19 December 2009

'tis the season to be freezin'

Alternately titled, "Winter Running". This isn't a "101" list to check-off on your way out the door, but rather a humorous (or not) posting about what I've found through personal experiences of running in the winter. In the freezing cold. With ice pellets of death that bore your eyes out of the sockets; and believe me, you think dropping your iPod mid-run is a nuisance, eyeballs roll around and if they fall with the pupil down, in the snow you won't see it. Or feel it, if both eyes fell out.

  1. The cold. And the wind:

  2. It's not that big of a deal. About 3 out of the 3 previous winters, I'd take somewhat of a "break" during the winter. Maybe I'd get out there once a week. Maybe. I went with the excuse of not being able to find my footing in the snow and ice, or that the snow was so deep that it'd throw off my gait and I'd get injured. I pretty much psyched myself out of running in the element of cold.

    So, have I changed? A runner friend decided he was going to streak through December, and that means to run everyday. Every. Single. Day. I decided on a whim that I would, too. And I decided that meant I wouldn't make a big deal out of the weather. So, yes, I've been running everyday since 1 December. Guess what? It's amazing. I'm focusing on running longer when the weather and wind is good, and going out for a minimum of 2 miles of the weather is crappy.

    What running daily has given me is a realization that the weather doesn't matter all that much, besides dressing appropriately. Sure, the wind freezing your face off isn't altogether pleasant, but after that first mile it's really actually nice. If you warm up in the house for 5-10 minutes before heading out, it feels even better. And, it's just not that big of a deal. If you hear anyone complaining about how awful it is outside, how it's just going to suck and they aren't really "in" to the run, they're full of it. If you hear anyone telling you how awesome they are for "battling the elements" and how they overcame the obstacle, tell them that they reminded you of this guy who climbed Everest who said something similar. Unless they're constantly running in single digit, bone-chilling temperatures with a "real feel" of -28, or anything close to that, that's something to write home about because nobody nowadays really needs to be out in that condition.

    Or just call them crazy. Either will work.

  3. It's not that big of a deal:

  4. Unless you make it a big deal. Nothing is really as bad as we like to think, and I've proven that to myself multiple times after I realized in retrospect that I could have chilled out just a bit. Especially with the weather and wanting to stay inside sipping peppermint cocoa topped with marshmallows, it's just that first mile that may make you want to turn around and go inside. Even if you plan on a simple 2-3 mile run, you may realize that you can run a few more and actually enjoy it. Don't let your mind keep you from heading out there, if you do run outside. To help yourself out, keep a calender out in the middle of the house and write your run and time after completion on it. It's pretty cool to look at it and see what all you've done the past month, and it motivates you to keep it up. And if it's where everyone can see it, you don't want to be mocked for slacking off.

  5. To run long or short:

  6. Depends. What I'm doing is heading out for longer runs when the weather is nice and tolerable, and running shorter runs on the rather nasty days. It also depends on how I feel that day, too, because if I have a long run and I feel wonky, if it doesn't go away after 1.5-2 miles I do NOT want to be walking out in the cold because you cool off quickly. It feels good when you're running, just not so much if you're walking.

    Keep this in mind when you're making out a schedule, if you do a schedule. You may not want to stick to it tightly, but rather have a weekly mileage to aim for and switch around the runs if need be.

  7. Should you run with an iPod:

  8. I've decided that if I get hit by a car and die, which my chances may have increased since the worse the weather, the worse the driver, it's not my fault. When I run with an iPod, and I think that almost every single run this month has been sponsored by many a singer to keep my mind of the weather, I pay more attention to my surroundings. I keep the volume low enough to hear the sound of cars coming, and I pay attention to where the line on the road is (no sidewalks here) to see if I need to scoot back to my side. Just don't zone out to the point where a car zooming by actually surprises you unless you really believe in Darwinism.

  9. How to dress:

  10. The standard rule of thumb is to dress for how you will feel and not how you feel stepping outside the house. Why? Your body temperature warms up about 20 degrees and if you overdress so you feel warm and toasty right out the door, you'll soon be running in a sauna.

