RUNNING IN INCLEMENT WEATHER AND HARSH ENVIRONMENTS

I am a runner. I will always be a runner. Running has been such a huge part of my life that I couldn’t resist running 7 miles during a below freezing and blustery in the city of Boston.  It all started in 9th grade when the cross country coach saw me running around the school as I liked to clear my head after a long day of classes. He invited me to be on the varsity team, and because of that, I fell in love with running - not just competitively, but on a spiritually satisfying level, too. As an introvert, I need alone time. I need to find ways to expend “me” energy. Running is my outlet, running is my passion, running is my “high”. Though, how do we manage ourselves when the weather becomes inhospitable? How do we shelter our bodies to protect us from the elements?  It is a constant dilemma we face as we layer up. You never want to over heat as that causes condensation inside our layers. We also don’t want to be so cold that it is nearly impossible to rewarm, especially when out for multiple hours at a time.

I am a runner. I will always be a runner. Running has been such a huge part of my life that I couldn’t resist running 7 miles during a below freezing and blustery in the city of Boston.

It all started in 9th grade when the cross country coach saw me running around the school as I liked to clear my head after a long day of classes. He invited me to be on the varsity team, and because of that, I fell in love with running - not just competitively, but on a spiritually satisfying level, too. As an introvert, I need alone time. I need to find ways to expend “me” energy. Running is my outlet, running is my passion, running is my “high”. Though, how do we manage ourselves when the weather becomes inhospitable? How do we shelter our bodies to protect us from the elements?

It is a constant dilemma we face as we layer up. You never want to over heat as that causes condensation inside our layers. We also don’t want to be so cold that it is nearly impossible to rewarm, especially when out for multiple hours at a time.

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Running In Inclement Weather and Harsh Environments

by Lauren DiCenso

In the Pacific North West, we can actually face some of the harshest weather for running. 33 degrees in a wet environment can lead to bone chilling cold, more so than a dry, 5 degree day. Being wet, our bodies have a much harder time thermoregulating. So how do we regulate our core temperatures during various conditions? How do we insure we won’t over heat? How do we cool off?

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In The Snow

The snow can be the most magnificent medium to run through. Here’s how!

Have you ever set foot outside to run at night in the middle of a snow storm? It can be the most peaceful run. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a more peaceful time to run. Roads can be closed to traffic, there will be less cars out on busier roads and less human traffic.

Bring protective clothing and accessories: You will be cold the moment you set foot outside, but remember you will warm up within the first mile. If it’s 5 degrees outside, dress as if it will be 30-40 degrees. Our body produces a tremendous amount of heat. It would be wise, however, to stuff a light weight puffy jacket in your run vest in case you need to stop or walk. Running gloves and light weight thermal caps are a key to warmth.

Micro spikes: On various terrain, micro-spikes provide added traction on ice and snow. They act as cleats on the soles of your shoes.

Light yourself up. Head lamps, reflective vests and reflective wear are key to a safer run in urban and trail environments.

Wy’east Wolfpack running gloves

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In The Heat

Thermoregulation and management

Get acclimated—if you’ve been used to running 10 miles in 70-degree weather and temperatures suddenly jump into the 90s, it’s not reasonable to continue running the same route. You will need to either shorten your run or run slower. It can take a full 2 weeks for your body to adjust to higher temperatures.

Stay hydrated—it’s very easy to become dehydrated while running for long periods of time in high temperatures. You’ll want to drink one 16-oz bottle of water about 45 minutes before you leave for your run, and if you’ll be out for more than an hour, you’ll want to carry (at least) 32 ounces of water with you depending on the head and humidity levels. Run vests are necessary as the runs get longer.

EAT  - You burn through calories and glycogen stores must faster than if you were running in the cold. A run vest or run belt can carry those items for you without feeling bulky or like there is too much weight on your back. Replenish with gels and bars for optimum performance. Salt tablets can also be the key (as well as electrolyte beverages, i.e.  Tailwind Nutrition ) to long lasting success without “bonking” too quickly. Sodium, carbohydrates, healthy sugars and natural fats will increase productivity, mental cognition and energy.  Trail Butter  makes an excellent high calorie snack on the trails.

EAT - You burn through calories and glycogen stores must faster than if you were running in the cold. A run vest or run belt can carry those items for you without feeling bulky or like there is too much weight on your back. Replenish with gels and bars for optimum performance. Salt tablets can also be the key (as well as electrolyte beverages, i.e. Tailwind Nutrition) to long lasting success without “bonking” too quickly. Sodium, carbohydrates, healthy sugars and natural fats will increase productivity, mental cognition and energy. Trail Butter makes an excellent high calorie snack on the trails.

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In The Rain

How to layer and stay warm

Lighten up—it’ll be much harder for other runners, cyclists, or motorists to see you in the rain. You should be sure to wear something that’s reflective so you’ll stand out against a car’s headlights.


Dress for the temperature—a common mistake many runners make is wearing a lot of layers with the hopes of preventing rain from soaking through to the core. What unfortunately happens when you layer is all of your layers will get wet, leaving you much heavier and soggier than usual. You should instead dress as you normally would for the temperature, and wear a thin poncho over everything if your clothing isn’t waterproof.


Avoid brick and metal—these surfaces become extremely slippery when wet. If you must travel across either surface, consider walking just to be safe!


Prevent chafing—when there’s moisture, there’s chafing. You can use Vaseline or any other runners’ gel to help avoid getting blisters when you run in the rain. Just be sure to not avoid runners’ gel to an area where you don’t typically blister. You may run the risk of creating too much friction and actually causing blisters!

…..conclusion

Running in bad weather can be dangerous. I know firsthand how your safety can be compromised if not careful. I was running in one of the final cross country varsity races, and I was hitting the trail hard. I was in 5th place, and if I just pushed it a little more, I could win the race. But, it was pouring out. I was drenched. I couldn’t tell the difference between my sweat and the rain that had soaked through my thin layer of clothing. The forecast predicted sunny, but as is the case more often than not, the meteorologist was very wrong. It was getting dark, it was slippery, and I had to run uphill with tree trunk roots sticking up from the ground, taunting me, waiting for me to make the wrong step. So, just as I was coming to the end of the trail in the woods, just a mile from the finish line, I tripped over a large tree branch. I fell into the mud and I hit my head. There was no one around to help me. My coach no where to be found. I was too ahead of the other runners to call out for help. I decided to keep going. I wasn’t going to let my team down. Dizzy and disoriented, I pushed myself to the limit.


So, what happened? I won the race. Not without some consequences though. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I blacked out. This story is to showcase just how important it is to be prepared for any type of weather. If it’s 100 degrees out, hydrate yourself BEFORE you go for a run. If it looks like it might rain? Get the correct reflective weather gear to increase your visibility and help you keep your traction as you run along the street or trail. 


I hope this sheds some light on the importance of running safety! 

Get after it,

Lauren

Willie McBride1 Comment