Teresa Robinson's NH Runner: Be prepared for those cold runs
RUNNER'S ALLEY posted a photo online this week of their Winter Warriors group, bundled up and ready to run. The photo reminded me that, while I was snuggled under a blanket in the single-digit temps this week, that it's not impossible to run on frigid days.
All it takes is a little prep, planning and, probably most importantly, the right gear. Over the years, the drawers housing my running gear have become more and more packed with options. Here are a few of my favorites.
Tights. I never thought I'd put tights at the top of any list of favorite clothing options, but these are hands-down the most important piece of winter running gear I own. My repertoire now includes knee-length, three-quarter length, full-length and even fleece-lined options. I remember the first pair of tights I bought - and I remember was being shocked at the price. But, like most of my most useful and functional pieces of running gear, they have been worth every penny. The good news is that they last seemingly forever. In fact, I still have that first pair.
Balaclava. When I first saw this word, I could only think of that delicious, flaky Greek pastry. Now, I know it's an important piece of gear on the coldest days. This headpiece covers your neck, head and can be pulled up over your chin and mouth. Think bank-robber-style ski mask.
Accessories. I can't live without my wicking-lined winter hat, a couple of pairs of running gloves (light-weight and a heavier pair), an ear-warming headband, wind-resistant jacket, and plenty of wicking layers.
Winter running isn't just about the right gear; it also poses other challenges, practical and motivational.
Forecast. Knowing what to wear for what weather is key. Most runners I know are weather app addicts, knowing precisely at any hour what the temps and wind speeds will be. Keep in mind that your body will warm up - a lot - during your runs. I've read and been told that you should plan for 15-30 degrees warmer than the air temperature. For me, I always find that I quickly shed my gloves and usually end up carrying my balaclava for most of the runs. Experiment a bit and you'll find what works for you.
Hydration. It took me a while to figure out hydration during longer winter runs. My winter marathon training a couple of years ago forced me to think about it seriously. I didn't seem as thirsty during winter runs, so I usually just skipped sipping on any water at all. When I got into longer distances, I knew that wouldn't be possible. I'm normally a fan of the water-drop, stashing a bottle or two behind trees on my route. Sub-zero temps make this plan nearly impossible, as I quickly found out when I arrived to my frozen water bottle. Filling the bottles with warm water at the start can help, but I usually found either carrying water with me or planning a looped route in which I could stop by home for a sip is better.
Buddies. Let's face it, the thought of running in this weather isn't always appealing. It's so much more enticing, for me at least, to stay under the warm covers in the morning. It's easy to skip runs. Really easy. A running-buddy helps a lot. Knowing that someone will be waiting for you is a special type of motivation. Running together, you stop thinking about the cold (most of the time) and start talking about how hardcore you are. You'll feel invigorated and accomplished by the end.
Treadmill. Simply put, know when to stay indoors. When the temperatures get downright dangerous, it's just not worth the risk. This is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with the treadmill. As I wrote in my last column, the treadmill can be a great training tool.
I've learned over the years that running really is a year-round activity. Thanks to those Winter Warriors for reminding me of that this week.
Teresa Robinson's NH Runner column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. She can be reached at NHRunner123@gmail.com. Twitter: @teresakrobinson.