AHHHH…COLD WEATHER!! Around this time, every year, I’m reminded of a weekend in my life that was a very important learning experience! Now, this story applies to new runners and those who hate the cold, so pay attention!
A little history lesson first. I ran track and played basketball at Boaz High School. We didn’t have a cross country team, and most certainly didn’t have an indoor track season. My Fall and Winter running was in the gym up and down a court! I didn’t go outside to run til late Spring and ran a few road races in the summer. Basically, I was a warm weather runner! Well, obviously, that all had to change once I went to UAB to run cross country and indoor and outdoor track. College running meant every day, every condition, with few exceptions!
So, I showed up to UAB with what I considered running clothes. I actually did have good running shorts, but everything else was cotton. From August to October of my Freshman year, I was lucky! The weather was rather mild. Then, where is our first conference meet? Good ole Chicago! Now, this is funny for two reasons. One, the trip to Chicago would be my second time EVER on a plane, and two, there just so happened to be a winter storm brewing for that particular weekend.
First, the plane! We’re flying into Midway and the captain hits the mic as we’re descending, “Well, it’s a little windy in Chicago, so it’s going to be a rough one going in for the landing. But don’t you worry! We’ll have you guys down safe, shortly.” He did not exaggerate a bit! As we’re getting closer to the ground, I look out my window and can see straight down the runway, as if the plane is coming in sideways!! I was definitely freaking out, but as a freshman, if I were to have started crying, I’d never heard the end of it!! Anyway, we landed and all was OK.
OK, on to the running! We went to the course on Friday for a preview. It was a beautiful park right on the lake. The wind had calmed, but it was definitely cold! After the preview, we went to dinner and a team meeting, at which the coach informs us, a Winter storm was blowing in and to expect frigid temps and snow! I was in a panic!! Not only had I never run in snow, but I’m not sure I had raced in temperatures below 40 degrees! Back at the hotel, I looked through my bag. I had my uniform, team warm up, a pair of cotton gloves, a cotton hat and a long sleeve cotton tee. I decided to wear the long sleeve tee under my singlet. At the course, during the warm up, it came a blizzard, or at least, what I consider a blizzard! The snowflakes were as big as my head!! I took off my warm up and lined up on the starting line, shaking like a leaf. By mile two, I was sweating like crazy and about to die from heat exhaustion! At the finish, I couldn’t get that long sleeve tee off quick enough!!
Needless to say, winter running apparel was tops on my Christmas wish list that year, and I don’t know how my Mom pulled it off with no spectacular running store (Trak Shak) in town, but she hooked me up!! There were polyester mock turtle necks, running pants with tapered legs, and the prize of the collection, a kelly green pair of Sporthill stirrup pants. You old school runners remember stirrup pants!!!
So, if you’re new to running in the cold or just HATE the cold weather, here’s some tips.
1. Cotton is Rotten! Cotton fibers are thicker than synthetic fibers and hold more moisture, which in turn either makes you too hot or too cold depending upon the temperature. This applies from head to toe, so socks, gloves, hats, shirts, shorts, undies……they all need to be polyester, nylon or a blend of non cotton fibers.
2. If you are warm before you even start running, you have too many clothes on!!
3. Purchase a running vest!! It is by far my favorite piece of running apparel! It’s the perfect outer layer for Alabama weather! I’ll put a thick base layer on under the vest on those under 30 days, and even wear a short sleeve base layer on those 50 and raining days.
4. If the really cold weather burns your lungs, buy a neckwarmer. Neckwarmers fit, obviously, around your neck, but they also have a mesh area that fits over your mouth. It helps warm and moisten air as you inhale to ease the burning!
5. Fellas, buy a pair of wind briefs! There are certain areas of the body that are more sensitive than others. Wind briefs protect those areas WELL!
6. FINALLY, but probably should be FIRSTLY, stop by any Trak Shak location and check out the latest winter apparel from Brooks, Nike, Asics, Skirt Sports and others! There are a lot of smart people working for these companies, and they surprise me every year with new additions to winter running apparel lines!!
Oh yeah, for your viewing pleasure. In the picture above, I’m the one with the hat on!! That’s about 45 pounds ago, and the glasses probably weighed at least 5!