Running in a winter wonderland

  • This was printed in November of 2013 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 28th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

Running isn’t a seasonal sport. Just because it’s a bit nippy outside

doesn’t mean a person can’t enjoy a nice jaunt along the road or a trail

in the foothills — that person only needs to wear more clothes.

Valley runners don’t need to worry much about snow or sub-freezing

temperatures, but it’s still smart to bundle up and take extra precautions

in the chilly air and visibility-reducing fog.

Here are some tips for cold-weather running:

1. Layer up

Runners should wear tight, moisture-wicking fabrics, just like they do in

hotter temperatures, but add a layer of fleece for warmth and a

lightweight, waterproof jacket during outings in the rain or fog.

2. Dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer.

If you’re not a little uncomfortably cold before you start your run, you are

wearing too many layers and you’re going to be blazing hot in 10

minutes.

3. Cover your head.

A lot of heat can escape from your head, so keep it — and your ears

—covered. Invest in several cheap beanies and/or thick headbands;

they’ll be drenched in sweat after each use.

3. Protect your neck and face.

You can also lose a lot of heat through the exposed skin of your neck,

and it can be uncomfortable to breathe icy cold air. You can solve both

of these problems with a simple neck gaiter. This multi-use tube of fabric

(one popular brand is Buff) can be used as a scarf, mask, balaclava,

hat, do-rag and more. I often use mine as a headband and wrap another

one around my wrist to use as a snot rag. Check out runnersbooty.com

and click Accessories to find a multi-use gaiter for $10.

4. Moisturize vulnerable skin.

Dry winter air and wind can wreck havoc on sensitive skin. Wear lip

balm and try petroleum jelly on the nose and cheeks to prevent skin

from chapping in bitter conditions.

5. Keep your feet dry.

A wet foot rubbing against a cotton sock is a recipe for big, fat blister.

Wear moisture-wicking wool socks that will keep feet warm but also

keep blisters at bay. I am in love with Injinji brand “toe socks”, which

kept my feet cushioned and blister-less — even after 50 miles on a

rocky, slippery trail.

6. Don’t let your fuel freeze.

It doesn’t get THAT cold here, but energy gels and blocks can become

hard to eat when they’re cold. Keep them in a pocket close to your body.

I sometimes tuck my Gu packets in my palm inside a glove. When I am

ready to eat it, the energy gel is warm and I can almost pretend that I’m

eating hot fudge.

7. Wear reflective gear and/or lights.

The Valley is known for being foggy, and with shorter winter days, you

might be starting or finishing a run in the dark. To be seen in these

instances of decreased visibility, clothing and hats with reflective detail

should be worn, along with a reflective vest and lights. Headlamps, clip-

on lights and more are available at local running and sporting goods

stores.

8. Hydrate.

Don’t forget to drink just because it’s cold outside. Although it’s chilly,

you’re still going to sweat, which means you will lose fluids that need to

be replenished.

9. Change quickly.

After a run, your core body temperature drops and you’ll shiver in wet

clothes. Change everything – even a damp sports bra — quickly. Layer

up with dry clothes, hats and gloves.

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