Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cold Weather Workout Tips

How Cold is Too Cold to Workout Outside?

Old Man Winter has arrived! Days are shorter - Temperatures are plunging.

Early morning or evening outdoor workouts are during the coldest parts of the day. 

Good News

You don't have to give up those outside sweat sessions due to the bone-chilling temperatures. Susan Paul, exercise physiologist says it’s generally safe to work out outdoors until the thermometer hits a freezing 20 degrees below zero. However, you need to be properly outfitted. Also if you are a beginner don't start training for your first 10K during the dead cold of winter.

Cold Weather Workout Rules 

If you follow these simple cold weather workout rules you will minimize injuries and boost your performance.

Cold Weather Layers

Wear layers of moisture-wicking (dry-fit) fabrics that will keep you warm and dry.

I also add a jacket that is easily removable. When I first start out running I'm pretty cold, but once I get to full intensity my body warms up pretty quickly. Then I shed the outer jacket and tie it around my waist.

Cold Weather Workout Gear

Cover your mouth - wear a face mask or scarf wrapped around your nose and mouth - this will help heat and moisturize the air before it hits your lungs.

Protect your extremities with gloves, mittens, wool socks, headband and a snug-fitting hat.

Socks - This is probably the hardest one for me.  My feet get cold very easily, so I like to wear layers of thick socks.  This is hard to do when you go running because there is only so much room in your running shoe.  So, I choose a dry-fit thin hiking sock for my first layer.  For my second layer, Nike makes a dry fit running sock that keeps my foot pretty warm.   

Gloves - You have many choices in gloves. I usually wear a thinner glove when it's not as cold - like the gloves on the right. But when the temperature dips lower, and the wind picks up, I reach for a thicker pair - like the ones pictured below.  Also the gloves below have the touch fingers which allow me to use my iPhone while running, a definite plus.

Take it Easy - It's better to run long and easy when the temperatures are frigid then a speed workout. This is not the time break your distance record or beat your best time.

Warm Up - Since it will take more time in the cold weather, allow your body to warm up thoroughly to avoid the risk of injury.

Remember winter running is about maintaining miles not the speed. If you are running longer distances you can break your runs up to avoid being in the cold too long. After your run make sure you avoid the post-run chills by getting out of your sweaty clothes and drink something warm.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bucket List: My First 10K Accomplished

A Triumph and a Disappointment

My First 10K

I did it. I accomplished my goal of running my very first 10K race and not only did I finish it, but I also managed to shave off 3 minutes from my previous time. It was a moment of triumph, but it came with a bitter aftertaste. My body had its own plans for the day.

A Battle with My Body

The Pre-Race Struggle

A few days before the race, I experienced what I thought was a simple leg cramp. Little did I know that it would evolve into something much more challenging. I spent the day before the race diligently tending to my leg, with a heating pad and stretching, hoping it was just a minor issue.

A Nervous Morning

The morning of the race was filled with nerves. I couldn't shake the fear that my leg would betray me once again, and unfortunately, it did just that. For the first 3 miles, my feet and toes remained numb, possibly due to the chilly weather. However, the ordeal was far from over; throughout the race, my right leg, hip, and glutes were in excruciating pain.

Perseverance Amidst Pain

But I wasn't going to let my body hold me back from achieving my goal. After all, I often tell our kids to persevere and push through life's challenges, so I followed my own advice. The pain was there, but so was my determination.

The Lingering Pain

My leg continues to ache even after the race. An internet diagnosis suggests sciatic nerve pain, but the root cause remains uncertain. My best guess is that I pushed my aging body beyond its limits with exercises it couldn't handle. Note: I was correct in the diagnosis. Stretching the right way took the pain away.

Questioning My Workout Routine

My regular regimen included weightlifting at the gym and three days of running each week. In addition to that, I incorporated at-home workouts I found online. I suspect that these home exercises might have done more harm than good to my body, but only time and medical tests will reveal the truth. An upcoming MRI will not only examine my spine but also my brain due to prior numbness in my arms and legs.

The Realization of Aging

Getting older is a reality that none of us can escape. The lesson I've learned is that my body is not the same as it was 20 years ago, and I need to adapt accordingly.

Looking Ahead

Though it's disappointing to face these physical challenges, I'm excited about the prospect of running another 10K. My hope is that my body will cooperate next time. For now, I eagerly await the results of my medical tests and prepare to embrace the changes that come with age.

10k Are You Ready Checklist

1. Be able to run 6.2 miles - My running partner and I were able to do this last Sunday when we checked out the course.  We will go for it again this week.

 2. Strength training - I have been lifting weights at the gym and at home three days a week now for over six months. My muscles are getting stronger and increasing a little bit every week. I can measure this with my new scale. It measures everything from BMI to body fat to muscle.  

3. Proper running shoes - I am testing out shoes I already have. So far my favorite ones are the ones my dog chewed up.

4. Headgear - I will be wearing a headband from Under Armor. It's dry-fit and will keep my head dry and warm. It's supposed to be in the low 30s on the day of the race.

5. Gloves - I will need two pairs.  The first pair is a pair of Nike dry-fit running gloves.  The second pair will allow me to use my iPhone while I run so I can monitor my pace. 

 6. iPhone with Map My Run App - This is so I can monitor my pace.  I was thinking of getting a watch that would do the same thing.  But  -- since I'm pretty superstitious, I might just have to stick with what I am used to.

 7. Layers of clothes - November gets quite chilly here but once you get running your body temperature ramps up.  Plus there is always a chance of a hot flash coming on so it's better to be prepared to take off some of those layers.

 8. Hydrate  - It's good to start days before the race to make sure your body is all ready to go.

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