It’s that time of year again – the challenge of getting up and running on cold, wet and many times dark mornings or evenings. Some ladies love running in the cold weather and some… not so much! You don’t have to be indoors all winter – with a few smart tips and acquiring a few items, you can find real joy in being outdoors with the winter runs and other activities! That warm soup or stew will taste so much better after a great winter run! As always, we do recommend that if you have any health issues or concerns about braving the winter elements, check with your medical professional. Also, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) gets to a fair amount of women who live in the chilliest climates, especially after the holidays. Even if you don’t get those winter blues – keep your sanity by staying active through the cold months and holidays! It will definitely boost your mood and energy levels. And it never hurts to get a great dose of sunshine and fresh air! Winter running and walking really does wonders for your confidence, your stamina and your mental/physical toughness! So with that, let’s look at some tips and advice from the runhers headquarters:
Temperature and Wind Chill
Brrr. There are times when the temps will be at or around zero and the wind chill is even colder! That may be the days to do a treadmill workout or do some cross training or other indoor activities! With very low temps, your movement and wind – the wind chill is even lower and penetrates your clothing; removing your warm, insulating boundary layer from your body. This can spell trouble with overexposure to the elements. So, simply; just be smart about it. Go out for a short loop of 15 – 20 minutes and see how you feel.
Dress in Layers
You’ll want to start with a ‘base layer’ – which is a thin layer of synthetic material which wicks sweat from your body. Avoid cotton as it retains moisture and doesn’t ‘wick’ the moisture away, leaving you wet and miserable! For your outer layer, you need a breathable made of nylon or a Gore Tex type of jacket – these will let out heat and moisture to prevent overheating (yes it can happen!) and chilling. And if it is wicked cold, you may need a middle fleece type layer. Try different things on your runs to see what works best for you.
If you are out in a race/run with wet snow or even rain and cold – make sure you have a waterproof outer layer and hat. If you are out of town – a cheap poncho or rain suit, or even a hotel trash bag can help keep you warmer and dryer. Just cut a hole for your head and you are good to go! Improvise and make something work! Looking great is not the main thing here – it is all about your health and safety – be as smart as possible. Other runners are usually a good source of info – ask around!
Most experienced winter runners use this as a good starting point – dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer outside than it really is. You’ll warm up once you get moving, so you should feel a little bit chilly when you start your run. If you are going to a race and you’ll be standing in the corral or start area for some length of time – consider taking old sweatshirts and other old clothing items you can discard as you start running. NOTE: most races call local charities in to pick up these clothes and reuse them. And please don’t throw them where people are actually running – throw them over the fencing or out of the way from where runners are!
Protect Your Hands and Feet
The statistic is that as much as 30% of your body heat escapes through your hands and feet. On semi-cold days simply wearing a thin running glove with wicking is plenty. On cold days, many are opting for the mittens, where your fingers can share their body heat. Don’t forget about those cheap, disposable Hot Hands either! Tuck one in each mitten or glove, they do help! For warmer feet – a wicking sock liner may be used as a base with a polar fleece or wool sock on the outer. NOTE: make sure you do have room in your running shoes to wear that thicker sock setup.
Wearing a hat is essential! You can lose about 40% of your body through your head. You can even layer (and accessorize) if you chose. If it is wicked cold, you might consider wearing some type of scarf or face mask to warm the air you’re breathing a little and protect your face. Oh, and moisturize your face and lips – early and often!
If you get wet from rain, snow, or sweat in winter temps, you’re at an increased risk for hypothermia (see below). If you do get wet – get to warm shelter as quickly as possible. As well, get out of the wet clothing and into dry as soon as you can. If you suspect you may be in trouble, ask for and get emergency treatment immediately.
This isn’t our favorite topic – but here at runhers we are all about safety! It is important to know the signs, and for your own good, let others know where you will be running and the route. Another option is to run with friends! We can catch up on the latest news together during our runs!
Hypothermia sets in when the body’s temperature drops below normal. It starts when the body loses heat faster than heat can be made. Heat is produced by muscle action and shivering. Very low body temperatures can threaten life. Early symptoms include shivering, cold and pale skin, apathy, and impaired judgment. Later symptoms include drowsiness or weakness, confusion, slow pulse and breathing, and passing out. Hypothermia is an emergency. Get immediate help.
Make sure you ‘listen’ to your fingers, toes, ears, and nose. They can feel a little numb when you first get out – but they should warm up as you get into your run. Noticing a patch of hard, pale, cold skin could indicate you may have frostbite. Get inside to shelter immediately and begin slowly warming up the area(s). If you continue to feel numb or unsure – it is best to get some emergency care. It really is better to get checked out as early as possible.
This is important to remember. Even though it’s cold you will still heat up and lose fluids through sweat. Cold, winter air also has a drying effect – making dehydration a real issue. As with all running, make sure you are properly hydrating – before, during and after your runs and walks!
Yes, winter months can present a challenge with fitness and outdoor lifestyle. Please don’t give up your running, fitness and outdoors activities during these cold dark months. A little planning, a little testing and some imagination can keep you going – and you’ll have a huge head start on spring/summer swimsuit season! If you are not running or walking yet, we want to help you get started. Don’t wait till it warms up. Our next article will be running safely in the dark. As well, we will be writing about winter style, moisturizing tips, hair care and other topics in our lifestyle section. We want you to be your best you, however you imagine you to be!