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Cold weather training advice from A.J. Kelly
January 24, 2011 - Erik Brown
Just because the weather is getting colder doesn't mean you can't continue your daily training. The important thing is to know the weather conditions and dress accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if its 15 degrees warmer than it actually is since your body temperature rises when you exercise. When the weather is in the 50's, I usually wear just a T-shirt and shorts. In the 40's, I'll switch to a long-sleeved shirt and wear a pair of thin gloves. In the 30's, I usually wear a dry-fit running shirt, running pants, a knit hat that keeps your ears warm, and mittens, which keep your hands warmer than gloves.
Dry-fit running shirts move sweat away from your body keeping you dry. They can be purchased at any running store and most department stores. They vary widely in price depending on the brand.
When the temperature drops below freezing into the 20's, you need to be extra careful. I usually wear everything I previously mentioned plus an extra layer under my shirt. Some running shirts have turtle necks to hold in heat which is lost through the neck.
If the temperature drops below 20, you may want to think about taking your workout indoors for the day, especially if there is a wind chill. A treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike can provide an adequate and safer alternative to a dangerous outdoor run. And don't worry if you miss a day here and there. Every training plan should include an occasional rest day. Also, be careful with the wind when running in the cold. Always run into the wind at the beginning of your run, then turn around and run with the wind at your back for the second half. The reason for this is you will have sweat accumulated on your body in the second half of your run, and you don't want the wind to freeze it.
Running in the winter is a great way to build strength and endurance for racing in the spring and summer. There really aren't many local races in January, February and early March. But be patient. Think of the training you're doing now as storing money in the bank. Once you get past these long, cold winter months, you'll be running stronger and faster later this year than your fellow runners who didn't pay their dues.
Editor's note: A special note of thanks to A.J. Kelly from Altoona for contributing this guest column. Last month, A.J. won the 27th Annual Nittany Valley Half-Marathon on a very cold, windy day with temperatures in the 20's and snow flurries. You can read about it by clicking on the link above (on the right side of this page). A.J. narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007 posting a 2:22:44 at the Bank of America Marathon in Tampa, Florida - missing the qualifying cutoff by a precious 44 seconds.