Even with winter in its latter stages, cold weather continues to grip many parts of the country — in some cases, quite harshly. For runners, this means coming to terms with intense, chilly conditions that must be handled properly to ensure both safety and physical effectiveness.
Typically, the easiest way to run in the cold is to stop harmful setbacks and challenges before they occur. Here are some key “don’ts” of cold weather running.
Don’t run when you know it’s unsafe
Most runners are stubborn by nature; we will push through almost anything if it means completing our daily workout — be it a fledgling injury or a series of adverse environmental conditions. Regarding the latter, there are few weather-related excuses to skip a run (a little rain or a small snow flurry never hurt anyone), but intense cold weather is one of the few that is objectively valid.
The reality is that some cold temperatures are simply too dangerous to run in for long periods of time — especially those dropping below single digits. It is better to train indoors or take off than risk damaging your lungs or skin, which could yield permanent consequences to your wellbeing. The best rule of thumb is to take all advantages to train when the winter weather is under control, and avoid overthinking and stressing yourself out when things do not go your way; at the end of the day, it is out of your hands and is not an indicator of laziness.
Don’t skimp on proper apparel
A runner’s tolerance for cold conditions usually boils down to personal preference; some are able to run in frigid temperatures without gloves while others bundle up beyond what they might actually need to stay warm. That said, know your limits with cold running comfort. There is no reason to suffer through the elements if a few apparel changes could prevent it. Specifically, research and invest in proper footwear, headwear, and handwear, as these areas are common complaint in times of harsh cold running.
Don’t run before the roads are tended to
It is usually not a good idea to run across fresh snow and/or ice, as this can court accidents, injuries, and other potential disasters to your training cycle. If you have the option, wait until your local township workers have successfully plowed and salted the roads in your community. Otherwise, it is better to train indoors or take off in lieu of taking the risk.
A long run. It sounds exhausting and painful. However, you are a runner (or just started running) and want to ensure you are getting the most out of your exercise. But why a long run? A long run is necessary to get you into training for a 5K, half marathon or an IRONMAN triathlon. Training for long runs will help your body to get used to the changes it will undergo, such as producing more capillaries in muscle fiber, mitochondria (number and size) and glycogen in muscles. And we can’t forget about the benefits of running, including weight loss, less stress and more strength.
Yet, with all benefits, the thought of going on a long run can be a challenge. Below are three ways to make a long run more interesting.
- Scenery. If you run the same route each time, the run will become boring. An easy fix is to change the scenery. Instead of your neighborhood, why not go for a run in a local park? You can also drive to a different neighborhood. Not only will the terrain be different, but the fact that you are exploring a new area is exciting. Also, don’t skip a run just because you are on vacation or on a work trip. A new city or state to run in is even more interesting because the area is completely foreign to you. However, be sure to map out the run first and carry your cell phone.
- Zone Out. Exercise, whether you are swimming, walking or running, is a great way to reduce your stress. It produces endorphins, which create a positive feeling. And when when on a run, you should focus on what is going on in front of you. This also reduces your stress because you are not thinking about what you need to do or the issues from the day before. This is your chance to focus on the road (or beach) in front of you; to take notice of things around you (e.g. nature). Reducing your stress is another way to get you mentally prepared for your next (or first) marathon.
- Pair Up. If you don’t like the solitude of running, you can always get a friend to join you. When you pair up, you and your partner can motivate each other to push harder and finish the route. You can also have a conversation to take your mind off the run. This is a great way to get caught up with your friend as well as make sure you are exerting the right amount of effort. Running with a buddy is also safer in case you (or your partner) receive an injury. Just be sure your running partner matches your skill level.
Most new runners are advised to adhere to a crucial starting rule: find a shoe that works, based on your unique foot type, and stick to that shoe for as long as possible. This process, in many cases, involves a shoe that will provide the right level of support and cushioning to mitigate injury and discomfort.
Minimalist running, fundamentally, stands as the antithesis of the previous mindset; also called barefoot running, it broadly refers to running footwear that is thin, close fitting, and organic in the sense that is perhaps the closest one can get to running barefoot without actually doing so. Extreme as it may sound, minimalism has undulated as a running fad recent years, partially due to the popularity of Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, a memoir that aims to challenge our collective perceptions on what is “normal” in distance running, including the footwear we choose.
Today, there are several major shoe brands offering minimalist-inspired models, from Vibram to Saucony. However, despite its suggested benefits, it is important to understand that minimalism is not for everyone and must be pursued carefully to avoid frustrating setbacks.
