Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cold Weather Running

Cold Weather Running
When the weather turns cold, most peoples motivation to run drops off. This is fine if you don’t have a schedule of races coming up in the spring. For those of us who are planning on racing, this time of cold weather is crucial for our training. While I cant help you get out of bed or off the couch, I can offer some tips on making your eventual run more enjoyable, Whether it be dark and cold, rainy and cold, sunny and cold, you get the point.  Personally I like running in cold weather because of the all the options. When it gets very cold you can just put on more layers and push forward. It gets tricky in very warm weather; there is a point that you may offend other runners when trying to stay cool. Below are the various layers and combinations that can be used for cold weather running.
Base layer- this can be from a top to sock. Base layers are usually thin and made of a wool or moisture wicking micro fiber. Wool is chosen because it is warm and has natural wicking ability. The purpose of the base layer is to draw moisture away from the skin and into the other layers. Having your skin dry is going to keep your core warmer for longer. You can use a thin base layer on your feet, legs, and torso.

Mid layer- depending on the temperature outside and your normal core temperature a mid layer could be all you need. The mid layer is there to hold in the warmth created by your radiating body temperature. As your body heats up and the base layer draws away moisture the mid layer will trap the heat in between the two layers keeping you core warm. Fleece, wool, and sometimes down are used to make mid layer clothing. Wool and micro fiber are the best choices for mid layer because of the wicking properties and the ability to stay insulating when wet. Down loses its insulating properties and becomes heavy when wet.

Outer layer or shell layer- the shell is used for blocking wind and water, depending on the brand and material the shell layer can be completely waterproof down to water resistant. Most running shells are water resistant allowing the companies to offer a breathable jacket that blocks water to a certain degree with out trapping in moisture, which is your worst nightmare in cold situations. You are the warmest when you are dry.
 The accessory category consists of items to keep you warm and/or safe. Included in the category is; Hats, gloves, arm warmers, gloves, socks, reflective vest, blinking lights, gaiters for feet and neck, spikes. These are all personal preference choices and depend on what parts of your body are coldest

Head & Face - is very important for trapping heat where it escapes the most rapidly; heat rises so naturally your head will lose the most heat. Keep your head covered with something micro fiber or wool so that it pulls the moisture away and keeps your head dry. It is also important to choose a hat that dries quickly because a soggy hat can get very cold. Balaclava & neck gaiter- a neck gaiter is a closed ended scarf that slips over your head and protects your neck from cold wind, and a balaclava is essentially a neck gaiter with a hood and face mask, both help to keep the air flowing into your lungs from so cold as well as protecting from cold wind burn.

Hands & Arms - come in many materials and types; wool, micro fiber, cotton, fleece, leather, and I’m sure something else. For our application lets stick with wool, fleece, and micro fiber.  The types of gloves are; mittens, traditional glove, a 2-in-1 (five finger with a mitten shell), and the convertible (a five finger glove that covers the finger to the first knuckle and a flip over mitten). Which glove you choose is a personal preference and depends on how your fingers react to cold. For example, I have very cold hands even in mild temperatures so I prefer the convertible because my hands are warmest when the fingers are touching and covered, as the day heats up I like the option to take my fingers out and let them breath, then be able to put them away when they get cold again (they always do). 

Feet – to keep your feet warm you want to find a sock that is thinner and contains a large percentage of wool. You can also add a sock liner for additional warmth and moisture wicking. The most important aspect of choosing socks is choosing one that has moisture wicking fabric (which is why wool is a good choice, it is naturally wicking)

Safety - made by Yak Traksâ, or MICROspikesâ. These products give you traction in snowy and icy conditions. In the winter you will have those days of running in the dark. To keep safe, there are many forms of reflectivity and lighting to consider.

So even with all that information, I am sure there are a few out there that are too tough for all this technical stuff. Those of you that fail into the tough category will wear shorts, ankle socks and a single layer top, and that’s fine. A Word of warning, don’t be surprised when us properly dressed folks blow past you late in a training run or race, when your energy has been zapped because your internal systems have been wasting energy on trying to keep your body warm

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