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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Not so bad, as long as you layer

Temps here in Indiana are hovering around zero degrees. Add the wind chill factor and we are talking about 20 degrees below zero. (It's so cold that school is being closed, not because of bad roads but just because it is that cold.)

For those of you, like Dawn, who live in warm, comfortable climates you may not be familiar with what the "wind chill factor" is. Wind chill is what the weather actually feels like. A thermometer might show that it is 1 degree above zero outside, but that doesn't count the bitter cold winds whipping across the flat Indiana plains. So, the wind chill factor takes into account those bitting winds.

But twenty degrees below zero need not detract one from getting out and doing some running. (Hey, Rocky worked out in the cold when he was training to fight the Russian, so why can't we?) I don't recommend going for world record distance runs, but surely a thrity minute run is possible, even when the weather is as cold as it is.

The key is layering. I have gone on a few four mile runs in the last week and it has been at some of the lowest temps and some bitter wind chill factors, but it really hasn't been too bad. First thing is to make sure that you've got some good gloves - mittens are the best because they trap heat better than gloves that have fingers. Second, make sure you've got something to cover the face (a ski mask) as well as a warm stocking cap of some sort.

On to the upper body. The key: more bulk does not mean more warmth. Nix the sweatshirt, because it doesn't keep the wind out. I wear a spandex base layer followed by a waffled thermal underwear layer. I have a thin, long sleeved shirt over top of that, and then as the outer layer I have a wind breaker. The outer layer is one of the most important. It has to keep the wind from cutting through. If you are a cheapscate you can get by pretty cheap on most of the clothing, but don't skimp on the outer layer. Get something that is well-made and designed to keep the bitter winds from getting through. Technology can help us here, so take advantage of it.

So, four layers is probably ok for most weather. If you need a bit more warmth I would recommend going with some sort of warm thermal as your third layer.

What about the lower body? Well, go with some long running tights and then maybe some sort of outer layer to keep the wind out. Similar concepts apply to the lower body as to the upper body, except you usually don't need as many layers. Personally, I just wear two pairs of tights and typically wear a longer, thicker pair of shorts. And make sure you've got some warm socks.

Last tip for cold weather runners: Don't have any exposed skin! It may be common sense, but certainly worth mentioning.

So, get out there and breath the crisp, cold air. Take your time and soak in the beautiful scenes of snow covered trees.

8 comments:

Melody said...

You have a death wish. I'm wearing four layers just to survive the office. That little dash out to my car all but finishes me off.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Actually, that dash to the car is worse than going on a run. When you go for a run your body is moving and you generate a lot of body heat, so if you are layered right it really isn't so cold. But the dash to the car is killer because your body isn't ready for the blast of bitter air that hits you like a Mack truck.

Kelly E. said...

A picture would be worth a thousand words...

LINDSAY said...

Did you realize that the temperatures have been so cold that frost bite can occur after twenty minutes? Also, I can't verbalize the insanity that develops within that mind of yours. Oh, by the way it is not actually good for your lungs to breath all that cold air, and that is a very good way to get an upper respiratory infection. Try running indoors (like normal people)...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes, indeed. When the air gets really cold it can be damaging to your lungs. That's true. However, if you have been running regularly since the fall when it began to get cool then your lungs will adapt to it, and it will actually make your lungs stronger. So, it might not be good to pick up running in the middle of winter. It does require some adaptation for your lungs.

Lindsay said...

WOw, evidently you have some hefty lungs! Well enjoy your crazy nature runs, and I'll enjoy the views by looking through the window while being rather toasty with a cup of tea. I will wait until it warms up a bit to go on my nature walks. ;) Hey, we've all got are own ideas of fun, and so run your heart out.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I wouldn't run in this crazy weather if I didn't enjoy it. It really invigorates me.

The tough part of running is recalibrating the body. Once a person has run regularly for a while (like, for several months in a row, or maybe up to a year) running starts to become less of a chore and more of an entertainment. Ever heard of a "runner's high"? Nobody feels "high" when they are first starting with running/jogging, but once you have done it for a long time it becomes recreational. At least, that's been my experience with it...

LINDSAY said...

I have heard of the runners high, but I have never actually experienced such a feeling, and it does sounds fabulous! I am not really a runner or a jogger,but I have had longings to be one. Yet, I have never kept up with it long it enough to actually enjoy the process. I have always found it painfully exhausting and tortures,and that is why I find people who are faithful runners very worthy of respect. I have had "highs" from hobbies, or fields that I have been faithful in becoming efficient in. Such as, Art when I get into the composition, and the colors... hmm...soo good(it is not a high from the fumes! just to clarify). Yet, I know have to tease a certain runner, especially when I know he goes out during extreme weather.