By Vado Porro • November 16, 2010•Writers in Residence
Every year, I look forward to the time of year when the air dries out, the temperature drops, and I get to break out my running pants and long sleeved shirts. After four months of unbearable heat and humidity, it’s finally cold out. Not just cool enough to run without feeling like dying, but cold out. Have to run to warm up cold. Come home with your nose red and runny cold. It’s probably really weird coming from somebody who spends the rest of the winter wearing a fleece bathrobe AND a snuggie, but I love winter running. And I’m not alone.
Every year, as the temperature drops, my friends who have recently started running say, “I find I prefer running now that it’s cold - is that weird?” To which I say, “Not at all!” For people whose bodies react poorly to summer running - either by overheating, producing too much sweat, or experiencing a variety of stomach issues associated with warm-weather running, cold weather running is fantastic. It also provides an opportunity to get out of the house, hopefully during daylight, and helps prevent the winter blues from taking over.
There are a few things you need to consider before you start running in the winter. First of all, gear. You’re going to need pants - and they probably won’t be the boot cut yoga pants you like to wear on weekends, or the flattering pants that you wear to the gym. Running pants need a waistband that keeps them up, and boot cut pants lead to tripping or stepping on the legs of the pants and yanking them down. You want to go for either spandex running tights or straight legged running pants. Forget vanity here - everyone on the road already either thinks you’re crazy, or is also wearing tights. You’ll also need a variety of warm shirts - both lightweight with venting, for temperatures in the high forties to mid-fifties, and heavier for temperatures in the thirties to forties. If you’ll be running in temperatures below thirty degrees, you’ll want a vest or fleece of some kind. Consider a running hat and gloves as well - and make sure your shirt or pants has pockets, because you might get hot and need to take the hat and gloves off. Go for short runs to test your new gear before you wear it out for ten miles - everybody reacts differently to cold.
The next thing you need to keep in mind is how your body reacts to the weather. I know two things about myself - my skin gets very dry, and my lungs don’t manage well with cold, dry air and I tend to start wheezing. You might have other specific problems with cold weather sports. When I run, I protect my skin by wearing chapstick and petroleum jelly or bag balm on exposed areas. I protect my lungs by wearing a scarf, balaclava, or neck-warmer over my mouth.
Another thing to consider is your safety - if you go to work before it is light out and come home when it is already dark, you need to take a lot of precautions. Run with a light of some kind - if you will be on trails, you are going to need a headlamp. If you will be on roads, make sure you have an LED that straps on somewhere so that cars and pedestrians can see you. Wear light colored, reflective clothing. Do not run alone - find a running group or a friend. Tell someone before you leave and stick to a prescribed route so they can find you if something goes wrong. Consider confining your long runs to weekends during the daylight, and making weekday runs shorter, at lunchtime, or even inside.
Make sure you stay hydrated and give yourself time to warm up once you come back inside - and change out of wet clothes immediately. If you keep these things in mind, you will be well on your way to a happier and healthier winter!