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Winterizing Your Run for Ohio Weather

Aimee Bross Price Aimee Bross Price Winterizing Your Run for Ohio Weather
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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!

Columbus Underground is kicking off 2013 with a week of articles focused on health and wellness, to help you make New Year’s Resolutions that last. We’ve enlisted the help of local fitness experts and enthusiasts to share their expertise.

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.

Technical Gear

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.

Treadmill Running

Aimee Price

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.

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  • Thank you for the great information. I’m looking forward to my first MIT season!

  • as a year around cyclist, triathlete, and once Alaskan resident I wanted to offer a few other tips and observations as I have also been doing the gear shuffle to try and balance gear/comfort/mobility/safety in my winter running.
    First I would recommend a view not unlike a hiker. Abstain from Cotton – 100%. Find a nice wicking base layer that is body snug and effective in moving sweat away and allowing you to keep your skin from overheating. Follow up with a layer of insulating wool, preferably the legendary merino wool, which is thin, effective and insulating and won’t stink. This will absorb the sweat from and will maintain insulation and heat regulation regardless if its wet. Top layer is important for a number of reasons already mentioned – environment protection, visibility, and flexibility. As a cyclist I stress the visibility factor. Reflectors are great, but find some nice light-weight lights. I see so many runners running on the street against traffic, which to a running makes perfect sense. This is also the corridor that a bike occupies and in winter this is tricky. Bikers even well layered have their eyes tear with cold weather, glasses fog, and many other reasons for why they keep their head down and if you are only reflective and not illuminated with a simple light, accidents are possible; particularly if both the runner and cyclist are training and are pushing their limits. I also highly recommend that the outer layer be a goretex material, the waterproof, windproof and somewhat vented or breathable nature is perfect for running but for some reason seems to belong to hikers. Same with running with hiking poles – they offer 3-4 points of contact and still require smooth arm movement and won’t off-set the runner while giving them a reason to pump blood through the hands and also give them an ability to ‘off road’ in a ski-like capacity.
    I have also wondered after why so many runners refrain from wearing facial protection, like baklavas or masks, to reduce the amount of cold air they draw into their lungs? Particularly in the start of a run this seem a touch important to allow the core to warm up.
    In any case, I appreciate your post and thank you for sharing.
    Good running to all!

  • I just bought some new cold-weather running gear using advice from this article. Looking forward to trying it out and hoping I don’t freeze! ;)

  • cml214

    I would second the comment about wearing a light. I commute via bike from Clintonville to downtown on the Olentangy bike trail…I have been so amazed at the number of runners wearing all black, no reflective anything and I have yet to see a runner with a light! I feel like lights at night are such a basic requirement that no cyclist would ride without one, so it seems strange to me runners wouldn’t feel the same way. I have a high beam light on my bike so you can see me, but don’t always assume I can see you!

  • Well, I tested out my new winter clothing today and I stayed nice and warm (worked up a slight sweat) despite it being 24 degrees outside. Two solid layers of the right materials did the trick along with a head wrap (felt like a ninja) and gloves. Thanks!

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