Monday, January 16, 2012

Brrr-Running in the Cold: Tips

- By Maureen Baraka Bonfante

Baby It's Cold Outside. I love that song. Whether it's one of many duets recorded since 1949, the duets by Ricardo Montalban and Ester Williams, and Red Skelton and Betty Garret  in the movie Neptune's Daughter or this gem by Zach Braff and Donald Faison.

Winter blasts & traveling to colder climates leave many runners facing the "Baby it's cold outside!" test. Sometimes the pushing and pulling is with loved ones, other times an internal debate.

"I really must train."

"Baby it's cold outside!"

"I have a 10K."

"Baby it's cold outside!"

"I gotta to lace up."

"Your hands 'n feet may freeze, you know."

"I really must go, go, go." "So please enough talk of cold."

"BUT, baby it's cold outside!!"

BUT the enemy of all runners, when we really need to focus on HOW's. If you want to stay in good form whether you're running just to stay in shape or compete in a race you must get out of your physical and mental comfort zones, away from comfy couches, blankets, TV's, other fun distractions, tempting hot toddies, cocoas with cream, warm embraces from loved ones, warm, furry pets and, "Just do it!"

Preparing yourself in advance and having some HOW's in addition to a list of DO's and DON'TS will help you stay on course.

How to Prepare

1) Set reasonable distance, pace and total running time goals. 

If you have never run in the cold now is not the time to try to set a personal best record. Have a goal A & B. If you master A move on to B. For example, you are a new runner and the longest distance you ran was 4 miles when it was 64°F but it is 38°F and windy. Set Plan A for a 3 mile run at a slower than usual pace. If you feel good after 3 miles try for 4.

If you normally set out to run just for a set time, an hour every morning etc. no matter how far, consider reducing the time by a quarter. So your hour run becomes 45 mins and so on.

After a few days, you will get accustomed to running in the cold and enjoy continuing with your running program outdoors without a break throughout year.

2) Dress Accordingly/Prevent Frostbite

a) Wear layers. You can always take off a hoodie, etc. and tie it around your waist if you start to feel warm.

b) Protect your extremeties. Make sure you are wearing long sleeve shirts and running pants, not shorts and short sleeve tees. Wear a good hat, gloves, socks, ear muffs or head band. Cover your nose and face with a scarf or a face protector.
Frostbite begins to set in when the body's temperature drops below 98°F (34°C). Your body in an act to save itself starts to to contract blood vessels on the surface of the skin and extremities, so that blood can be concentrated in and keep vital organs such as the heart and lungs warm. In addition, to numerous factors increasing risk of getting frostbite such as alcohol or drug abuse, heart disease, poor ciruculation, etc. having sneakers that are constricting blood flow can also contribute to it. Be sure that your running shoes are roomy as well as comfortable.

c) Protect your feet and prevent slips. Whether you like a barefoot style of running or sneakers be sure your foot wear has good traction. Don't take a chance running on a snowy or frosty surface with footwear that is smooth. If you can, buy yourself a pair of running shoes with cleats. There are a variety of options out there. If you do not want to purchase a new pair of running shoes with cleats get a traction device you can slip on like the one below or if you are handy cleats you can put on the bottom of the soles.
Yatrax Walkers- Unisex $19.95,
3) Carry extra clothes, if you are commuting to run or participate in a race. See if you have options to check a bag with some extra clothes to change into. Adding to the risk of frostbite is being wet in the cold. You run. You sweat. It is unavoidable.

If you cannot check your bag try to travel with a light back pack that you can wear while your run. In addition, to a clean dry shirt, socks and pants don't forget the underwear. In warm weather we can generally do without changing completely, often just putting on a clean tee, but not so in the cold. Decrease your risk of hypothermia by staying as dry and warm as possible. If you have to change in a restroom that is better than nothing.

4) Hydrate. You may not feel as thirsty as you do in the heat but you still need to stay hydrated. Depending on the distance you are running bring a small bottle of water or camel pack. Drink plenty of fluids before and after your run.

5) Protect your skin. You wear sunscreen in the summer. Don't forget winter moisturizers with suncreen and some lip balm.
Do's & Don'ts

Don't run if conditions can be hazardous to your health and safety; extreme cold temperatures, high winds, icey roads and streets.

Don't push yourself beyond a reasonable limit.

Do stop if you feel you must. If you are getting chills, feeling numming or tingling in your hands or feet, return home immediately. Call a friend or loved one to let them know of your condition. Call your local police department or emergency services if you are too far to return home safely or need immediate care.

Do run with a buddy or group if possible.

Do carry your cell and make sure the battery is fully charged so you can make a call in case of an emergency.

Don't listen to music so loudly you cannot hear what is going on around you. Keep at least one ear bud off.

Don't run on roads that may have black ice or areas with poor lighting.

Do plan your running route in advance and let a friend or loved one know where your are heading. You can chart a route to run on, or other applications.

Do have a friend or loved one call you at a set time(s) during your run to see that all is going well, or if you do not return home or call them by a specific time.

Don't give up. Don't give in.

"Just do it!"

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