Prepared, aware runners need not move inside for winter

  • Published
  • By Col. Tim Nickerson
  • 853rd Electronic Systems Group
As New Englanders begin thinking about winterizing cars and homes, individuals should not forget to winterize their running habits. Being a runner for more than 30 years of my life, I have learned a lot about the sport and would like to offer some winter training tips and advice to keep members of the Hanscom community safe while running out on the roads.

First, I'd like to begin with some training advice:

1. Make sure to get in a good warm up before starting a strenuous workout. The cold, damp weather causes individuals to feel extra aches and pains that aren't generally felt in warmer weather. A good warm up consists of a slow paced half to one mile and then some light stretching once the muscles are warmed up. When stretching, try not to bounce, but hold the stretch for approximately 10 seconds. Once you have stretched, shake out your legs before starting the workout.

2. Ensure your diet is proper for the amount of calories being burned during runs. A proper diet includes the appropriate intake of fluids, whether it is water or a popular sport drink. Individuals can get dehydrated in cold weather. Think complex carbohydrates.

3. Ensure you have the proper equipment for winter running. Shoes are very important. Runners should get a good stability shoe with the proper amount of cushioning. Try to go to a specialty running store to purchase your shoes. Shoes can be expensive, but they can spare a lot of pain in the long run, no pun intended. Dress comfortably and in layers. Layers will keep you warm and can be shed as you heat up during the workout. Coolmax is a popular material that wicks moisture away from the body, lessening the likelihood of chafing.

4. Listen to your body. My rule of thumb is if the injury or illness is from the shoulders downward, it's probably not a good idea to risk further injury. If the issue is above the shoulders -- except for a headache from potential dehydration - a person should get out and run. There is nothing like fresh air to clear the sinuses. However, if your body is telling you to take a break for a day, take it. Continual fatigue will lead to injury or illness, which could put you on the sidelines for a long period of time.

Here are a few tips to put in your safety toolbox:

1. Always run into the wind when starting out on a run. The wind will help evaporate sweat, keeping clothing dry. Running with the wind doesn't have the evaporative effect of the wind, so a runner can heat up and perspire -- leading to wet, heavy clothes. When turning back and running into the cold wind with the wet clothing, the moisture will freeze along with those parts of your body they contact.

2. Daylight is rare in the winter here. Run in well lit areas. When running on those early morning winter days, avoid wet leaves on the ground. They can hide ice which causes slips and falls. Wear bright, contrasting-color running clothes. A lot of running apparel is made with reflective material sewn into it. If you can't find this type of apparel, use a reflective belt or buy an inexpensive reflective vest from the Base Exchange. If people are not commenting on your bright running outfit, then it probably isn't bright enough. Be original and be seen.

3. Be very cautious when approaching an intersection or driveway. Most intersections or driveways in this area have large trees going right up to the street, which means the cars approaching them will not see you. Move out as far as possible to see around the trees and listen for traffic. The trees usually block the sun from melting the frost that developed overnight, leaving a slick surface. Never step out in front of a vehicle without making eye contact with the driver and getting a head nod to proceed. As they say with driving, run defensively.

4. When running off base, always carry your military ID card. This ensures you would be easily identified if something were to happen to you and it also helps when trying to get back on base.

5. If you go running while snow is falling, stay on fresh snow rather than packed snow for better traction. Trails are best for snow running. They are away from traffic and usually have better traction than road surfaces. Running during a snow fall is a real treat.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to advice on winter running. Runners don't need to move inside just because it gets cold. Proper dress and preparation can make winter running experiences good ones. Maybe some of you will get hooked on running like I did more than 30 years ago. Stay safe and see you on the roads.