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Tips for Running in Extreme Hot and Extreme Cold Weather
I know many people exercise in a gym all winter, or just stop exercising altogether until the weather gets nice again, but trust me, even a cold run outside beats working out in a gym. Plus there will be some days that are truly, spectacularly beautiful. So, I hope our club will give you the motivation to come out and run no matter the weather. For those of you who have not run in the cold weather before, I thought I would offer some advice on how to dress.
For starters, cotton clothes don’t work very well for running, winter or summer. Stick with the latest synthetics that wick sweat away from your body, otherwise your sweat will leave your clothes wet and heavy and then the moisture will freeze, making you very cold. The basics of a good cold weather wardrobe starts with a pair of long tights or something else covering your legs that is not too heavy or baggy. Long underwear, (which I have always used for skiing) works great as an extra layer under the outer layer for very cold days. And under that, your bottom layer of underwear should also be synthetic. Up top, I use the same short sleeve shirts that I use in the summer or tight Under Armour meant for hot days as my bottom layer and a comfortable long-sleeve top as the outer layer. If it gets really cold, you will want an extra long-sleeve layer in the middle. Again, I find the long underwear that I use for skiing works very well. Something that is a little tighter to your skin than the outer layer. But I have only needed that extra layer a few times in my life. Women wearing a sports bra could possibly skip the bottom layer short-sleeve shirt, although I personally wouldn’t know. I actually did a survey of Philly Runners women back when I originally wrote this and discovered there was no consensus on whether to wear a short-sleeve shirt over the sports bra and under the outer layer (or two) long sleeve shirt/jacket. So go with whatever works with you.
Gloves, headband or hat (I have never used a hat, just a headband to keep my ears from falling off), neck-warmer on the worst of days. I use the same socks that I use in the summer. There are some water-resistant top layer socks out there, but I have never tried them. Also, there are some non-itchy wool socks that I imagine would work well, but I haven’t tried those either.
I use the same shoes all year round. Getting them wet or cold doesn’t damage them at all. But I would suggest stuffing them with paper towels if they get truly soaked. You can put them by a heater too, but not too close. Some people alternate between two pairs to let one pair dry. Personally, I don't do this, but it is not a bad idea, particularly if you are running every day or twice a day. There are trail runners out there that are waterproof, but they are really meant for softer surfaces. There are starting to be some true winter running shoes, shoes meant for running on blacktop, but with water-resistant capabilities and maybe some extra insulation. Again, I haven’t tried these, but if you do, let us all know. If you are really running on ice and snow all the time (which means you probably don’t live in Philly), there are attachments that you can put over your running shoes that let you have spikes on the bottom. Update for 2011: I bought a pair of YakTrax and used them several times over the winter. I thought they worked well, but they are awkward on pavement. Best to use when the pavement is mostly covered. They are difficult to get on and off. It is not realistic to expect that you can put them on or remove them during a run, so make your choice as you head out as to whether you're going to put them on or leave them at home. Since we seem to be having snowier winters lately, I definitely recommend that runners consider adding them to their arsenal of running equipment.
Like cold-weather running, warm-weather running requires a bit of advance planning and some modifications to your usual regimen, but they are not difficult to do.
Most tips you'll see talk about avoiding the heat, such as running indoors, or avoiding peak sunny hours. This is good advice, but it copes by dodging the issue. You can't always circumvent the heat, so you'll need to prepare, especially for long or fast runs.
It generally takes 1-2 weeks for your body to slowly get acclimated to the heat. Don't try to rush this, but build up gradually by easing up on your exertion level.
Bring a water bottle (or Gatorade for long distances). Some people put it in the freezer the evening before a run. Expect to drink more than usual, so be sure you also know in advance where you can get fluids (and snacks) during your route (and it doesn't hurt to bring some money in case you need to purchase more). Don't neglect plenty of sunscreen, and apply 20-30 minutes before you go outside to allow it to be absorbed so it won't easily smear off when you sweat (which you'll be doing more of in warmer weather). You can wear something on your head for additional sun protection. Coolmax, or other technical fabric is preferred to cotton for tops, shorts, and socks. When socks are wet, such as from sweat, you're more likely to develop blisters, and Coolmax helps keep 'em dry. Using Bodyglide in areas likely to chafe will also help.
Additionally, it's always safer to run with others (such as with a club called Philly Runners).
When you finish your run, get inside to cooler surroundings, don't forget to stretch, drink sufficient cool liquids (including some juice or sports drink if you've been out over an hour or are especially sweaty), and take a cool shower. Some people weigh themselves both before and after a run to see approximately how much weight they lost during a long run (much of it from sweat), but be sure not to replenish all at once! Now is a good time to eat healthy, within 15 minutes if possible, but definitely within an hour. You need more carbohydrates right now, but don't neglect protein as well; a 4:1 ratio has some research support for speeding recovery. Write down what does and does not work for you with warm-weather running to ensure great runs for the future!
© Copyright 2011 Philly Runners
Cold weather by Seth Weiss. Hot weather by Kevin Gruenfeld.
Please do not reproduce without permission.