Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lessons From Winter Running

I'm up to 6 Facebook friends on my personal page!!!  (I think you can click on this gadget to access my 50after40 page)  Is 6 friends good?  Without sounding like a complete jerk ... it seems like really a whole bunch!  And what is this "like" business with Facebook.  Does that mean that the viewer "approves" of what they see on your page?  If you don't post anything (which I most likely won't), does that make you "unlikeable"?  It seems like "like" is really vague.  I'm not gonna be a good Facebook'er am I?   #Rhetorical.

Anyway, I'm not really a fan of the cold weather.  I mean, I don't hate it.  I especially don't "Michael hate it" ... the woman is violent toward cold weather.  She once literally ran up to a snowman, torched him with a flame-thrower, screaming, "Die you cold-hearted abominable blanco diablo!!!"   None of that is embellish.  My wife speaks some Spanish.  But I've learned over the years that a little snow on the ground can actually be a good training tool.  Here are a few things that I've learned from Winter running ...

Gratuitous winter runner photo
1.  A little snow on the ground is good for practicing my "lift" ... If you're working on trying to improve your stride (like I seem to be most of the time), snow can provide just enough little "miniature hurdles" that keep me focused on lifting my leg, as opposed to swinging it through.  I literally can't swing it through from back to front or it bogs down in the snow.  And if the snow is too deep, this can actually be really tough to do.  But I've found if there's an inch or two in place, it forces me to think about lifting my knee straight up out of the snow, and then place it down gently, trying not to make any "scooting" marks on the snow.  It's almost like a modified version of the "high knee" drill that a lot of runners use.  I'm of course not lifting my legs quite as high as in the drill, but continually stepping over snow packet snow seems to help with my form.  I know a lot of times when I'm finished with a snow run, my hip flexors have received quite a workout ... which is good occasionally ... it reminds me to lift.

2.  A little slippage is good for the hamstrings and stabilizing muscles ... Now of course I'm not talking about slipping and sliding around to where I hurt myself ... duh.  I of course try to use extreme caution when running on snowy conditions ... but do I really have to spell that out?  If so, well then also take note ... don't ever eat chalk.  I try to wear  my YakTrax when I'm on slippery conditions, but when I run in the snow, there will inevitably be a little slipping.  I've found that it forces me to use a few extra stabilizing muscles on the landing.  Also, it really prevents me from over-striding and getting the landing foot too far out in front.  And I've especially noticed that my back push-off foot will also sometimes slip out from under me a little.  This forces the hamstring to control the motion a little more, and can also cause it to pass a little further through it's zone than normal.  I ran 18 miles this past Saturday on some pretty slippery conditions, and my hamstrings were pretty much the only thing sore when I was done.  So I considered it a good strengthening run.

From Matt Johnson at Runner Academy
3.  The lower temps will slow your pace ... If there's snow on the ground, it's most likely a little colder than normal ... but do I really have to spell that out?  If so, well then also take note ... not every gnome is your friend.  When the temperature drops, several things happen in our bodies.  Our muscles tighten up, our lungs don't process oxygen as efficiently,  our perspiration evaporates faster than normal in the dry air causing our bodies to cool themselves less effectively ... which all work together to slow our pace a little.

Matt Johnson, of Runner Academy, actually developed this chart to show just how much we slow at various dropping temps.  The same is also true as the temperature climbs over 70 degrees in the Summer.  Ah ... Summer.  For  me, slowing in the winter is sometimes tough to deal with psychologically.  But understanding that there is a physiological reason helps me get through it.  I've found that a good rule of thumb is that my pace is going to increase about 15 seconds per mile when I'm running at 30 degrees or below, which is similar to what Matt's chart indicates.

4.  Water freezes ... I discovered this scientific truth when I was a beginning runner.  Yes, I literally didn't understand the properties of water freezing at 32 degrees Fahrenheit until then.  A couple of times on long runs, if the temperature was cold enough, it froze my H2O before I could get back to it ... which left me mid-run without hydration.  I've learned it's a good idea to avoid that.  So now, I've just learned to run much faster and get there before my water freezes.  Kidding.  Actually there are a ton of insulated hydration packs on the market now that do a decent job of keeping your water in liquid form.  If you're a bottle hider like me (going out pre-run to plant water in unsuspecting bushes and behind signs), I've found that hiding the bottle closer to the ground, out of the wind, will keep it fluid longer than if I hide it up high in a tree ... which I do at times.  The ground is just much warmer.

