Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Running in Cold Weather

Guest blogger: Tim Grizzell, former Navy SEAL

Although I currently live in sunny Southern California, I am from the Northwest and I also lived in Stuttgart, Germany for two years. So, I have logged plenty of miles in really cold weather.

Most discussion about running in extreme climates seems to be focused on the risks of too much sun and heat, which ultimately could lead to heatstroke. Running in very cold weather poses some hazards as well that we often overlook. Hypothermia and frostbite are the most serious conditions to consider when running in subzero weather. The risk of hypothermia and frostbite is not great when running shorter distances, but you still need to be prepared. Therefore, when you step out the front door, you want to ensure that you are ready for all of the elements: wet, cold and wind.

You want to prepare for all the elements that you might encounter when running in cold weather by wearing proper clothing and layering the clothing. You will want to wear a base layer of technical fabric designed for runners (i.e., long sleeve top and full length bottoms/tights) that takes moisture from sweating away from your body and keeps your skin dry (otherwise known as “wicking”). The outside layer of clothing designed for running that you wear on top of the base layer that should protect you from the wet and wind, but it should be breathable. As your body starts to warm up, you might want to shed the outside layer and wrap it around your body. If your body starts to cool down, you will want to put the outside layer on. You can always add another layer in between the base layer and outside layer if needed, but do not overdress because you could end up sweating too much. Lastly, do not forget your gloves and hat as well.

In cold weather, you also might encounter some slippery surfaces. You do not need to change your running form too much. Maybe lean forward a little and shorten your stride some if it is very slippery out.

Another factor to consider when running in subzero weather is breathing in really cold air. You might feel like you have asthma like conditions after your run because of the cold air hitting your lungs. Some runners might wear a fleece neck gaiter that they can pull over their nose and mouth. Other runners just breathe through their nose instead of their mouth and find that helps. Most importantly, I would try to warm up inside by stretching or doing some exercises (i.e., pushups, pullups or situps) to get your blood pumping before heading out the door because this will help too.

Lastly, do not forget to hydrate just like you would if it was very hot outside.

Fired UP!

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