warm up much quicker on your run,” The humidity just isn’t there to make you sweat more, which in turn will cause you to feel cold a lot easier and sooner!
What to Do? Take into account where you’re planning to run. If it’s a low temperature outside, but very sunny, consider wearing a few less layers. If you’re running at night, an extra-long sleeve shirt might not be a bad idea. Also, if you can, warm up inside and get your blood flowing. If you can manage to break a sweat before you head out the door, you won’t be as chilly on your run. A 10-15 minute of stretching, some deep knee bends and doing a few jumping jacks will get both your blood pumping and your heart geared up so in the long run, your bodies going to be warmed up and your core ready to be put to the test.
I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO BREATHE IN THE COLD.
If you have actual shortness of breath, you may want to consult with your doctor, recommends Dr. Alan Cohen, an Otolaryngologist with Ear, Nose and Throat Associates of New York, as it could be exercise-induced asthma. If that is the case, a doctor can prescribe an inhaler. If you don’t have asthma, it’s best to breathe in through the nose so that it can be filtered and warmed. However, between a runny nose and the need for more air, many people begin mouth breathing, which means freezing cold air will be hitting your lungs, says Cohen.
What to Do? Try to breathe through your nose when you can. Even wearing a ski mask won’t always warm up the air breathed in through your mouth. Cohen says it becomes an individual sensitivity issue. “Some people don’t mind it, and others hate the cold hitting their chest.” If you have serious problems breathing, see your doctor.
MY EARS GET SO COLD AND START TO ACHE.
Why? Ears, like your fingertips, are made of thin cartilage, which makes them very sensitive to the cold. “Any pain is just a protective response your body automatically makes,” says Cohen.
What to Do? If wearing a hat or ski cap feels overwhelming, Cohen recommends wearing a piece of gear that covers the ears, like muffs or a headband. Finding one that has rubber grips or that is lined to wick sweat are both great options.
MY TOES GO COMPLETELY NUMB.
Why? Unfortunately, cold weather has a way of making body parts go numb after a while. This happens due to the lack of blood flow to certain limbs, especially the hands and feet. Having your shoes tied too tight, or wearing shoes that are too small, can also cause a feeling of numbness.
What to Do? Avoid socks that separate your toes, which will only make them colder. Instead, simply layer up on regular socks. “Whenever I look at the weather and see that it is going to be below a certain temperature, say 20 degrees, I double layer my socks,” says Rothstein Bruce. If that doesn’t work, try running with foot warmers. Keep in mind you need to make sure your shoes are large enough to accommodate that extra thickness of wearing two layers of socks. Serious cold weather runners actually have a pair of running shoes specifically, just to wear when running in the colder weather. They are a size larger based on the thickness of the socks they are going to wear while running. See a sports-related shoe store, and their staff will fit you out just right!
MY NOSE WON’T STOP RUNNING.
Why? “Every time you take a sniff of outside air, it’s the nose’s job to filter, warm and humidify that air to body temperature in a fraction of second, before it hits the lungs,” says Cohen. “Especially in the winter, when you’re outside, your nose is trying to over-moisturize the super dry air, and the extra moisture causes it to run.”
What to Do? While there are some prescription sprays that slow down nose running, they are not recommended for this type of situation (these are mostly for allergies). The best thing you can do is to carry tissues with you. Cohen also recommends putting some Vaseline around your nose to prevent chapping. You’re going to notice this more in a area of the country that has normally high humidity.
MY JOINTS FEEL REALLY TIGHT, WHICH MAKES RUNNING UNCOMFORTABLE.
Why? Cold winter weather causes the body to slow down a bit and adjust to the colder weather. “Things just aren’t working as quickly and efficiently as they do when it’s warm,” says Rothstein Bruce. “Therefore, joints can feel stiffer and more locked up.”
What to Do? Allow your body extra time before heading out for a run. Get your joints and muscles moving before you put them through the paces — don’t just run out the door, says Rothstein Bruce. Give yourself at least 10 minutes to adequately warm up, including walking, foam rolling and dynamic stretching, she says. This will ultimately help best prepare your body to train and prevent possibly, a sprain or stretched muscle. Notice we touched on this before. Another thing you can do is to give those muscle or joints a little support. Kind of like preventive medicine. You can wrap those sore, aching areas of your legs or knees with a support bandage or “Tape” to provide you with an added level of strength to those areas that you feel you need it. One great product that I have used, and keep a supply with me is called KT Tape Pro Synthetic It comes in Twenty-10″ precut “I” strips per roll. KT Tape Pro is performance engineered to work in the harshest environments. It’s the only 100% synthetic kinesiology tape, re-engineered with stronger adhesive that will stay in place, not only through today’s run, but through your week of runs if you need that continued support! Once you’ve used it, you won’t be without it in your running kit.
So, when you’re getting ready to head outside and the wind is blowing and your body is creaking, or a little stiff. Just remember, you “Love” this time of year”! And with a little “Get R Done” (And Yes, Girls Do Have That Same Mindset!), attitude, along with of course some stretching, (Don’t forget That!), you can send that body of yours out into the cold and head on down the trail.