Winter in Ohio, it is here for real this year. The gray, cold, and snowy season in Central Ohio is here. It makes us want to curl up with a good book and an even better cup of coffee. Normally, it does not inspire thoughts of waking up early and hitting the pavements with our running shoes. However, this is January and we have fresh resolutions to be fitter and stronger in 2013. By chance, it is also the start of the Capital City Half and Quarter Marathon’s training schedules! As unappealing as it may seem at first, running during this time of year can be bearable. After a few trips out the door on those chilly mornings it can be incredibly rewarding, and yes inspiring. However, to make the most of our winter training there are a few issues we need to consider before sprinting out the door into the snow!
Safety – See and Be Seen
My favorite topic in any season is safety. Winter running brings up several extra concerns. First and foremost, it is dark more than it is light. A really nice option is to head out during lunch, get in a 30-40 minute run and still have time for a quick shower and a sandwich. In reality, few of our work lives allow for the luxury of the lunchtime workout, so most of us will find ourselves running in the dark at some point. Even well-lit neighborhoods and trails have areas of hidden dangers, so bring your light with you! Headlamps, once relegated to the hard core camping set, have become a staple for winter running. Headlamps are terrific for lighting your way and making it easier for cars and others to see you. You can find them everywhere, from high end sporting goods stores, big box retailers, and even in the line at the grocery store. No need to spend a lot of money, just find one that suits your budget and slip it on over your hat. Once you have your headlamp, add reflective gear to your wardrobe and wear it every time you are out. There are high-tech jackets, vests, tights, and shoes with reflective gear or even lights built into the apparel itself. You can buy reflective tape for your jacket or your wrist, or little LED bands to go around your ankles. If you don’t have reflective or lighted gear, get some or don’t run in the dark. Seriously, you want to come home from each and every run. Unfortunately, drivers are not looking for you, sometimes not even looking at the road. Always run against traffic so that you can see them coming and can get out of the way if necessary.
Rule number one for running apparel is NO COTTON! Cotton holds sweat next to your body, which keeps you hot in the summer and cold in the winter – no fun. Technical fabrics on the other hand are designed to wick sweat away from your skin to help regulate temperature. Technical fabrics are known as Dry Fit, Cool Max, Heat Gear, etc. The original technical fabric is actually natural wool! In winter, you will need a base layer of a thin, wicking fabric and a second warmer top layer like a medium weight jacket and wind-pants. You can add layers as the temperature drops, but the point is to LAYER. You can remove or add layers as the temperature changes throughout your workout.
The 20 degree rule
If rule number one is no cotton, then rule number two is to dress like it is 20 degrees warmer than the thermometer reads. Since you will be running, you will be generating your own heat and after a few minutes will regret the Fisherman’s sweater and ski pants. You want to feel slightly cool before you start moving, but who wants to be standing around too long anyway? Throw on a hat and gloves or mittens. Mom was right about the hat; heat truly is lost from your head so keep it covered. For those who run with music or a phone, those “texting” gloves really do work and you can keep running when you need to change songs!
When it gets really cold you will want to add some extra goodies. I like a balaclava to cover your head/neck/mouth or a neck warmer to cover your neck and mouth. Also a good pair of glasses, either sunglasses or clear lenses will help keep your eyes from watering due to the wind.
Indoor running affords us some nice benefits during the winter months. We control the temperature, wind, and “road” surface on a treadmill or indoor track. The pace and grade can be readily changed and there is access to hydration and bathrooms! A note about the grade however, in order to mimic the conditions of outdoor running you will need to set the grade/incline of a treadmill to 1-2%. Start it out at 0.5% and go up from there. Also, if you choose to do most of your running indoors but are planning on doing a spring road race like Cap City make sure you do at least one or two of your weekly runs outside. It is important that your body gets used to running on the surface on which you will be racing. No need to do all of your runs outside, but try to get out for your longer runs as much as possible.
Enjoy Your Workouts
Hopefully, with a little planning and the right gear, the fitness inspiration that struck on January 1 will last throughout the winter. Remember the Cap City Half and Quarter Marathons (and bathing suit season) are only 4 months away!
Note: Columbus Underground readers get a $5 discount code for the Cap City Half Marathon registration. Just enter code: 2013CU.