Thursday, November 5, 2009

12 Tips for Cold Weather Running

For some of you, cold-weather running has already arrived. Here in North Carolina, we've had a little cold-weather tease or two, but true winter weather is still a month or so away.

For some, winter is the time to pack up their running shoes until spring. If you dress well, hydrate well, and fuel yourself well, there's no reason you can't run year round. Of course, some of you deal with several feet of snow that may hinder your running, but on those days, maybe you can hit the treadmill. I hear from my Canadian readers all the time about their winter runs, so I know it can be done. They are hardcore runners! Listed below are a few tips to keep you safe and help prepare you for cold weather running.

1. Fuel Up!—When your body temperature drops, your appetite is stimulated. This happens because food provides the fuel needed to warm the body. Because of this, runners need to “feed the fire” before a winter workout as well as after. Make sure your feeding that fire with quality complex carbohydrates such as whole grains. Refueling after a run is important too. A 4:1 ration of carbs and protein will help restock your glycogen stores as well as help your muscles recover quicker after your workout. Lowfat chocolate milk makes a great post-run snack. It already has that 4:1 ratio!

2. Protect Your Hands!—Be sure to wear moisture-wicking gloves on your winter run. Wearing a snug-fitting gloves topped with weather-proof mittens works well. The double layer insulation keeps your hands quite toasty. On milder days, just the gloves or the mittens may be all that's needed. Mittens may look like kids' stuff, but they tend to keep your hands warmer than gloves, because the fingers can share their body heat which then gets trapped in the mitten keeping your whole hand warm.

3. Don't Forget Your Feet!—Remember to keep your piggies warm too! Moisture-wicking socks made of synthetic fibers (not cotton) will help keep your feet dry. On really cold days topping those moisture-wicking socks with micro-fiber or wool socks will help keep your feet toasty. Because of the added bulk, you may have to go up a shoe size for your winter runs.

4. Look Out for Frostbite!—Typically your appendages will warm-up fairy quickly on a winter run, but be sure to keep a check on your fingers as well as your toes, ears and nose. Patches of hard skin that look pale may be a sign of frostbite. If this is the case, get inside ASAP and begin to warm the affected area very slowly (do not immerse the affected area in hot water). If sensation does not return, seek medical help immediately.

5. Check the Temperature!—It can get too cold to run safely. It's best to hit the treadmill if the temperature goes below 0°F or the wind chill goes below minus 20°F. Better safe than sorry.

6. Layer it!—Dressing in layers is the best way to stay warm on a winter run. A thin moisture-wicking shirt makes a good base layer. A top layer made out of something such as nylon that will breath, but also protect you from the wind, is a good idea. On really cold days, you may need several layers. Garments made of fleece or micro-fleece are good for the additional in-between layers. Treat the lower half of your body the same way. Running tights will help keep your legs warm. On cold and/or windy days, pairing the tights with wind or fleece pants will keep you warm. It's important to have fabrics that breath so you don't over heat or get chilled. Be careful not to overdress. Remember, your body will warm-up as you run. Dressing as if it's 10°-20° warmer than it really is will help you accommodate for the body heat you'll generate.

7. Top It Off!—Around 40% of your body heat goes right out your head, so cover it up! Trapping this heat will help your body have more heat to distribute to the rest of your body. Be sure your head covering is made of moisture-wicking material (not cotton). Ever been on a winter run and your body's all nice and toasty, but your nose feels like it's going to fall off? If it's really cold or windy, investing in a neck gaitor (a neck muff) or a full face mask is a good idea.

8. Drink Up!—Be sure to hydrated well. Runners often think because they don't sweat as much in the winter, they don't need to hydrate as much. Actually you can perspire as much, if not more, in the winter as you do during the summer. Your skin may look dry because the moisture-wicking materials you're wearing are taking care of the moisture. Also, cold air has a drying effect which keeps your skill free of visible perspiration. This drying effect can also lead to dehydration, so drink up (before and after)!

9. Pucker Up!—The dry winter weather can be tough on your lips. To prevent chapped lips, be sure to apply some type of protective lip balm before and after your run.

