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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beating Outdoor Winter Runs

If you live in the Midwest you know that weather can be very volatile. This isn't ideal for most runners, unless you love unpredictable weather or have an uncanny ability to mentally block out the cold. I have been grappling with beating the cold of winter runs but have not let them get the best of me yet. In fact, I am learning more about running in cold weather than I ever have before.

Although we have had slightly warmer
weather lately, this morning when I ran it felt pretty cold out there.


The first part of January was bitterly cold, barely peaking above the single digits. This made the mere thought of running outside undesirable and the act of actually doing it borderline miserable. I have come to expect a few things from running outdoors in cold weather though and a better understanding my body's needs in this type of weather has made getting out there easier.

First of all my runs are slower. Especially the first mile. I am not sure why this is and I have been reading articles to help me figure this out. I've learned that we do tend to run slower in the cold, with an average runners pace slowing by 5-15% in most cases, pending on how cold it actually is outside. 

My run this morning was at a slower
pace even though I was not
intending it to be.

Motivation for running outside also wanes some. Whether it be in the mornings (that is usually when I prefer to run) or in the evenings, when you know it is going to be cold out there it takes more gumption and self-talk to actually get your butt out there. I know that when my alarm went off at 5 AM this morning and I looked at my weather application on my phone and when I saw it read only 30 degrees, it took some serious conversation with myself to get my bones out of bed. Once I reminded myself that this would be my only chance to get outside to run today, I was able to find the strength to do it.

Figuring out what clothing to wear for colder runs is challenging too. I find that running in the 30's is the hardest to dress for. Gloves are needed at first and so is a stocking cap, but very quickly you warm up enough to not need those on anymore. Layering shirts is difficult for the same reason, you want several layers on when you start, but after a few miles you get too warm for anything more than a few layers.

Traction on the ground is also a concern, with possible snow and ice covering the streets and sidewalks. It is usually easy to see piles of snow or large patches of thick ice, but it is the deceiving thin layers that can trick you. I haven't had a major spill yet, but I am very cautious and constantly looking at the ground. 

While researching I have read that hydration becomes particularly important in the winter too because runners are still sweating and need rehydrated, however they aren't always aware that they are sweating because the beads of sweat run into their stocking caps and not into their eyes. I personally have not noticed this as much because I haven't run more than 7-8 miles in a single run this winter; personally it isn't until more than eight miles that I start to notice that I need to actually carry water with me. Articles have said though that by bringing a half Gatorade, half water mixture with you, your drink won't freeze as quickly as if you carry just water alone. If I feel the need to bring water with me I will definitely try that and let you know how it goes.

What challenges have you noticed during your winter runs this year? 

How do you motivate yourself to get out there in spite of the cold?



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