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This winter is starting out with a bang! I’ve been spoiled the past couple of years with relatively good winter running weather. But this year, so far there’s been lots of snow and cold temperatures since mid December. Being a blind runner and requiring a clear controlled path to run on, as long as there is snow and/or ice on my winter running trail, I’m forced to find different ways to get my cardio workout in and my heart pumping.
As mentioned in my blog from the other day “The Dreaded Treadmill,” I use running on a treadmill at the gym to compensate for not being able to run outside. And up until a few days ago, I had also been shoveling lots of snow, and that certainly gets my blood pumping!
But by far, the biggest reason I really love running is because I can be outside. I love being outdoors, running at a comfortable pace. I’m not too much into running fast or doing hill work; I just like to run. And it’s incredible when I’m in “the zone”, that cool spot where everything is working in unison…my breathing is in sync with my stride…I feel like I could just run forever. But unfortunately I’ve never been able to hit “the zone” on the treadmill. Maybe that’s because I just haven’t given it a chance, but I personally believe it’s because the treadmill surface is not as forgiving as running on the ground. Plus, there’s no variation as it just keeps you running at a consistent pace.
When I am able to run outside during the winter, there are a few things I do to make sure that my winter run is as safe and comfortable as possible. To start with, I tend to run in temps above 20F degrees. Primarily because when it’s colder than that, I have to use a scarf or something over my mouth to warm the air before it hits my lungs. I find it too constricting and a bit claustrophobic, not to mention the material gets all wet from the moisture from my breath, and then I get chilled from it touching my neck.
The other reason I avoid temps below 20F is my inability to run for long distances since the longer I’m out in that kind of cold, the harder it is to keep my body warm.
So when everything is aligned, the temperature is right and my winter running path is clear, I will venture out for a winter run. I always dress in layers. This includes a long-sleeve running shirt and my running jacket. I bring along a fleece hat and Turtle Fur neck wrap, along with my running gloves. I wear my running tights, and sometimes I will put on a pair of spandex running shorts under them for extra warmth for my thighs, as I need to keep my leg muscles warm. I prefer to have a few extra items to wear and carry then to not have them with me and end up getting chilled.
One of the nice things for me is that the controlled path I run on is asphalt. So when the sun is out, the snow melts fairly quickly. This gives me a black running surface, and the snow provides a white border, and because of the high contrast of black against white, it makes it much easier for me to see the path.
Some of my favorite runs have been winter runs. There is just something about a winter sun that makes me feel nostalgic. I still haven’t quite figured it out, but I get this positive feeling of the past for just a split second then it’s gone, but the general feeling remains and I feel happy and content.
My winter runs are usually shorter than and not as frequent as in other seasons, so I use the winter months to let my body recover from my more strenuous training seasons.
One thing that I need to remember while running in winter is to keep hydrated, as well as eating to replenish my glycogen stores after a winter run. It’s easier to forget, as I’m not as thirsty or hungry. But even though it’s winter, I am still burning energy and sweating.
I always keep my belly covered up with a Turtle Fur neck warmer. This keeps my core from getting cold and allows me to run longer as I don’t get chilled as readily.
In the winter, my long runs tend to be about 5 to 6 miles depending on how well the trail is maintained. There have been times when I have turned around and run the same stretch of path over again because it was already cleared of the snow and ice, just to get my miles in.
I’m hoping by mid January to be able to forego running on a treadmill and be able to do my winter running outside again. And even if it is just for a couple of days at a time in between the colder or snowier spells, that will be enough to keep me from getting cabin…err gym fever.
How ‘bout it?