Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Running Tips to Survive the Winter

Running Tips to Survive the Winter 
Getting ready for a run in the cold!

I have to start this off by saying this:  I hate the cold. 
It is not my thing.  I much rather be sweating my butt off in a tank top and shorts on a 90 degree day than wearing multiple layers and still freezing for the first 10 minutes of my run on a 15 degree day.
But with that said, I still need to run in the winter.
Not for training purposes, but for my own mental health.
And, since I don’t like (okay, maybe “hate” was a bit strong) the cold, I don’t race in the winter, so I don’t have to do any specific training.  So yes, I do use this time to hit the gym, cross train, and work on building muscles that get neglected and will decrease significantly in size by the middle of summer. 

 I really do believe in an “off season” for runners.
However, as winter in the past has been peak season for depression to set it, I found that by actually getting out and enjoying the beauty of winter these negative feeling are significantly decreased.  That means still getting my butt outside and enjoying the trails a few days a week!
Since I’m easily cold, I needed to find solutions to help me stay warm in the frigid temps.  Plus, I have this thing called Reynaud’s Syndrome, which means I don’t get much blood flow to my fingers and toes, causing them to freeze rather quickly.  More than once, I have cried after coming inside as the blood in my hands and toes painfully unfroze…or at least run around my house doing a swearing/singing combination to try and ignore the pain.
Anyway, back to the point… I needed to find ways to stay warm in the cold. 
That left me with 2 options:
1. Grow fur.
It works really well for Pacer.  She actually laid down in the snow to take naps in sub 0 weather. But then I realized I am not a dog.  I went to plan B.
2.  Layer up and buy better gear. 
A bit expensive yes, but manageable.
I’ll start with the slightly more obvious ones:
- Buy good tights!  Yes, good tights are not cheap, but they are definitely worth it and a better quality than the cheaper ones.  I have one pair that I really like, and I wear them on a few times a week.  They might smell, but I’m usually just running with Pacer anyway, and she really doesn’t care.  Additional tip: I highly recommend trying on your tights before you buy them.  And don’t just put them on, jump and run around in them.  I hate a waistband that slides around.  Also, if you run in mud and high snow a lot, I recommend getting a pair with zippers at the ankles.  When you’re tired at the end of long run, it’s not much fun rolling around and trying to pull tights off when they’re frozen at your ankles.
-Layer your shirts and buy a good shell.  I usually wear a warm base layer underneath a good shell.  By the way, shell jackets are amazing!  Because they’re expensive, I put off getting one for a long time.  Now that I have one, I can imagine not having it.  Not only do they repel (or resist) water, but they block out the wind!  This is huge for winter running, as usually it’s the wind-chill that get ya. (I admittedly have a tendency to over-layer up.  While I still start off my running cursing, I’m overheating two miles into it.  For example, today I went out in two base layers, plus and insulated shell jacket. Still, I rather be safe (and warm) than sorry!
-Get a good headband or buff.  This is a must.  Keep those ears warm!
-Mittens are better than gloves.  If you “run hot” you may be able to get away with gloves.  But if you’re like me, they stop working at 32 degrees.  The running gloves with the mitten flap don’t work either.  So this year, I got serious:

First of all, before you comment, these gloves are not pink.  They are “afterglow”.  And I found them for sale (after searching in 3 stores for a real pair of snow mittens) in the boy’s section…and maybe the color is why they were in sale.  Regardless of style, they keep my hands warm!
Last comes the feet.  This is the area that took me the longest to conquer, especially considering the snow seeping into my shoes, or not fully clearing a water crossing.
-Shoes:  When it’s cold and the snow is high, I forgo my beloved minimalist shoes, and get out my heavier, GOR-TEX Salomon’s.  It’s not like I am going to be moving fast anyway, so I just take it as more strength training. 
Pacer wanted to be a show-off...she runs bare-pawed!
-Socks: Yes, buying a $20 pair of socks can sound absurd.  However, they are essential.  Get a nice thick pair.  My favorites that I have so far have been by Dry Max.  If you go for a wool sock, just make sure the wool was taken in a humane way (According to SmartWool’s website, they are animal friendly.)  I suggest taking up your favorite running (like Vertical Runner) or outdoor store’s deals when they have they socks sales, like buy 3 pairs, get 1 free.
We seem to be at the bottom of the totem pole here.   But no, I have one more tip for you, which has been my savior the past 2 winters.
You see, even after wearing my good socks, even wearing 2 pairs of good socks (which can actually make things worse if you start to cut off circulation), my toes still froze and left me crying in pain in my car.
Not knowing what else to do, I asked for help on Facebook, and a friend gave me tip used by skiers that changed everything for me.  What do they do?:

 -They put jelly (Vaseline) on their toes!*** (please read the note at the bottom)
And it worked!  No cold toes!       

Now, before every cold, snowy run, I put gobs of this stuff on my toes before slipping on my Dry Max socks.   
While I still don’t like the cold, at least when I’m running I can stay warm from head to finger to toes!


***Vaseline is NOT an animal-friendly product.  Yes, I was using it in the picture as I bought my jar a few years ago (originally for chapped lips), but after writing this I felt guilty and found a animal friendly substitute in the BABY section of a store.

Beforehand, I did do a Google search which was unproductive (there were many natural products, but they included beeswax, which is not vegan...Yes, I'm picky!), but PETA has a long list of products ( ) and there has to be another alternative there.  However, if you have any products you like, please leave a comment and let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I recently discovered your blog and I love it! (Even though I'm a walker, not a runner.)

    One question regarding the jelly: Doesn't it leave your socks and the inner front of your shoes greasy?