Oh, Wind, if Winter Comes…

O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?
— Percy Bysshe Shelley

Our group getting ready for a morning run last July.

MY FIRST BELOW-FREEZING RUN OF THE WINTER took place this morning. I suppose I should be grateful that it took until December 10 to happen. The temperature in downtown A2 was 18 degrees, not factoring in the wind chill. And yet, the crowd at the local lululemon was about the same as usual. Some folks had even run a few miles prior to arriving at the store.

The same group this morning. There isn't much that keeps runners at home!

The secret to running in any weather is to dress appropriately. Thank you, Captain Obvious, I hear you saying, but many people  are surprised when I tell them that running in cold weather is not only possible, but can be as enjoyable as warm weather running. Here are some of the things I’ve learned to keep myself as warm and dry as possible during winter runs:

  • Cotton is out. It absorbs moisture, so it gets heavier in addition to making me miserably wet and cold. I stick with synthetics which wick the moisture away (mostly).
  • Wear several layers. It’s easy to remove one if I overheat (yes, it happens), and also easy to toss on an additional one. I need at least one layer to provide a windbreak, since wind makes me colder than anything else.
  • Wear a good headcover. If my ears get too cold, they start to ache. My balaclava can be worn either as a hat/ear cover, or like a ski mask. For really cold weather, I can pull the fabric over my mouth for warmer breathing.
This is basically what I wore today. Here I'm wearing the balaclava as a partial face cover. I can pull up the fabric to cover nose and mouth if I want to.

For yesterday’s 5-mile run at around 30 degrees, I wore a thin underlayer, heaver top layer, and a light jacket, and medium weight running tights. This morning, I switched to my heavier winter jacket, which was fine for the first six of the 12 miles I ran. But I got sweaty in the second half, so while I started warmer, I finished colder than I would have in the light jacket. Lesson learned.

I also learned more about proper running form by viewing this short video from Eric Orton’s website. He places particular emphasis on the proper position of the feet and knees, which ensures that the leg muscles are used efficiently, and avoids unnecessary stress on the knees and joints. I’ve slipped into bad habits now and then such as heel striking, so the occasional reminders and form checks are very useful, especially with the number of miles I’m running this month. Just 81 and change to go!

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