Monday, October 24, 2011

Cool Running

The past few weeks we've once again been blessed with a comfortable, seasonal, autumn, but with Halloween just a few days away we're all reminded that the days are getting much shorter, and long winter nights are just around the corner.

That certainly doesn't mean that its time to head indoors however, it just means its time to make a few changes to the routine.  You'll find that with some pretty easy changes to your schedule and gear, you can train outside year-round, and even have a good time while you're at it.

Here are a few tips and considerations for training as the temperatures drop and the days get shorter.

  • How much to wear-  Summer is easy, shorts and a tee shirt.  But fall/winter is a bit trickier.  Overdress and you'll find yourself overheating after 5 minutes, underdress and you'll freeze your tail off.  A good rule of thumb when you head out for a run is to dress as though its 10 degrees warmer than it is if you were idle.  So if its -5C out and you're going for a run, wear what you would were if it were +5C and you were walking to work.
  • What to wear- Layers, layers, layers.  Forget about your old college hoodie and sweat pants.  You typically want to wear 2-3 layers of technical and insulating fabrics depending on the conditions.   Ideally with the exception of your base layer, the more zippers the better since this allows you a lot of flexibility in adapting to temperature changes on your run.  More layers will also keep you warmer than just a since thick ugly sweater since the air between each layer will act as its own insulation the same way a double paned window insulates better than single (house windows vs car windows).  Go to a running store or click on either of these links for a good explanation of how a good layering system works; GO Outdoors or MEC
  • Run the good routes you know-   If you run in your neighbourhood or on the same pathways fairly frequently you probably know which ones are the best lit, have the most other runners, flood the least frequently (rain/melting), and cross the fewest roads.  Stick to these routes, there's the many obvious safety considerations involved here but I also say this because these are the routes you'll have the best workouts on.  These are the routes you'll feel most comfortable pushing yourself on since you'll see other runners braving the elements, and you won't have to worry about as many safety concerns (ice, poor lighting, drivers seeing you).
  • Run shorter loops, closer to your base- Rather than running one big 10km loop, do things like try two 5km loops, once one way, once the other. At the end of the day running in cold weather presents a slightly higher risk should something go wrong.  If you're having an off day, cramp up, have IT band issues, or worse yet GI issues, you'll want to be close to home so you can cut through the park and get back in just a few minutes, or call your roommate to come to your rescue so you can go to Starbucks instead.  
  • Know the conditions- Know what time the sun sets and rises, what the short term forecast is for the next few hours, how far your route takes you, etc.  The big thing here is that you don't want to be caught offguard by something you could have figured out by going to  Like a freak snowstorm, or you know, the sun setting and it dropping 10 degrees.
  • A couple things to bring- A phone is a must have, so is a toque, gloves, $10, and a pair of sunglasses for reflecting snow or those stinging little snow flakes that fall when its really cold.  Another piece of tech that I like to have are those little thermal boot/hand warmers you can get at any ski shop.  If you get colder than you'd thought, you can crack a couple of those and you'll be good to get home.  
The last thing to have that'll do you good for cooler/cold running is a buddy or group to run with.  Its funner, safer, and it will give a little extra motivation to HTFU and get out there.

You'll find running as the temperature starts to drop really isn't so bad once you get out there and do it once.  A little smile will come across your face when you run by the gym windows where people running on their treadmills watch you go by, the runner with the grit to brave the elements.  And you'll discovery there is a knowing, unspoken camaraderie between you and the other runners out there when its -15C, dark, and you're running like the Energizer Bunny. So give your running brothers/sisters a wave or a nod when you're out there, we'll be sure to give one back!  :-)


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