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What I’ve learned during a winter of running

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Motivated (or should I say distributed) by my lack of fitness, I decided to take on running last fall. I had done weights in the past but never running for two reasons: I used to live in Florida where it is uncomfortable to walk outside during most of the year, let alone run. I was also bored to tears on the treadmill so that didn’t go anywhere.

In Boston however I found the environment much more conducive to running, given that there are sidewalks and bike paths, not to mention it feels like half of the people here run. Also, the weather in the fall is very comfortable to run in (which probably explains why the NYC marathon is in November.)

Winter running, on the other hand, came with its own set of challenges. During those months I learned some lessons that I’m passing along.

At first I tried running with a thick cotton sweater. This turned out to be a bad idea, because the sweater (being a warm sweater as advertised) prevented heat from escaping my body. This, paradoxically, causes you to freeze your ass off since you now have a pool of sweat on your skin. The best practice is to wear material that wicks sweat away, including the top layer. Even on the coldest of days (my personal low was 15F) I would get comfortable after about a mile.

The biggest challenge for me was not the air temperature (at least after warming up), it was ice. On icy days my runs were much slower. On really icy days I would just skip the run. I know some hard core runners that would throw on spikes or yak tracks, but I didn’t take it to that level. A related challenge is when it isn’t quite cold enough to freeze deeper pools of water. I had the distinctly unpleasant experience of stepping into a 1 inch puddle on the bike path after wrongly assuming it was frozen over. That day my run was definitely shorter than it would have been otherwise.

For the given temperatures, I really was wearing very thin layers of clothing. This means that I had to keep moving in order to stay warm. I never slowed down to a walk because that would have been far more unpleasant than dealing with the fatigue. Running on the road in general has that advantage over the treadmill – with the treadmill you can quit anytime, whereas on the road you have to make it back home sometime, so you may as well run the distance.

Due to things being really busy lately my mileage has been decreasing. I’m hoping to turn this around soon, especially since the warm spring weather is bringing out so many runners.

So how has the running affected my fitness? It used to be that my heart and lungs were ready to break out of my chest after chasing down a bus. After taking up running, I was not only able to perform this exercise without loosing breath, but I was able to do it while carrying my 40 lbs son!

Written by Patrick Peralta

May 12th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Development