Another installment from my third week of lists, a clinging-to-the-trees, back-to-school-special, dreading-impending-winter edition all about the soon-to-be-slippery streets, the icy winter weather, and a few months of fitness when it seems just too cold to be outside: but you still can be, if you are prepared. Prepared means having the right gear, the right mind-set and treating both with much more care than you treat your junker of a car each fall. This is my six-point pre-winter running inspection checklist…
My crew was out in force this morning. But while my training is mid-stride, a whole group of my fellow runners are off to British Columbia next weekend for the Okanagan Half Marathon: so… we were all in a kind of taper mode today, even my lazy self, which left us doing a short not-quite-eight kilometer run in the brisk Sunday morning air.
Catch that? Brisk. It was nine degrees Celsius this morning. Autumn may just be barely official, but even the meteorologist who runs with us couldn’t deny that the cold was in the air. And I couldn’t help but feel that my shorts, tees, and light socks are going to very quickly get very inadequate for our regular meet ups. Experience tells me that I’m soon going to need to inventory my winter gear and be thinking very seriously about:
[ 1 ] Hats & Heads
I\’m soon going to need to inventory my winter gear…
One of the guys in our group runs all winter without anything on his head. He’s one of those strong-silent type guys, though, who spent most of his life (yes, really) working the railroads. He spent his career outside and told us once that he couldn’t wear headgear because it messed with his ability to hear things and keep safe. I, on the other hand, prefer not to lose a good portion of my body heat from the sweaty mop of hair that would soon be decorated with ice crystals atop my skull, and to accommodate that I’ve got a small collection of toques and balaclavas for all my winter running needs. The thin, breathable toque is adequate for most every run, and one especially cold days I pull on the face covering afforded by the balaclava, my mouth and eyes about all I leave exposed when the temps drop below minus fifteen Celsius.
Often neglected, I so often run with folks who don’t cover their necks. Thinking that their collared running jackets will protect them from the cold air sweeping down on them as they dash through the snow, quickly realize that running with those jackets zipped up as high as they go is usually pretty uncomfortable. A soft, flexible tube-scarf or some other fitness-fabric neck warmer is not only a great running accessory any winter runner shouldn’t be without, it also a lot more comfy than that ice-cold zipper nudging your throat and chin raw for and hour and a half.
[ 3 ] Full Body Core
Layering. What else can be said here? If you haven’t been running in the winter before, get some layers and you will run a long, happy, cozy season of snow-filled plodding goodness. Layers are your friend. I tend to go with three, first pulling out the skin-tight, close-fitting athletic long underwear from where it gets stored all summer. Over top of that, my shirts and other summer top-gear doesn’t get off easy for the winter months, acting as a mid-layer. And then, thanks to years of free-jacket races, I have a fairly awesome collection of fleecy-style running jackets. Something similar goes for the legs, but usually I stick to just the two layers: that’s just me though.
So many winter-inexperienced runners mistakenly believe that because it’s not hot you don’t need water. Wrong. You need to hydrate just as much, maybe more, than on a summer run. If you live in a climate like me, the air is less humid in the winter, you dry out faster, and because you are cold you often don’t notice until you are home, collapsed onto the couch in pain from dehydration. And to make things even more complex, if you are going for a run longer than say thirty minutes… hey, physics lesson: water freezes. I have a couple solutions that work for me: (a) bring hot water; and/or (b) switch to a larger water bottle. Either option gives you a little more time before your hydration turns to a popcicle, and saves you from freezing your paws trying to thaw a few drops from a frozen bottle half-way into your run.
[ 5 ] That Unmentionable Crotch Place
Guys… You’re only going to make this mistake once…
Guys… You’re only going to make this mistake once. And that’s about all I need to say here. This problem has been long noted, solved, and said solution is on sale in the form of wind-proof kit… inner, outer, or wear-ever. Just invest. You won’t regret it.
[ 6 ] Feets, Hands, Gloves, Shoes, Grip & No-Slip
Last of all never forget to think about those bits we call the extremities. Check your inventory for a couple pairs of good running gloves as well as some thick & woolly mittens to pull over top: it’s a tough run with your hands up your sleeves or tucked in your pockets the whole way. On the feet end of things, while some folks swear by winter running shoes, I tend to stick with all-seasons and only upgrade my socks to the thicker variety for the winter. And depending on the freeze-thaw cycle — and particularly one what kind of terrain you are running, icy or whatever — contemplating some pull-on grippies is not a bad idea either: they are hard on the ankles, but I’ve seen too many folks tumble onto their backsides and lose a month or more to recovery from a back ice-fall to know that if you are even slightly clumsy, at least take a pair for a test run.
I love winter running. If I had the choice, I’d run winter all year long. You’ve just gotta few more steps to consider before you get out the door. So gear up now… the snow will be here before you know it.
Got your own winter running tips: comment below and help out your fellow winter-loving runners.