I was jogging along for the sixth day in a row watching my breath freeze in the air when it hit me. Perhaps I had become Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, doomed to awaken every day in a small Pennsylvania town where it is perpetually a frigid February 2nd.
Just then a dog barked precisely as it had each day previous. I shivered and picked up the pace. Despite Punxsutawney Phil’s promise, I was beginning to believe there was no way this winter was ever going to end.
Frozen in time or just plain frozen, one thing was clear. I needed to dress more appropriately for conditions while running. Fearing temperatures in the teens, I had dressed too heavily and was severely regretting my cotton socks that – now wet through – were rapidly stealing warmth from my toes. The weather might never change, but I had to. I ran directly to the store.
Banning ankle socks and cotton en route, I grabbed crew socks that wick moisture away from your skin. These special fabrics are made from polyester, polypropylene or eco-friendly polylactic acid fiber and always tout their liquid abatement qualities. For really cold days, I added a pair of non-scratchy Merino wool socks. Wool actually holds onto heat when it is wet, is breathable and definitely cuts the chill.
Moving upward, I picked out a pair of running tights and a long-sleeved, high-collared shirt, both of 100% wicking materials. A sweat-drenched winter runner is a prime candidate for hypothermia.
Since the wind would tear through these breezy textiles, I began to eye a techno-chic Gore-Tex running shell. Saddened by the high price of brand name high tech, I opted for a coated nylon pant and jacket set with numerous zippers for venting. Though not as hecka swank as space-inspired fibrils, nylon will do the job, and coated nylon will add rain blocking to your running outfit arsenal. Just make certain your shell pieces are large enough to wear over tights, shirt and (my next purchase) a fleece vest to keep the core warm on arctic days.
Then it was time to accessorize with a wicking fleece beanie, headband and a pair of thin gloves. I’ve heard legends of versatile stretchy gloves with pullover, windproof mitts, but have not yet tracked them down in the retail jungle.
Shopping bags filled with my wet and voluminous arrival togs, it must be noted that winter running habits are a personal thing. Someone with an internal furnace set on high would likely burn up in the attire I find cozy. So when suiting up for your 1st or 91st February 2nd run, dress as you would for the weather, then simply take off a layer and leave it at home. Oh, and slip a few tissues in an outer pocket because, well…noses run along with feet in cold weather.
So rise and shine runners and don’t forget your layers because it’s cold out there today. It’s cold out there every day. If you need some incentive to emerge from your snuggly covers and your dreams of spring, remember this: If we are stuck in a rut of glacial Groundhog Days, the calendar will only renew its march toward the vernal equinox when we – like Bill Murray – happily embrace our winter fate and use the endless chilly hours to better ourselves.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN?
I thoroughly disagree with the adage: “No pain, No gain.” Though less succinct and lacking the rhyming appeals of its four-syllable predecessor, I would advocate the phrase: “No transitory discomfort, No continuing challenge, No gain.”
I understand that getting into shape won’t always be the most pleasant sensory experience on the planet. There will always be twinges and unpleasant sensations that are best to work through without complaint. In fact, carefully and thoroughly working tender muscles is one of the best ways to release stiffness and soreness. But pain – real pain – is a whole other magilla. Pain is a messenger, a harbinger, telling us things need to change or they may stop altogether.
I think of real pain not as an incentive to push forward, but an opportunity to play doctor. Just as rescue squads use cell phone towers to triangulate the location of a lost hiker calling for help, your pain is a distress cry that can be physically triangulated to locate its cause. But, if you lack the diagnostic chops of Gregory House, M.D. or fear doing more harm than good with at-home diagnosis, make an appointment with a licensed practitioner or sports medicine doc. Their mission is to ferret out causes and offer modifications that will dial you back from pain to momentary discomfort and continuing challenge.