10. Save It!—Your body takes longer to warm up during cold weather. Overdoing it on a cold day can spell trouble—a pulled muscle. Be sure to start out slowly to help your muscles warm up. Save your really hard workouts for milder days or do them indoors on a treadmill.

11. Be Seen!—Winter runs are often done in the dark or at least some of the run may be done in darkness. Be sure to wear light-colored, reflective clothing and/or a reflective vest. A handheld flashlight or a headlamp is a must on early-morning and nighttime runs. If you're running in the snow, wear brightly colored clothing so you can easily be seen. Remember, it's your job to make yourself as visible as possible.

12. Dry Off!—When you're finished, get out of those damp clothes and into dry clothing as soon as possible to avoid getting chilled.

22 comments:

unathleticrunner said...

Great list! To hands for me have to stay warm!!!

Iris said...

Anyone who encourages me to drink chocolate milk after a run is my hero.

Mel-2nd Chances said...

great list... just to add to your hydration point... i've run in weather cold enough that my water froze! Stupid, yes, maybe, but because i layered, i really didn't even feel that cold. I was told afterwards that honey in the water prevents it from freezing. haven't tested it out yet ;) but we did get our first bit of snow tonight :(

Molly said...

I wear a fleece ear band when it's cold, since the top of my head is bare it keeps me warm without overheating.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Unathleticrunner! Glad it helped! Stay warm!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Iris! Chocolate milk rules!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Mel! Great point! Guess maybe one of those insulated water bottles may help or create a route where you can loop back to your house or car to get your water.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Molly! Great idea!

Ness said...

I am already all covered up...Freezing cold here in the Netherlands, temperature about 7 degrees Celsius but the WIND.BRRRRRRRRR . Next sunday i have a race i am not sure what to wear!!!

Hapi said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

RunnerDude said...

Hi Ness! Wow! You have us beat! What distance is your race?

RunnerDude said...

Hi Hapi! Welcome to the blog! Hope you visit often!

Kenley said...

Great Post Runnerdude. As living in PA, I have to heed to these rules when running. I appreciate the checklist. If its too cold though, like you said, I just go to the gym and hit the treadmill for my running. When Spring comes, you really appreciate the weather and the fact of running outside. WhoooHooooo!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Kenley! I bet you do get some cold weather and snow up in PA. Keep warm my man, keep warm!

Stephanie Nichole said...

How NC right now? I'll be there in a few hours with a marathon on Sunday. Short are a definite (since I'm now used to running in 40 degree weather)... What would you recc for a top? Tank, T-shirt, or long sleeve???

B of B's Blog said...

Minnesota winters have typically kept me indoors or on the treadmill - but I don't want to lose my marathon fitness this year, so I'm going to run outside more and supplement with the treadmill. Thanks for your tips - some I knew, some I didn't! Wish me luck! This weekend will be 60 but single digits are only around the corner!

sconesvt said...

I love running outdoors in the winter, and do so as much as I can. Thanks for the checklist to help me remember all the layers! I've always found that just a thin pair of gloves is enough, even on the coldest days. I also noticed last year that my pace was significantly slower on very cold days (under 10 degrees F). I do just what you said: keep the long runs for the treadmill on those cold days!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Stephanie! Are you running OBX? If so, the temps supposed to be 56 for the low and 67 for the high. I'd probably wear a singlet in those temps. I'm closer to the mountains and our low on Sunday will be 40 a little chillier. Have a great race!

RunnerDude said...

Hi B of B's Blog! Enjoy that warm weather this weekend!!

RunnerDude said...

Hi sconesvt! Welcome to the blog! I wish I could run with just a thin pair of gloves. The rest of my body warms up, but my hands freeze. The mittens do help. Happy Running! Stay warm!

crossn81 said...

I'm not sure why we always forget about hydration. Last winter I had to use a lot of lotion, especially on my wind chapped legs. My coldest run was with -34 wind chill. I have a series of posts about my MN winter running experiences. Enjoy your cold winters!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Crossn81! Welcome to the blog! Man you are hardcore! Hats off to you!