Tips for Running in the Cold When You'd Rather Stay in Bed
So far, we have to admit: It's been a pretty rough winter. The polar vortex that struck much of the country last week wasn't the first we saw this season of extremely cold temperatures, ice, snow, and sleet. And while it's warmed up some here in the northeast, we surely haven't seen the last of the unpleasant deep freeze. For outdoor runners, the aggressive chill poses a bit of a problem. Not only is it super challenging to find motivation for getting your run on, but it is also difficult to know how to properly prepare for a jog in the park or around the neighborhood when the temperature dips below freezing. Frostbite and windburn are serious hazards. Still, for many of us, avoiding the "dreadmill" at the gym makes finding tips for running in the cold essential.
We recently sat down with Steve Lastoe, founder of NYCRUNs, a running and event management company in the New York Metropolitan area, to chat about how to best handle the bitingly cold weather miles. "First of all," Lastoe says, "the most important thing is layering." He suggests dressing in wicking (synthetic) fabrics which are modern garments designed to carry sweat away from the body and keep it dry. Cotton materials are a major running faux pas in any climate, but are especially poor options when it comes to the cold and wet factors associated with winter running. Layers are helpful because, depending on how your body adapts to the outdoor temperatures, you can peel off or keep on items as you see fit. Lastoe is also a big fan of wool running socks and an article of clothing known as the buff, which covers the exposed neck area as well as much of the face. Because exercising in a scarf would be cumbersome and uncomfortable, the thin material comprising a running buff is perfect for covering up as much skin as possible. But, we asked, "what about the areas you just can't cover? Is there anything runners can do to protect their inevitably exposed parts, such as their cheekbones or nose?"
Lastoe recommends chapstick, sunscreen, and petroleum jelly. Vaseline dotted on exposed facial tissue helps prevent skin from wind chapping and generally lessens the burn resulting from forceful currents of cold air. In addition to epidermis protection, multi-marathoner Lastoe stresses the it is just as important to stay well-hydrated in the winter as it is in the dead of summer. That means drinking fluids (preferably water or Gatorade) before, during, and after running. Extreme temperatures require smarter thinking as well as a fair amount of planning. Getting your running gear in order the night before you plan to run, for example, is another helpful tip.
While that's all fine advice, but none of it is actually guaranteed to get you motivated to run. In fact, the thought of dressing in layer upon layer seems time-consuming and like drudgery. It's so much easier to don a sports bra and pair of shorts, lace up the shoes and hit the road. When the alarm sounds at 6am and the iPhone says that it's below freezing beyond the confines of your cozy bed, how the heck are you supposed to accomplish your run? Latoe fixes his most serious runner's look on me: "The miles have to be run," he says. "If I don't run them, who will?"
For specific ideas on what to wear before you brave the cold, click through the slideshow above.
By Stacey Gawronski