Cold Weather Running

by Benita Zahn

I used to have a wonderful piece of running clothing that I called my 20-degree jacket. It was the perfect piece to wear when the temperature was 20 degrees or below. But it met an untimely demise at the hands, or rather the paws and teeth, of our sweet dog Stanley 2 1/2 years ago. That's when Stanley, a 65 pound Lab mix, joined our household. Turns out his taste for clothing I wore out of doors was insatiable: 8 shoes, 2 boots, an adorable hat and the favorite running jacket. You could say he was a hole-y terror.

So what to do?

I tried a few combinations of clothing already in my closet - barely satisfactory.

So this year, I set out to find the perfect replacement.

CraftJacketOrangeFinal.jpegWhile I didn't find perfection, I did find a reasonable replacement from a company I've just become familiar with, Craft. It's neon orange so the hunters off the Zim Smith trail won't mistake me for a deer. And it's got a special front panel to keep my core warm. It's ALMOST as warm as the beloved old blue jacket, which brings me to this article.

Since we recently endured the first real blast of winter weather, what are you doing to keep warm?

While many experienced runners know to layer up, we can all use a refresher, and let's face it, the ranks of walkers and runners since the pandemic hit have swelled like the number of sweats in your “at home” wardrobe.

My first call was to Charles Woodruff, owner of Fleet Feet and a seasoned runner himself.

"Remember the top of the head, the back of the neck, wrists and ankles" he tells me.

Head, neck, sure … but wrists and ankles? Frankly, I never really thought about those body parts and the role they play in keeping us warm. But it makes sense. If you're overheated, applying cool water to your wrist cools you down because it's a pulse point. So if you keep your wrists warm, you'll stay warmer. And yes, ankles are another pulse point. So keep those areas covered. If you traditionally run in low cut socks it's probably a good idea to switch to something higher, and if you want to treat yourself, keep an eye out for socks made of mohair. It's not the fluffy, itchy stuff you may associate with sweaters. This stuff is soft, wicks wonderfully and Woodruff tells me it wears like iron.

Which brings me to a quick reminder for those just starting out running or walking. All that cotton stuff you have you'll probably want to relegate to the dust rag bin. If you don't already know this hear me ... COTTON IS ROTTEN. It holds water, which means as you perspire it just gets soggy. It doesn't pull the sweat from your skin, so you'll not only feel damp and cold but you'll chafe. Oh yeah, that applies to your tidy whities. Treat yourself to a few pair of wicking, and guys, even windproof, “undergarments.” Hey, the bottom line, pun intended, in staying warm is layering and staying dry. So start from the bottom up.

Layers. Plain and simple. Layers. The wicking layer first. Tight, loose, whatever you prefer. I'm a fan of something to keep my core warm, so I've been wearing a polar fleece sleeveless shirt between the base layer and the outer layer. It's also suggested you keep an eye out for items that incorporate wind barriers, usually found on the quadricep area of tights and front of your top layer. And it's okay to be a little cold when you head out the door. You're going to warm up as you exercise. As long as you're not shivering, you're probably dressed right. And if you've overdressed you can always shed a layer or two.

As you select your running/walking apparel keep an eye on visibility. Drivers are distracted, so help them see you. I recently purchased a pair of tights from Athleta that I think are visible in Canada when it's dark outside. That reflective stuff works. So does a light, reflective vest, head lamp, foot lights and a taillight.

It's also important to stay hydrated during the cold weather. Even though you're not working up the type of sweat you would in warm weather, you're still perspiring. That's why you want that wicking layer against your skin.

Ryan Mitchell, PhD, an associate professor of nutrition science at Sage College and also an accomplished runner, says 'drink up' the same as you would when the sun is high in the sky. Okay, but what about calories? Do we need to eat more because of the cold? Mitchell says, for the most part, no. However, you may feel as if you do because you may be expending a little extra energy simply keeping warm. But don't go “hog wild.”

So here's the skinny: dress in layers, think wind proofing, be visible, hydrate before, during (if you're going long) and after and HAVE FUN. The more we move the better we feel and feeling good helps boost our immune system.

See you out there. I'll be the gal smiling wearing that neon orange almost 20 degree jacket.

                     Benita bundled up


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