That said, here are a few quick pros and cons to adopting minimalist running:
The potential benefits
- By running in minimalist shoes over a consistent period of time, one may be able to promote beneficial gait adaptations observed in successful runners worldwide. For example, many notable runners from third-world countries display a lower arch and, subsequently, a more stable foot as a result of regular barefoot running. Minimalism has been linked to similar changes that can improve a runner’s overall biomechanics.
- Additionally, minimalist shoes can lead to less bodily pressure experienced during long runs, as they promote a more natural heel strike with each step. Normal running shoes tend to encourage runners to adopt a heel-first stride, which can quickly accumulate pressure on the body over an extended period of time. This effect can also reduce the risk of certain injuries associated with the heel and sole.
The potential setbacks
- Even if it eventually works for you, minimalist footwear brings with it a slow, sometimes frustrating transitional process, which can quickly derail a training cycle or mileage building phase depending on when it is implemented. That said, it will take a lot of careful foresight and planning to adopt the footwear in a healthy, natural manner. As runners, we usually like to get back on the roads as quickly as possible when set back, so this notion alone can be a red flag, depending on the scenario.
- Minimalist running can lead to a specific variety of overuse injuries, mainly involving the achilles or calf, and it can exacerbate preexisting or recurring ones if the runner in question is simply a poor fit for such footwear. This setback is rooted in personal running style and body type, but in most cases it lies in the sudden shock of ramped up work for new muscle groups — ones that may have been worked differently with conventional shoes. Proper planning can reduce the risk of such injury, but just like the previous point, the primary setback here revolves around a potentially long trial-and-error process.
About Allen Curreri
Dr. Allen Curreri is a pharmaceutical professional, a researcher in clinical decision making, and a consultant. But first and foremost, Allen is a community member.
Allen Curreri is proud to call Atlanta, Georgia home for the past two decades. He cares deeply about his hometown, and after seeing how much his city gave to him as a young man, Allen is dedicated to giving back tenfold to the community he loves.
Allen considers it a personal responsibility and a privilege to serve his community in every way he can. Plus, Allen knows how to have fun getting his hands dirty for a good cause! As a family man himself, he is particularly drawn to the work of United Way, where he has been a loyal volunteer for over fifteen years, and counting. With United Way, Allen focuses on creating self-sustaining progress and strong communities. The mission? Filling the most vital gaps and providing for the most fundamental unmet needs: health, income, and education.
A long-time running and marathon enthusiast, you can often find Allen on the paths and tracks around Atlanta training for his next challenge. Nothing is more satisfying than taking care of yourself while working for others, and Allen Curreri is a great believer in getting out on the streets and running for a good cause in fundraisers and charity marathons.
Allen’s Current Project
All across America, thousands of students are denied the federal student aid they need to fund their dreams of a college education. Why? A one-time mistake. Few people know that teens with one-time drug offenses on their record are made ineligible for student loans or work study, even if they never re-offend again.
The kids affected the most are often underserved, underprivileged, and lacking support systems — kids who already fought every odd to get a quality education. Kids who’s dreams are crushed without the federal support they need to tackle tuition.
These kids aren’t looking for a handout, just an education. Allen Curreri’s mission is to give them a fighting chance to reach their goals. He is currently working to build an organization that will offer scholarships to youth with one-time drug offenses. Those who pass the rigorous essay and interview process will live out their dreams of attending college, right there at home in Atlanta, GA, where they’ll enrich the local community and economy.
Allen is currently seeking support and partnerships of all kinds to turn his vision — and the vision of hundreds of students — into reality.
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Allen Curreri studied pre-pharmaceutical work as an undergraduate and soon tailored his focus to the business side of the medical industry. In 2003 he entered the College of Business Administration at Georgia Southern University. As he worked toward his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) Allen balanced his studies with an entry position in medical sales. One year later, he joined GE Healthcare as an ultrasound equipment sales professional.
For the next eight years Allen worked with GE Healthcare, spending much of his time inside hospitals and ERs and cultivating the wealth of medical industry experience that guides his work to this day. When he left GE Healthcare in 2012 he sought out a role in pharmaceutical sales. He accepted a position as Director of National Sales at Prestige Medical Solutions Limited, and would eventually work his way up to Chief Operations Officer of Prestige.
Allen’s experience in pharmaceutical sales has allowed him to travel around the world and to network within diverse pools of professionals at industry conferences. A resident of Atlanta, Georgia, Allen has traveled everywhere from parts of the U.S. and Canada to England, France, South Korea, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. He attends conferences to track the expansion of different institutions or pharmaceutical companies; over the years he has observed some of the largest and most influential conferences attended by pharmacists, technicians, and Congressional health care policy writers.