Running in Cold Weather by Diane DeLissio, President, Massapequa Road Runners Club

    Many people feel like they lose their breath or are short-winded when trying to run in the cold winter weather. They also may not like the cold weather and are just trying to cope with it. There are some important things to keep in mind when exercising in the cold weather.

     Exercising indoors is fine, but the warm air is usually stale and enhances your chances of catching a virus, especially if you are sharing equipment. Take precautions by wiping down the equipment with sanitary wipes and washing hands frequently or using sanitary gels to clean hands. Running outside in the fresh/clean air is definitely healthier than running inside and breathing in germ-laden air. Also, keep your immune system boosted with plenty of sleep and a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Possibly adding a vitamin supplement may be recommended; speak to your doctor about your need to add vitamins and/or minerals to your diet.

     Good quality clothing with wicking properties is important to keep the perspiration off the skin and help keep you warm. This is true for all types of exercise outside, whether it be running, hiking, biking or any exercise you choose. Layer your clothes according to the temperature. A vented jacket is always a good idea as a top layer. You can open the vents which are usually located under the arm pits, along the back or in the hood if you're too hot or begin to sweat. A light base layer worn against the skin should be enough for temperatures down to about 35-40 degrees. Add middle layers as the temperature drops. Below freezing usually calls for about 3 layers. Make sure you wear a hat since 40% of your body heat is lost through your head. Covering your ears in the cold is very important, especially when you take into account the wind conditions.  Don't forget to wear gloves or mittens and earmuffs/bands and a face mask may be in order if the wind chill factor is an issue.

     Local department stores have decent winter exercise clothes, but specialty shops like Runner's Edge in Farmingdale have better quality clothes to keep you warm and dry. They usually have a sale rack and give discounts to members of a local running club. They also support the local running and triathlon community.

     If you do exercise outside in the cold, you should feel cold before you begin your run. If you feel warm before you start, you're overdressed. When you exercise and raise your heart rate, you should warm up within the first 5 minutes or so and feel warm thereafter; it may take longer to warm up if you are biking or hiking than if you are running. Again, layering is very important.  It's possible to begin the run with maybe 3 or 4 layers and take off a layer as you warm up. It's usually best to wear something that can either be tied around your waist or folded into a pocket and stored without interfering with any of your movements while exercising. This item can then be put back on later if you need it.

     Keep in mind that after you stop and your body cools down, you'll be very cold, so having a dry change of clothes available is always a good idea. Layering after the run helps. A long sleeve t-shirt for next to the skin, a sweatshirt over it to keep you warm and a jacket will usually suffice. It's also a good idea to have a dry hat and pair of gloves available after the run.

      As far as feeling winded and losing your breath quickly, this is due to the cold air in your lungs. It takes awhile for the lungs and windpipes to become elastic in cold weather which makes breathing easier. Try some deep breathing before you go out. Take in a very deep breath through your nose, expanding your chest, hold for about 5 seconds and blow out through pursed lips (like your blowing out candles). About 10 of these should suffice.

     It's suggested that you do a slow warm up for the first 5-10 minutes of your run; this helps warm up the muscles and the lungs. Breathing in through the nose helps warm the air going into the lungs. Using a scarf across your nose and mouth will also help to warm the air, or wearing a skier's mask, or a neckband made out of "turtle fur" (double-layered fleece), that can be pulled up over the mouth like a mask, may be helpful if the cold air really bothers you.

     When running in the winter, always be cautious of ice patches. Adjust your intensity according to the elements. Don't worry so much about speed in these conditions, but rather focus on distance or just getting out and doing something. Try running in a different environment and enjoy the views.

     It's much more fun to exercise with a partner or group. Massapequa Road Runners meets regularly on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Brady Park in Massapequa Park at 8:00am for a 4+ mile run through the Massapequa Preserve.  The preserve is relatively traffic-free (with the exception of a few cross streets) and partially protected from environmental elements like wind and rain. All are welcome to join us for a run. Contact information is below, or just show up at the park any weekend. Brady Park is off of Front Street, 1 1/2 blocks north of Sunrise Highway and 4 blocks west of Park Blvd. in Massapequa Park.  Also, check us out at our website, www.massapequaroadrunners.org or email massapequaroadrunners@yahoo.com. Be Happy, Stay Healthy and Safe this Winter Season!