    How do I dress:

    A thin knit hat. Rather tight fitting, it looks cute (because I knit it), and is a somewhat bright color. I never used to run with a hat, but now that I have started I don't want to know what it was like before. It just keeps me warmer.

    Gloves. If the temperature, or "real feel", is anything under 30 degrees and the wind is more than 10 mph, I wear my running mittens. Over 30, I wear a pair of standard knit gloves. I've gone out sometimes in just the knit gloves and my fingers make me say terrible things at the end. A thicker pair of 5-fingered gloves would work if you have one, most definitely.

    Shirts/jacket. I've been wearing a cotton long sleeve shirt, a tech shirt, and a fleece jacket. The jacket blocks the wind, the tech shirt does that whole moisture wicking thing that keeps you warmer when it's cold out, except I've been putting the tech long sleeve shirt over the cotton shirt. Rebel.

    Shorts or pants. I've been running mostly in capri running pants because my legs don't really get cold. My brother still runs in shorts, and I could too, but my shorts are shorter than his shorts and when I factor that in, it's probably not a good idea. Seriously, though, you *can* wear shorts if the temp is around 35 degrees.

    Socks. I wear the socks I've been wearing all summer, though thicker and higher socks will work if you need them. My shoes have that mesh panel thing that lets the breeze in, but the only time sock thickness matters is when I step in a puddle unintentionally.

    Cell phone. It's a good thing nothing bad happens to me because I don't run with one. I stick around where I live, though that doesn't mean anything when I'm lying on the side of a road with half my body submerged in a snow bank. I rationalize this by realizing I probably won't be able to reach the cell phone if half my body i submerged in a snow bank on the side of the road.

    Reflective gear. Probably a good idea. And I'm not talking about the reflectors on your shoes, maybe on your headphones, or possibly on the sides of your running pants, but a reflective vest or jacket. You could buy reflective tape and write, "I DARE YOU" on the back and front of your jacket.

    While I have one, I haven't been wearing it. And at night I especially should be wearing it, but I'll have time to think about this if I'm in the hospital with nothing better to think about because I didn't wear my reflective jacket at night. I could at least have worn shorts so my paleness would stand in for the jacket.

  11. Motivation:

  12. Something you look forward to after you get back from a run. For me, it's a mug of the aforementioned peppermint hot cocoa topped with mini marshmallows and a cookie or two sometimes. I really get so much pleasure out of that post-running drink that I want to go running no matter what. During the last few miles I count down the minutes to myself, "Just 20, 10, 5 more minutes until cocoa time!" As benign as it is, it works. Find your own cocoa that gets you going and motivates you.

Last, but probably the most important, enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it, it won't last, no matter how little or often you run. Notice how the setting sun colors the trees, or the sparkles of the snow. Notice the silence, even if it means turning off your iPod. Don't get locked into a singular state of mind that bypasses why you really continue to run outside in wintry conditions, because you could always run on a treadmill, but there's a reason why we like running outside in the winter. Yes, that's correct, we really do like being outside at this time of year. Go for a nighttime run with other runners to look at the Christmas lights, and leave your watches inside.

Celebrate with cookies and hot cocoa at the end. =)


  1. I think a wonderful motivation to help push you through those final miles of a long, cold run would be the thought of something hot and fresh out of the Easy Bake Oven.

  2. Hey, thanks for your thoughts on running in the cold! I've been wondering lately what other runners thoughts were on outdoor running in chilly temps...
    When I lived in Virginia, I used to run when it was 15-20 degrees outside. I was a bit intimidated at first, but, you're right, it's all about dressing for the weather. As long as I managed to cover most of my normally-exposed skin, my runs went well. That usually included gloves, a warm beanie, capri pants (definitely a good length for cold weather...I have a really hard time running in pants), and a fleece vest. I find a vest keeps the core at a regular temp. The hat is also an excellent addition as you lose most heat through your head.
    Now, Cali doesn't usually have weather that is too cold. The only problem here is when there is a good combo of rain and wind. Again, the vest works wonders as does a cap to keep the rain from pelting you in the eyeballs... ;-)

    Merry Christmas. :-)


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