Winter (Running) is Coming!
Cooler temperatures have arrived here in North Texas, and it’s time to cash in on those summer miles that bring “fall smiles”! Hopefully by now all the hard work you put in training through the Texas heat is starting to pay off and leading to runs that expend less energy and maybe even faster pacing. While fall might be the ideal time to run, it unfortunately won’t last forever, so here are some tips on surviving the winter running months and training to have a successful spring!
Be prepared to adjust your pace, AGAIN! We mentioned this over the summer, but did you know that extremely cold temperatures can also impact your pacing? According to RRCA’s coaching guide, in 35 F temperatures pacing may be around 7% slower compared to 55 F degree temperatures. Therefore, if you find your paces are lower but you are exerting a similar amount of effort, do not be discouraged. Training through this is much like training through the heat – it will make you stronger in the long run!
Hydration is KEY. When the weather is cooler, we may sweat less and have less desire to drink fluids or use the restroom (due to lowered blood pressure). However, don’t let this fool you; you still need to hydrate “early and often” according to the RRCA. This will prevent dehydration and allow your muscles to stay hydrated.
Fuel properly. On colder days, be sure to eat plenty of carbs and fats, especially before a long run. Foods like a banana with toast + peanut butter or oatmeal will help keep you fueled properly for longer, cooler runs. Additionally, according to RRCA, “low iron levels increase susceptibility to cold, so mind your iron reserves”. Foods that are rich in iron, according to an article by Healthline, include shellfish, spinach, beans, red meat, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, leafy green vegetables, dark chocolate, and more! Eating enough iron in your diet will help you maintain your reserves during the cold winter months.
Dress accordingly. It is important to find the cold weather gear that works for you and to dress in layers in case you get too warm or too cold. Many companies sell heat gear that can be worn under t-shirts or sweatshirts, and that will help keep the center/core of your body warm. Other ideas are wearing light gloves and a warm headband. If you can keep your fingers/toes warm, as well as the center of your body warm (i.e. with heat gear, scarf, and/or a running vest), you are likely to stay warmer, longer. Another idea is to bring hand warmers in your pockets to warm up quickly, as needed.
The bottom line? Pay attention to the weather and listen to your body. According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, “if the temperature dips below zero F (minus 18 C) or the wind chill is extreme, consider taking a break or choosing an indoor exercise instead”. This will help prevent frostbite and hypothermia. According to the article above by the Mayo Clinic, signs of hypothermia include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination, and fatigue. Additionally, if you have a health condition that may be impacted by extreme temperatures, always consult with your doctor before exercising in cold temperatures.
Finally, remember to check the weather before heading out. If it will be raining or snowing, not only can it lead to icy and unsafe road conditions, but the wet precipitation can also make it hard for your body to stay warm. Always be on the lookout for “clear ice” which is thin, transparent ice that blends into the dark asphalt making it almost impossible to see on the road, but very easy to slip on. Winter also means it gets darker earlier, so always be prepared by wearing reflective gear and/or a headlight if you will be running in the early morning or evening hours before/after the sun comes up.
When in doubt, always opt to take your workout inside, but if you feel up for the challenge, take your runs outside during these next few wintry months. It will make you tougher, stronger, and more prepared for a less than ideal condition on race day!