Saturday, February 27, 2010

Choosing to Run

Temp: 32 with a feels like of 25, overcast
Wind: Just a little
Precip./Humidity: None/Moderately high
Terrain: Flat
Distance: 4 miles

Do you ever catch yourself arguing with...yourself. I'm sure there's some science behind this but here's my thoughts on how it relates to the daily question: to exercise or to sit on the couch?
Reasoning human beings see the pros and cons, the dangers and benefits, of each situation as we're about to get into it. Sometimes it has to be a snap determination because we're in a crisis, but usually we're able to assess a couple of options and then chose one.
Because we do this every day, all day, we generally trust the part of our brain that says "Don't do that!" But sometimes, especially when it comes to doing something good for us like quitting smoking or starting to exercise, the thing that we hear saying "Don't do that" isn't our rational brain, it's our will - the part of us that wants stuff, satisfaction, pleasure, comfort.
The last two days, I've been battling my will. It's very snowy here, and cold enough that I just want to stay inside and eat comfort food. My will is giving me reasons that sound good - it's too wet to run, the yoga studio is probably closed due to weather, etc. - for staying inside. But, my rational brain is quietly providing solutions. I had to want to hear them to notice, but I guess that's what years of training has gotten me; I'm not the fittest or the fastest but I see solutions to reasons why I shouldn't exercise.
So, yesterday, I called the yoga studio. Open. I did a class. It was hard, but I felt better.
On the way home, I noticed that the sidewalks on my block had been shoveled well. This morning, I went onto and figured out that once around my block is .3 miles. 10 times around is 3 miles. Add a little more and I could get in 4 miles without risking slipping on ice or soaking my shoes in slush. My will wanted to stay home and watch Project Runway on Hulu. My brain said "You have a choice." Which brings me to:

What I Wore: CW-X compression tights; Nike tank; Asics wick-away long-sleeve top; Nike heavy-weight running jacket; knit hat and gloves; thick socks and old running shoes.

Did It Work: Yes. Except I was also wearing cotton briefs that, once they got a little sweaty, were kind of cold. So, for half the run, my bum was chilly.

Solution: The other day I tried running in Lululemon Techni briefs. They didn't hold onto the sweat, so I stayed dry enough to not have cold bum cheeks.

Happy running!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What to wear running in 40 degrees (aka: Warm winter run)

Temp: 40 degrees, sunny
Precip./Humidity: None, moderate
Wind: 10 mph
Terrain: Rolling to flat
Distance: 6.5 miles

What I Wore: Compression tights; one light-weight wicking top and one mid-weight wicking top with a 1/4 zip; knit hat and gloves.

Did It Work: Yes! Even with a pretty strong headwind, I was comfortable on the outbound. Coming back, I was running into the sun with the wind at my back so it was much warmer. I took off my gloves and pushed up my hat a little to control my body temp.

Why Compression Tights?: I like compression tights when it is windy or cool out because their weave is tighter, making them warmer and more wind resistant than your basic running tight. At the same time, they aren't as hot as my lined tights, so I don't work up more of a sweat than I should. Plus, they have an inside pocket.
I have to say though, nothing is more frustrating than having an itch under compression material when you're wearing knit gloves. My fingers just slid right off the itchy spot. Argh!

Would You Trust This Man?: Today I saw a man whose advice on what to wear running I wouldn't take. The difference between what he thought worked and what I think works was too great. It was 40 degrees and windy and the man was wearing running shoes, socks and khaki shorts. That's it. No shirt, no hat, no gloves. The shorts might have been some kind of technical material but they could have been made by NASA and not been enough in this weather!
My point: if you're gonna go all out, like this guy did, at least bring a long-sleeve top with you. We never know when we might slip on the ice or twist an ankle and need to walk home. While he might have been comfy shirtless while running, that would change too drastically if he had to stop and was still outside.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow, snow and more snow

Temp: 28 degrees, overcast
Precip./Humidity: Snowing! High humidity (about 90%)
Wind: Calm
Terrain: Rolling to flat
Distance: 3 miles

What I Wore: Ski hat; knit gloves; Asics light-weight technical top; water & wind resistant shell; compression tights; old shoes.

Did It Work: Yes, although my legs were cold for the first half. Upper body was great.

Running in the snow:
1) Don't do it unless you live in a neighborhood where people are reliable with the shovel. Areas with apartment buildings are usually good because they have a superintendent on the job.
2) Wear older shoes that still have a good tread, so you don't feel bad getting them wet and you don't slip.
3) Wear a thick hat and a jacket that fits snug against your neck so your head stays dry and you don't end up with melting snow running down your back.
4) Enjoy! These are some of the most beautiful runs you can do in the city. Here's a sight from my park.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Running Addict?

Yesterday I watched a documentary about a woman from Norway who was a thrill seeker to the point of seeming addicted. She talked about seeking the next high (literally; she was a base jumper) and the next challenge. She said she doesn't see herself quitting until one of her adventures kills or cripples her.

It was a little sad to watch, but also got me thinking about myself and the fact that I run like a mailman - in rain, hail, sleet and snow (ok, maybe not hail. That would just be silly considering a hail storm usually only lasts a few minutes). In short, it made me wonder, am I a running addict?

