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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cold Weather Running


photo by ben lawson

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The leaves have almost completely fallen and the evenings are beginning to have a distinct, chilly bite to them. The mornings, well, they are downright frigid. So what's a runner to do to avoid having to resort to the forsaken "dreadmill" to get in those miles. Here are a few tips for keeping warm when the temperatures drop:

  • Layer up - You've heard it before and I'm telling you again...the best defense against the cold is to dress in layers. Layering clothing traps air between the layers that insulates you against the cold. Think that fluffy down coat is warm because the down is a good insulator. Wrong! It's the air trapped between the feathers that does the heavy lifting to keep you toasty. A second benefit of layering is that as you begin to generate heat from running, you can remove layers that are no longer necessary. The only thing worse than being cold on a run is sweating in your own personal sauna when it's freezing outside.
  • Beware the Wind - Remember that the air trapped around your body is the real insulator. Without a windproof jacket, that warm layer of insulating air surrounding your body is constantly stripped away leaving you chilled to the bone. Wind jackets vary dramatically in technical features, and in price, from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. The cheaper jackets will stop the wind as good as the more expensive jackets, but they will also trap moisture leading to the dreaded personal sauna effect. The pricier jackets tend to be made with fancy technical fabrics like Gore-Tex that keep wind and water out, but allow moisture to escape. Personally, I'm incredibly cheap and opt for a less expensive wind jacket that contains a marvelous, technological wonder that allows me to control the amount of moisture release based on conditions. It's called a zipper. The mid-priced jackets tend to be made with water and wind resistant materials and have multiple zipper vents that lets you adjust the amount of ventilation depending on current conditions. For those looking for a functional jacket that won't break the bank, I would suggest one of these mid-priced items.
  • Stay Away From Cotton - Cotton is the most common fabric used in clothing, but it is a terrible choice for athletic clothing. Cotton absorbs sweat and doesn't wick it away from your body. The sweat doesn't evaporate, the clothing sticks to you, then chafing ensues. Not good. There is a huge selection of shirts, socks, underwear, and pants, all made from moisture wicking technical fabrics available at your local sporting goods store. And it doesn't have to be expensive. Prices for this type of clothing have dropped dramatically in the last few years if you are willing to buy things that are not name brands. Don't expect to save a bundle buying things made by Nike or Under Armour.
  • Don't Forget To Hydrate - Even though you can't feel yourself sweating in the dry, winter air, you must continue to hydrate. Dehydration is as big a problem in winter because people forget to drink. The more dehydrated you become, the more you will be susceptible to the cold and to hypothermia. Drink, drink, drink.
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