Many of us dread the idea of running outside during the winter, others are diehards and will run outside in almost any conditions that don’t blow us off the road or cause us to ice skate instead. With being active outside in the cold weather, the chances of developing hypothermia and/or frostbite increase. Hypothermia is basically a lack of adequate body temperature. As the core body temperature drops because of a drop in environmental temperature, blood is directed away from the extremities and to the vital organs. The Mayo Clinic describes symptoms including shivering and the “umbles,” ie, mumbles, stumbles, grumbles and fumbles. Frostbite occurs when, typically, fingers, toes and face are exposed to the cold air and the body is unable to supply the necessary blood to the surface to sustain the health of the cells. Symptoms include: change in skin color to red or, in more severe cases, pale; hardening of the skin; numbness or pain in skin regions of the hands, feet and face or that are otherwise exposed to cold. Avoid rubbing the skin to make it warm, this can damage the delicate cells. Instead, use a source of heat such as your breath. If you tend to run with a partner or even alone, watch for these symptoms. Be sure to consider the following tips to avoid cold related problems:
1: Stay inside if the temperature or wind creates temperatures below freezing. Run inside on a treadmill. Be sure to alter your pace and elevation. Treadmills are essentially a flat surface and excessive running on a treadmill can lead to repetitive strain injuries because the running surface varies little. Alternatively, consider cross training: aqua jogging, elliptical, Nordic Trac, aerobic or cycling classes.
2: Wear a hat and mittens. The head is a major source of heat loss.
3: Wear layers. This allows you to peel off or put on layers depending on changes in weather and temperature during your run.
4: Run short routes multiple times versus a long run. This keeps you close to home and allows you to call it a day if you get too cold versus being a long way off and having to run home in the frigid temperatures.
5: Avoid running in wet clothes in the cold. This can easily create a hypothermic condition because the clothes no longer act as an insulator. Remember, sweat is wet and can lead to hypothermia.
6: be aware of “black ice” or running on packed snow/ice. It is easy to loose your footing and create sprains or strains to the structures of the lower extremities.