Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Weather Running

Not that I know anything about anything, but I certainly have plenty of experience running in the snow and slop. I ran 5 days a week in high school, regardless of the weather. Living in upstate New York, that meant fairly frequent runs in snow, sometimes deep snow. Of course, my focus is a lot different these days. But one thing hasn't changed- a long run in the wintery mix requires a slightly different approach. I think it's a great workout, but I also think it's a certain type of workout and one that has to be approached a little differently.

You don't really get that many opportunities to do a long run in the snow when you're down here in CT, especially along the shore, and I think it's just a great opportunity to have a really good time and enjoy yourself. You do a lot of long runs and most of them probably aren't all that memorable, but a snowy run or a run in a storm- you'll remember that a lot longer because it is special.

However, if you're looking for a red zone workout (there's nothing wrong with that, maybe you're training for a late January/February marathon), stop reading this, find the nearest treadmill, crank it up to your 20K pace and elevate it to 4-5% and have at it.

Here's my tips for having a great, enjoyable long run in the snow, sleet and wind.

1) Dress just warm enough and nothing more. It's cold, it's wet, you want to get bundled up. But it's easy to overdo it and you could find yourself sweating up a storm and melting down. Or worse, you might be tempted to remove that outer layer, which usually cools all that sweat and then your core body temperature can crash. It's ok to be a little cold the first 5-10 minutes. Running is one of the best ways to elevate your core body temperature and once you do that, you'll be fine.

2) Leave the beat-up old running shoes at home. If a pair of running shoes aren't good to run in on a normal day, they aren't good enough to run in the slop either. If you're a triathlete you probably have at least 2K invested in your bike and associated gear- you can swing 80.00 for running shoes if the pair you wear really gets ruined (and they won't). Give the old shoes to one of those drives that collects used shoes.

3) Turn down the volume on the ipod- just a little. When the roads are bad, you have to be able to hear the traffic, especially snow plows. The last thing you want to do is go around a corner and find yourself face to face with a plow blade

4) If you (micro) manage your music on the iPod, take it down a notch. Add some festive holiday jingles. Snow Patrol and Stars of Track and Field's The Antarctica EP are mandatory. Nine Inch Nails and Evanescence is probably a little too extreme.

5) The big thing- take the heart beat down a good 10 beats. Your leg muscles are going to be working extra-hard pushing off the uneven, sliding 'ground'. Run at your normal heart rate and you'll be beating up your legs, which shouldn't be the point. Keep it moderate.

Pick a route you don't usually run, or run one of your routes backwards. That way you won't be watching your watch and worrying about how far behind your usual pace you are. Running for 90 minutes ? Pick an eighty or even a seventy-five minute loop- you can always add on if you're ahead towards the end.

6) Wear glasses. You'll probably be headed out into a pretty gray day, and it may seem like the right idea to ditch sunglasses that will only dim things down more or fog up. But driving snow, sleet, or ice can make it impossible to keep your eyes open, much less on the road.

The bottom line is that a snow run should be fun. A good workout yes, but you might be better off leaving the red zone run for another day. Take time to enjoy the scenery and see the world a way you rarely do.

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