It is still winter in many parts of the country with no signs of relief coming soon. In the Boston area, where I live, we have had over 101 inches of snow. This means that running outside is a challenge. While some sidewalks have been shoveled (personally, I try to get mine down to the pavement every time), there are still massive snow drifts and mounds of snows, particularly on corners, where plows have pushed the snow off the roads.
So, the question for a runner is “how do I run in this?”
We as runners have a few options. Here is how I see it shaping up.
- Do nothing, wait for it to melt. Now clearly, this is not an option for those of us who are trying to get a little better and a little faster. But I think we need to recognize that there are challenges to this weather.
- Run outside anyway. Just get out there and go. Run in the streets. Wade through the drifts. Suffer through the cold and run. I know some people who do this, and some who have found that it is a massive stress relief to get out there again. However, this is not for me. I have seen runners out in all kinds of weather, on narrow slippery roads, taking their chances with cars. Part of this must be because they are training for the Boston marathon, which is relatively early in the year. But again, for those of us interested in doing 5-Ks, it is not totally necessary.
- Run on a treadmill. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to run on treadmills. I don’t like not going anywhere. I don’t like the noise of the treadmills, and I just start to feel closed in. I have a tough time running with headphones. They seem to fall out of my ears. So, this option is not the best for me, but it might work for you. The advice I have heard is to make sure that you set the incline to be at least .5% so that there is some resistance to make it closer to what you would have running outside.
- Do something else inside. This is an option for people who, like myself, don’t want to get on treadmills and don’t want to run outside. The trick is to find an indoor sport that gets you breathing hard. It could be indoor soccer, basketball, Zumba classes, whatever. As long as you are getting some kind of cardiovascular workout, it will keep you from atrophying. My indoor cardio of choice right now is fencing.
- Do something else outside. Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, downhill skiing –all are options to help maintain fitness. Perhaps the simplest thing to do is bundle up and go out for a walk. Do your errands on foot. If you can navigate the drifts and the unshoveled walks, then you will probably get a workout, especially once you factor in the heavy boots and clothes.
Also, I have just a few piece of advice if you do decide to venture out in the cold weather.
First, wear layers. You know this already, but proper layering is everything. Cody Lundin, a survival instructor, lays out a layering system in his book 98.6 Degrees. The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive. I followed it to the letter when I was a score keeping at a winter biathlon and never really felt cold. I recommend this book to people who are going to be in the outdoors a lot. You will need to adapt his layering system for running, but have a dark colored base layer of wool, silk, or polypropylene, insulation layers of wool or materials like fleece, and an outer layer of wind resistant material will help keep you warm and dry.
I have another tip that I picked up from a mountain biker who got it from a mountain climber. If you are going to be outside in the cold for long periods of time, then coat your feet with antiperspirant. It keeps them from sweating and that keeps them dry. Dry feet are warmer feet.
Finally, the Marines have a cold weather acronym that Lundin also uses: C.O.L.D.
Keep yourself and your clothing Clean.
Wear clothing and equipment Loosely. Wear clothing loose and in layers in Lundin’s version.
As soon as the sidewalks and paths are passable, I will be back out there running. I think we all should be. In the meantime, with any luck, these ideas give you something to work with. I welcome more cold weather tips to add to these.