Another photo of a snow run last year - one of my favorite running pics, YES it was really snowing
C'mon, I'm an artist - I wouldn't Photoshop snow flakes ... it was snowing those really really big flakes ... so cool
5. Snow blindness is real ... I spend a lot of time in my car with my sunglasses on.  So my eyes seem a lot more sensitive to light than they used to be.  Plus ... all of the lasers flying around the auditorium at the Pink concert a while back surely didn't help my ocular condition.  My light sensitivity is really evident when I spend 2-1/2 or 3 hours running in the snow.  The bright sun makes all of the snow really really bright ... but do I really have to ... awe never mind.  Actually www.uvawereness.com (who knew there was an entire site dedicated to UV exposure awereness) claims that fresh snow can reflect as much as 80% of the UV radiation.  The point is, I've noticed that a good pair of polarized sunglasses really seem to help when I'm going to be exposed to the intensity of the UV rays for an extended period.  But, actually you probably could have read that on a skiing blog.  Or just used common sense.

So anyway, Kansas City is getting about 12" of powder as I write this.  So if I'm going to do any marathon training outside in the near future, it's gonna be in the snow.  YIPPEE!!!!  But if I look at it as a good training exercise, hopefully it will make it that much more bearable.  Have a great week!
... be great today!

19 comments:

  1. I have a facebook page for my blog, too. Well, actually it's an "athlete" page bc I didn't see at the time where you could make it for a personal blog. I'd originally made it because I was going to move all my fitness posting to there instead of cluttering up my personal fb page and annoying all my friends with it, but instead now I just double post so that friends who like my page "get to" see it twice. All that is to say that I struggle ("struggle" might be a little extreme of a word for it) with what to post there. Anyway...

    I love winter running. I love running in the snow, though every time I do it I remember "wow, this is harder than I remembered". The water thing, though...that's a hassle. I carry mine in a handheld bottle, and that seems to do ok for the amount of time I'm out running, but we did an adventure race in December when it was 10 degrees out and the hose of my hydration pack froze within the first 20 minutes. Thankfully the insulated water bottles on my bike did better, but even those looked like icees by the end of the day.

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    1. I used to run with my Camelbak quite a bit and the hose/straw thing always froze over, almost instantly it seemed - I ended up getting an insulated sleeve for it, plus I don't use it that much any more.

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  2. Oh wow, your're such a Facebook novice. You'll have to take lessons from your young, hep wife.

    Try not to worry too much about me and my cross-dressing son. It's not weird or unusual at all.

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  3. 1. Where is your Facebook button? How am I supposed to find you? You can't just slap it up once and expect us to go to OLD blog posts to find it. Get a widget.
    2. One time, a few winters ago, I didn't own any running tights and I ran in capris on a bridge. And I got cold! (That is my most dramatic winter running story. But I have a super thrilling story about an August run in which I hallucinated).

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    1. 1. I'll try to figure out a Facebook widget - Michael has one, so I should be able to add it
      2. I think I speak for everyone when I say we definitely need a Grace hallucination story

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  4. I just added you as a friend; you're suppose to write a lot of egotistical stuff about yourself and then we all "like" it. That's FB! I'm trying to muster up the courage to get on Twitter.

    Winter SUCKS (and ours isn't even remotely as bad as yours)!!!

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    1. Awesome Jill, I just saw it this morning! Yeah, this winter's been unusually cold, and now there's 12" of snow sitting around. Please be gone soon!

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  5. I always enjoy the winter and snow posts by bloggers. So foreign to me, but I do take good lessons from them for our winter as well. Maybe one day I'm lucky and actually run in snow. That would be quite something for this 50 year old. I'll see you on FB :)

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    1. Well, everyone should experience it once I guess!

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  6. I 'liked' you with both my personal and blog Facebook accounts.

    I agree that a little slipping here and there is helpful for training. I'm unusually clumsy but trail running has helped me learn to recover quickly from stumbles.

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    1. Hey-thank you GG! Yeah, I've really grown from some additional trail running in the past year too.

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  7. I like that many people now have a FB page fro their blog. Helps me from missing their posts. It is also a good way to reach more people.

    I'm with your wife on the whole spanish speaking\winter hating thing :) ... but I do agree with you. It's a great training tool. I feel like I get stronger in the winter.

    I honestly can't wait for summer though. I'm done with winter. Bring on the hot humid days!!!

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    1. The only good thing about Winter is that All-Pro beard of yours man. That thing is SICK!!! Simply AWESOME!!!

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  8. We only have about 4 inches. I'm jealous. I was dying to run in the snow - lots of snow.

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    1. I think with the 12 we got in KC, you'd be bob-sledding more than running.

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  9. This winter I'm learning all of these lessons and then some. Is it Spring yet?!

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Thanks for stopping by ... your comment's always welcome!