As we await for the Polar Vortex to blast Central Texas, we can—at least—be thankful we don’t live in the frozen north. We’re especially fortunate the type of winter weather we get, doesn’t slow us down. At least, not much. Still, the windy, cold weather we’re expected to get, forces every Texan to pay a little more attention to the running environment.
Here are some tips to dealing with the occasional exceptionally cold days:
1. Take it easy. If it’s really too cold, forget about running your normal training pace or distance. Be happy you can run outside, but modify your workouts so you aren’t outside too long in exceptionally cold, windy weather.
2. Invest in good, technical running outer wear. Make sure you have a quality jacket, tights and shirts and shorts.
3. Wear layers. Your first layer should be a top made of synthetics that wick away moisture from the skin and allows it to evaporate. (Never wear cotton.) Wear tights, never sweatpants. Your outer shell or jacket should be breathable and water-repellant. Choose a jacket or running vest with zippers that you can open for ventilation if you get too warm later in the run.
4. Always wear gloves. Always. On some days, you may need to wear gloves and mittens to keep your hands warm. If your hands are warm, you’ll probably be comfortable.
5. A hat is also a must. Depending on the temperature and wind, you may need a baseball hat or a wool cap that pulls over your ears.
6. Lubricate. Use a lubricant such as Body Glide on any areas of the body that might encounter friction from your outer wear (especially between the thighs). Also use a lip balm so your lips don’t become chapped.
7. Winter wind is the worst. When it blows from the north, a relatively mild winter run can be downright miserable—if you’re running into the teeth of it. Try running on the Butler/Lady Bird Lake Trail for some protection. If you’re running an out-and-back course or a loop, try to start into the wind and then have the wind at your back on the return loop when you’ll be wet and tired.
8. Hydration is key. You might not think dehydration can be an issue in the winter, but it is possible to sweat just as much as on a warmer day. On long runs, cache bottles of sports drink (sports drink is better than water in the winter because the sugar will keep it from freezing as quickly as water) along the way. Or take drinks with you with a water carrier. Or my favorite solution: Bring money and buy drinks along the way at gas stations and convenience stores.
9. Warm up. Before venturing outside on a cold weather run, preheat your shoes, hat and socks with a blast of hot air from a hair dryer. It won’t last long, but it feels good once you step outside.
10. Avoid ice at all costs. If an ice storm hits Austin, consider bagging the run. It’s simply too dangerous. Your shoes can’t get any traction and you can easily fall. Plus, cars can’t stop.
11. Get dry immediately. After finishing a cold winter run, get out of your wet clothes as soon as you finish. Have dry sweats (shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, hat) right on hand—especially after a hard race. Hop in the shower as soon as possible to get your body temperature back up to normal.
12. Drink something warm. Have a cup of soup, tea or coffee to warm you up. Chicken soup works best.