Monday, November 17, 2014

Cold Weather Running

With temperatures well below normal all over the country (well, maybe not in Arizona!) and the increase in runners around Little Rock in training for the marathon it's time to bust out the tights and dress for the cold weather.

If you are anything like me, running on the treadmill can be categorized as torture.  To maximize your training and train safely it is important to dress appropriately - you don't want to overheat, but you don't want to risk body temperatures dropping too low either.

My standard rule of thumb is: Dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer that it is. If it’s 35 out, I ask myself, “What would I wear to be comfortable in 55 degree weather?” and go from there. Not scientific, but it’s a piece of advice I read when the outdoors first became my gym and it’s really stuck with me.

While there are no definitive standards for when it is considered “too cold for outdoor exercise” (just think about the marathoners in the North and South Poles at -40 or -50 degrees!), the following precautions will also help to make your workout even more enjoyable:

1. Dress in Layered Clothing. Several thin layers are warmer than one heavy layer. Layers are also easier to remove (or add), better regulating your core temperature. The goal is to keep the body warm and minimize shivering.

2. Cover your Head.  As much as 50% of total heat lost exits from the  head and neck; invest in a toboggan designed for activity - they will be lined with moisture-wicking fabrics that will keep you dry while also keeping heat from escaping.

3. Cover your Mouth. This is especially important if breathing cold air causes chest pain or if you are prone to upper respiratory problems.  To warm the air before you breathe it, use a scarf or mask. 

4. Stay Dry. W et, damp clothing, whether from perspiration or precipitation, significantly increases body-heat loss. The same moisture-wicking clothing you used in the summer make a great base layer in the winter.

5. Keep your Feet Dry. Use a fabric that will wick perspiration away from the skin. Polypropylene, wool or other fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin and retain insulating properties keep the body warm when wet.

6. Stay Hydrated.  Dehydration affects your body's ability to regulate body heat and increases the risk of frostbite. Fluids, especially water, are as important in cold weather as in the heat. Avoid consuming alcohol or beverages containing caffeine, because these items are dehydrating.

7. Avoid Alcohol.   Yes, you read that correctly.  Alcohol dilates blood vessels and increases heat loss so the odds of experiencing a hypothermic event increase. Alcohol can also impair judgment to the extent that you may not make the best or brightest decisions in a cold weather emergency. It's best to leave the alcohol behind when you head out into the cold.

8. Know your Limits.  Everyone has their own idea of the perfect exercising weather. You might love the summer heat that makes you sweat like you're in a sauna. Your friend might still be wearing shorts when it's 35 degrees outside. When in doubt, do what's best for your body. That way, you can be sure to focus on the exercises, not the weather.

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