Stay Healthy, Warm & Running as Winter Approaches

runningwinterHonestly,  this is my worst weather for running. Those who know me, know that I’m a summer baby. Born and bred in the Caribbean, I have a very low tolerance for cold weather while the heat doesn’t bother me one bit. I could live a thousand years of Summer just to not have to deal with winter but wishful thinking does not Summer make, so being the realist that I am (not), each year that I’ve lived here, I have had to dig deep down inside and find my New Yorker determination and fortitude; there is such a thing. See, living in New York has been good for me, I’ve become a more of a roll-with-the-punches sorta gal who believes that running will fix most if not everything. Survival can do that to you. Pardon the expression, but this concrete jungle out here leaves very little room for the timid and hesitant; my experience has taught me the value of dealing with things in a practical and straight forward way, especially when there is no way around it. You gotta love this place; it’s a pull-yourself-up-by-booth-straps kinda city and winter presents the perfect opportunity to do so.

My first experience of snow in this country was a beautiful thing, then I came to New York. See, before I arrived in the peachy state of Georgia, it hadn’t snowed there for eight years. Those beautiful southern folks hadn’t a clue how to deal with even a dusting and so their response was to shut down the town, city, state, everything, which suited everyone just fine. Holiday anyone? So, the most beautiful sight I had ever seen was the fairy-dust of snow that was just enough for playing in: snow fights, not-too-much-of-a-snowman, rolling around, picture-posing.. It was a ton of fun. One day of snow and then it was all gone, nary a thought to it affecting running. Christmas 2007 altered all that; a snowstorm hailed my arrival in the big apple that shut down the city airports, grounded flights and left people stranded in the airports along the north-west for a few days. That snow was to stay on the ground for weeks; commuters nightmare realized and the end of my romance with the white monster called winter. Not that I minded snow in the least, it really does paint a pretty picture and then there are the sporting uses it’s good for, but really it’s the effects and affects of the season: the blinding cold, the discomfort of piling on layers, the inconvenience of using the bathroom as a result, the inability to be warm no matter how many layers, and of course the limit it places on my running adventures – who really enjoys running with layers of clothes, frozen cheeks, breath, fingers, toes and not being able to sweat..that’s how you gauge how hard you’ve worked, by the sweat of your brow..that sort of thing, and of course who feels like guzzling down water and other liquids to keep hydrated when you really don’t want to be visiting the bathroom as it takes twice the time it typically does. Plus, I am one who wants nothing that even resembles cold to drink. So there you have my dilemma, which has only slightly diminished in its intensity since my advent into cold weather.

I try to have more of a positive outlook and think in terms of winter wonderland these days. Acclimation to cold weather not being my thing, I’m still always cold but I complain less – hasn’t helped since so what’s the use – to my way of thinking. But mainly what has helped with my attitude change is my ability to run around it. I learnt pretty fast the tricks to staying sane during the winter months and this among others may be the reason I like to say I’m a new yorker. Here are some of my tips to not only survive but to thrive while running in winter wonderland.

The Run is truly for those who endure:
. Winter is the perfect season for the gym. I can vary my days depending on the weather between gym workouts and running outside.
. The treadmill is not my enemy and can actually be put to good use on those bad weather days when I’m training.
. Wearing the proper cold running gear is paramount to staying well and fit. Breathable material allows pores to absorb and let out air and perspiration.
. It is essential to properly cover up ones’ extremities such as hands, feet, face and ears.
. It’s absolutely necessary to hydrate when exercising and running outside as you are less likely to feel thirsty because of the cold air thus leading to dehydration.
. A winter or late fall race is ideal to keep the running momentum going. It keeps you focused, training and gainfully exercised.
. Winter is already cold and can be quite isolating as lots of runners travel, hibernate, whatever… You want to make sure you stick to your running group or find one and/ or a partner to help you through your cold sessions.
. I find it extremely fool-hardy to run on black ice, the one you can barely see but can have you slipping and sliding. Living to run another day is way more important.
. Running around noon is usually the best time to run..You get to maximize your vitamin D intake which sometimes can be extremely low during the cold season and it’s as warm and enjoyable as it will ever be.

During winter months, I find that I run harder to get the results I want; this could be because the air is colder and sharper, which lends itself to a slightly more strenuous breathing pattern for me, as well as it could be that I run harder because I feel I don’t achieve as much due to my sweat level which is almost non-existent. And let me tell you, I sweat..like clothes-soaking, body-dripping sweat so it feels strange in the winter not to do so even while I understand that the cold air dries it up before it even sets on one’s skin. In any event, if you’re half-way determined as I am and you’re getting ready to amble out, be sure to stock up on winter running gear and talk and listen to your body to put yourself in a winter running frame of mind. You may be surprised by what you learn.

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