I've never been addicted to anything, so it's hard for me to know what that would look like for me. All I know is that I run, even when I'm tired, sick or busy. I run, even though I've had one knee reconstructed after tearing a ligament skiing. I run in flash flood conditions, dessert heat and when the mercury hovers around 0 degrees (F). But does that make me an addict or just a consistent runner?

As I consider the matter, I weigh two things: why do I run and do other parts of my life suffer because of running?

I run to stay fit, get outside, clear my head, relax and concentrate when I'm problem solving. I run just because I like the feeling of being able to use my body to take myself places quickly. Sometimes, especially when I'm training for a race, I run to test the limits of my body and will.

This last one gets us to the second question. In general, nothing suffers because of my running. It doesn't interfere with work, distract me from my partner or give me an emotional high that I chase with each run. However, when I'm training for a race, especially a marathon, I tend to get very thin - possibly to the point of being unhealthy, no matter how much I eat - and I have been hurt and kept going. When I trained for my last marathon, almost three years ago, I developed a bit of internal bleeding in my repaired knee. It appeared as a faded bruise from the outside. I didn't stop training, I just wrapped it and kept going.

Many would call running with pain unhealthy. Many think I'm crazy when I share that I've just completed 8 miles in the driving rain. And 99% of people in the world haven't run 26.2 miles and wouldn't unless they were being chased. Because I happily do these things, it would be easy to say I am a little out of my head.

But addicted. Nah, I could quit any time. Just don't ask me to today!

Friday, February 12, 2010

What to wear running in 20 degrees, sunny & snowy

Temp: Mid-20s & sunny
Wind: Gusts up to 18 mph
Precip./Humidity: Moderate
Terrain: Mostly flat, often covered in several inches of snow
Distance: 8 miles

What I Wore: Knit hat & gloves; neck gaiter; Road Runner fleece-lined tights; Nike dri-fit tank top under an Asics 1/4 zip, wick-away, long sleeve, mid-weight top under a Nike heavy-weight, dri-fit running jacket; thick socks; and my 2nd best pair of shoes (my ING NYC Marathon Asics). And, of course, sunblock.

Did It Work: Yes, and based on my comfort from the start, would work for almost any distance.
On the out bound, I was running into the wind. I was glad to have the gaiter to cover my nose and mouth. On the return, I was facing the sun and the wind was at my back. It practically felt like spring! I partiallyunzipped the jacket and Asics top, to let a little steam out, and stayed comfortable.
And, I was glad to have worn the Asics because they still work great but I didn't mind getting them wet in the snow and slush.

Note: A male friend on Twitter pointed out that he can't relate to one of the items I wear on a run being a "regular sports bra." Good point, so from now on, let's just assume I'm wearing a sports bra and, unless it's remarkable in its length, or all that I wore, I include it.
I do think a good sports bra is key to a happy run (for women) though, so coming soon: my thoughts on the least seen, most worn (by women) piece of gear.

Weird Science: Today I experimented with making a knit glove wind proof by wrapping it in tape. I had recently read in Runner's World that you can make running shoes a bit more winter friendly by wrapping the tops of them in duct tape. This made me wonder if I could do something similar with knit gloves and packing tape. If you don't have the money or the space for multiple pairs of autumn and winter gloves, converting a knit pair with tape seemed like a solution.
It didn't work. My hand that was wrapped was no warmer than the unwrapped hand AND as I started to sweat, the glove got damp. With the tape wrapped around it, the fabric couldn't dry and, as we all know, wet clothes and cold weather don't mix. I had to unwrap the glove after less than 2 miles and suffer the cold as the wool dried.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Keeping the 3 Hs Warm

When the weather hits the extremes, it becomes more important to focus on your extremities. Specifically, take care of the 3 Hs - your head, hands and heart (aka your core). This is true in every season, but it's too cold to think about summer running, so let's focus on keeping your Hs warm.

Heart: Maybe this one is obvious, but of all the things to take care of when it's cold outside, your heart and chest area should top the list. I don't care if you're determined to wear shorts or bare feet even when it's 10 degrees out, layer up your core to keep warm blood circulating, protect your lungs and maintain your energy. Today, it was 17 degrees out, so I wore a fitted Nike tank (see pic) under a warm Icebreaker top and a wind-proof jacket. These three layers were just what I needed to be very comfortable on my 6 miler.

Hands: I keep reading that keeping your hands warm is key to feeling warm all over. Maybe it's psychological, but  cold hands make me want to cut a run short. When picking gloves for windy, very cold winter runs, choose something with a nylon outer layer and a fleece inside. Otherwise, knit or fleece gloves can usually do the job.
Also, if you find you're overheating on a run, try taking off your gloves before removing any other layers. Cooling your wrists - a major blood flow area - will help cool you down. Plus, you won't be exposing your damp under layers to the cold.

Head: We've all heard it; you lose most of your body heat out of your head. In the winter, that means the easiest way to stay warm is to put a lid on it. Today it was windy and cold, so I wore a knit hat plus balaclava/stocking cap to keep the warmth from being whisked away as quickly as I generated it.

Wishing you warm runs!