Frosty the Runner-Man

winter running

The cold and snow makes running outside less appealing to many runners. The mountain trails are covered with snow and hidden ice until the spring making trail running more dangerous and nearly impossible. Main roads leaden with heavy traffic are colder than the cozy inner neighborhood streets. The wind whips through the wider streets biting at any part of your body not covered. Neighborhoods with heated homes and narrow streets wrap you in their warmth. When the temperatures are really low and it is just too risky to be out there for a twenty-mile run, think about breaking up your run. Go out for ten miles in the morning and then ten more at lunch before you have enough time to totally recover. Try to keep less than eight hours between the two runs. You may have a little extra laundry or need two showers but that is better than frostbite to the ears, nose, fingers, or toes. You can start outdoors for ten miles and then move to a treadmill or indoor track.

Runners need to be aware of the dangers of frostnip and frostbite when running outdoors for longer distances in the winter months. Exposure to cold temperatures for a long time or a short time if the temperatures are very cold may cause these conditions. Frostnip is causes white patches of numb skin. Frostnip does not lead to permanent damage but frostbite can. Frostbite causes the skin to become white or grayish-yellow and it feels hard, waxy, or numb or is blistering. It can also become darkened or black. Some other symptoms include swelling, itching burning, and deep pain during the rewarming/healing process. Wet (i.e. sweaty) clothing, not enough clothing, and high winds increase your chances of getting frostnip and bite. Warm the area affected using warm water not hot water. Do not rub or massage frostbitten skin, it could damage it more. Don’t break the blisters. If you have frostbite, you need to seek medical attention.

Being a little cold on a run is not usually a bad thing and can actually help with holding a faster pace. But hypothermia is definitely too cold. Hypothermia is when your core body temperature drops too low to maintain normal body function. Exposure to cold air, water, wind, or rain also causes hypothermia. Having a soaked base layer combined with a decrease in your core temperature, from slowing or stopping, can cause hypothermia if you don’t start moving again soon. Symptoms of mild hypothermia include shivering, cold, pale, or blue-gray skin, lack of interest or concern, poor judgment, mild unsteadiness in balance or walking, slurred speech, numb hands and finger problems, such as zipping zippers and tying shoes. More severe symptoms include muscles becoming stiff, slow pulse, shallow slow breathing, weakness, or sleepiness, confusion, loss of consciousness and shivering which may stop if the body temperature drops below 90 degrees. A runner with hypothermia needs to get warm quick. Hypothermia is a serious condition and can be life threatening.

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