This week has been very challenging for runners – well, everybody included — with some very unusual weather conditions. With freezing temperatures over 150 hours so far, snow, ice, and limited power and water make for unusual weather for Texas. For runners, the prospect of indoor substitutes such as treadmills and stair steppers look good. Alternate options include walking up and down any flight of stairs in the home might work. The old standby of jumping rope might be a good old-fashioned try. Those that skip rope know that a rope is less than one-half of an inch in thickness so the feet do not have to come very far off the floor. And a minimum of an eight-foot clearance is needed — both front and back and above your head. Skipping can be innovative with dance steps, one foot hopping, creative foot movements, and the standard high step for keeping you from getting bored. If push comes to shove you can always run in place while watching television.
Most average runners will just take a few days off and hope for better running conditions on the weekend or next week. The dedicated runner will venture outside and put those miles in one way or another. Heading outside needs some adjustment to a regular run. First up is wearing suitable clothes to keep warm and dry. Running builds up body heat so over-dressing is not necessary. A warm long-sleeved shirt and a rain suit for the top is about all that is needed. If the weather drops down close to that zero mark, the shirt needs to be a little warmer. If the jacket does not have a collar that covers the neck area a turtle neck shirt is nice. Wearing a scarf around the neck is another alternative to keep the neck warm.
Legs can get by with tights and nylon pants. The head loses heat faster than some runners realize so a nice wool cap is a nice addition. Try to get a cap that covers the ears. From experience, I can tell you that frost-bitten ears can be painful. If you wear glasses and it is snowing the cap with a brim will help keep the glasses clear. Gloves are needed for the fingers. I like the gold garden gloves since cold weather makes my nose run and the soft material makes a great hankie. A mask over the face is necessary to keep very cold air from reaching the lungs. Most runners have a mask because of the Covid-19 virus anyway. A runner’s mask is a little different in that it has an opening in the front for exhaled air.
Shoes will be a problem no matter what you do. Most are a fabric of some type and snow will melt when it sits on top of a warm shoe. If you plan on running every day you will need two, or even three, pairs of shoes so that they have time to dry out between runs.
Surface for running will be a problem. With a buildup of ice under the snow, footing will be unsure. The foot may slip backward, sideways, or even to the front. Trying to stay upright when the foot takes off in some other direction can cause a fall or a pulled muscle in the leg. Think of running on snow and ice as a conditioning run and not a run for any speed work. The push-off and landing of the feet when running fast just emphasizes the problems of unsure footing. Take it slow and easy and shorten the stride a little as a safety precaution. One other problem with a thick cover of snow is that the snow covers up any obstacles such as large cracks, uneven pavement, and loose gravel or objects that could cause you to twist an ankle.
I was visiting my parents in North Dakota one year and the temperature was about 10 degrees below zero. I was curious enough and wanted to say that I had run in below zero cold weather. I put on the long underwear, wind suit, warm shirt underneath, wool cap, face mask, and gloves and headed out the door. I put in an easy three miles. The only problem during the run was the footing with ice under the snow and breathing through the mask was difficult to get enough air. I had to pull the mask down a few times to get a good breath, but other than those minor problems it was a good run. A warm shower afterward was very welcome.
Hopefully the cold and snow has passed for this year, but in case the weather decides to surprise us again just be prepared and don’t let a little cold and snow keep you from getting a run in.