Cold is relative. A chilly relative at that. Within reason, at moderate temperatures, what is cold for one person may not be cold for another. And of course, if you are sitting still watching an event rather than participating in the event, it is quite a different experience. You should think of yourself as being 20 degrees warmer when running in contrast to just standing still. In most cases dressing for that estimated warmer temperature will work well. These temperatures are more conducive to moderate distance runs though, then speed work. And again, remember, you'll generate more heat while running than walking, so the experience, and the clothing requirements are different. And, while walking, you won't feel 20 degrees warmer.
While endurance running is possible in the cold, speed work is not a good idea for a number of reasons. Your muscles need to be warmed up sufficiently before the more intense contractions of speed work. It is not as easy to do that in cold and extremely cold weather, and the ambient temperature will keep lowering the skin temperature. Wearing bulky coverings is not something that makes you feel like doing speed work and these layers create restrictions to free movement. You can still leave your comfort zone and probably reach your lactate threshold without much of a problem for some intense medium distance runs.
When it comes time for your October or early November marathon, don't forget that training you did all summer will leave likely leave you feeling a bit chilled for your marathon. Bring along some extra layers that you can toss as you warm up.
Layering will go a long way in helping you stay warm. Up to 25% or more of your body heat may be lost from your head, so wearing a hat is important. Wool tube hats are perfect for the chilly temperatures. Gloves are helpful also. Keeping your body as dry as possible will allow your clothes to act as a better insulator and keep you more comfortable. This is another one of many reasons for which we still recommend wickable layers. The inner layer should be a synthetic wickable fiber such as coolmax, thermax or other synthetic.
Cold Rain and Snow
Make sure your entire body is well protected. While running on extremely cold and snow covered ground, you may have noticed how cold your feet can feel. Try to run on snow free ground. Be extra careful, as already mentioned, when it has snowed or rain has frozen. The slippery road surface can result in falls and injuries. Wear wicking, dry socks. In many cases polypropylene or acrylic can "wick" moisture away and are helpful. Coolmax or Thermax are particularly good to wear in weather like this. Immediately following your run, change to a dry pair of socks.
Polypropylene and goretex clothes are an aid to keeping your body warm and dry. The wicking action of polypropylene is excellent. Combined with a light weight goretex suit - in moderate cold you can run comfortably without the necessity of old fashioned thick layering. When it is not too cold, one layer of a polypropylene shirt below a sweat shirt should be enough for your upper body and polypropylene or lycra tights should suffice for your legs. When it becomes very cold, goretex or nylon will help lessen the effect of wind chill. Use an inner layer of polypropylene, and optionally a long sleeve tea shirt as a middle layer, then the outer wind breaking shell of goretex or nylon. For the legs, you may add sweat pants over a polypropylene set of tights and if it is exceptionally cold you can substitute Goretex pants or nylon for the outer layer. Goretex is probably the ideal outer layer. Goretex is a breathing fabric and and may help keep you more comfortable than nylon. Nylon does not breathe and may contribute to excess perspiration. A ski cap or ski mask can be used on your head, and don't forget gloves. Some runners use the Bill Rogers recommended painters gloves for relatively mild weather. For colder weather, inner polypropylene gloves and an outer layer of mittens can be used.
Don't forget about the wind chill. Moving sports such as roller blading, ice skating, skiing and even running can contribute to a heightened wind chill factor. Running with the wind reduces the effect of wind chill. It is a good idea to run into the wind to start off your run, and then return with the wind at your back. This will lessen the chilling effect of the wind on your body after you have perspired, and make the return trip easier. Don't forget that during and after long winter runs, you will still require fluid replacement. Skin protection should also be used. Sun block and moisturizer will help prevent the development of a grizzled and weather worn "runner's face."
Don't Eat the Balaclava: Keep That Face Warm Instead
A balaclava is a fine idea to use to cover your face, and keep the cold air from triggering bronchospasm. A number of articles over the years have found that it isn't merely breathing cold air that contributes to asthma and bronchial constriction, but "facial cooling" that triggers the response. This is considered a reflexive triggering of the vagus nerve. Facial cooling can trigger other vagal nerve reactions, including slowing up of heart beat, which will limit your ability to exercise. While we do not recommend speed work in the cold weather, you may as well be exercising optimally. A Balaclava head covering, in addition to a hat can help. In severe cold you can add a face mask. Other areas on the web offer substantial advice and information on exercise induced asthma, so we will not replicate them here. Make sure you have clearance from your physician for the exercise you do, and the conditions in which you do it. And yes, you shouldn't eat the Balaclava That is a head covering. Baklava is what you may be looking for, that is a tasty snack, which may help replenish your carb stores and it has a small amount of protein with the use of walnuts and almonds in the recipe. (Although of course we still recommend a protein/carb liquid drink after intense or long work outs.). For a Baklava Recipe we have one up on the blog.
The shorter hours make for earlier darkness and few daylight hours. The more acute angle the sun makes with the horizon, in most areas, has the available light often looking considerably different. Balance is impacted by light availability, particularly in the older runner. If you have had repeated ankle sprains, you may have a proprioceptive (joint position sense) defect and will run better with less danger of re-injury with full daylight.
Ice and snow, can of course make you more likely to slipping. The rule for ice is "don't run on it". If you really want to run on ice, some people recommend studs or other devices to lessen slipping. I recommend Ice Skates and skating rather than running. It is possible to run on snow, albeit slowly. Your gait will be different, your running stride will be a bit wider and shorter to give more stability. You'll still slip, and if you try to go too fast, you'll slip more and could end up with a hamstring or groin strain.
Hypothermia is a loss of core body temperature to a point at which many body functions are impaired. Proper clothing, hydration and fuel will go a long way in preventing this in most runners. Those proceeding at slower paces, walking or hiking, will be in greater danger, because of lower generation of activity created body heat. The initial signs of mild hypothermia include shivering. Shivering which can be stopped voluntarily is a sign of mild hypothermia. This often indicates a body temperature of 97F degrees to 98.6F degrees. Below this level, coordination may begin to get impaired, it may be difficult to perform complex tasks with your hands, and goose bumps along with worse shivering can occur. And it only gets worse from there. A severe stage can mimic death ( or result in death) with lack of apparent breathing, lack of palpable pulse, dilated pupils, rigidity, and a comatose state. But long before this, you've stopped running.
Rick Curtis on the Action Guide to Hypothermia warns of the "-Umbles" - stumbles, mumbles, fumbles, and grumbles which show changes in motor coordination and levels of consciousness. This is more of a danger while walking or hiking. But if you end up walking back, because you've gone too far, it could be you.
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