Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Cold Weather Running

As the temperatures drop to around 0°F at night I have started reading up on cold weather running.

First the good news: „People who exercise contract only one-quarter to one-half as many upper-respiratory illnesses as people who don’t.“ „Regular, moderate exercise like running produces positive changes in the immune system that help you avoid these illnesses.“ [The Cold War by Bob Cooper, www.runnersworld.com]

The down side is that you can overdo it. „When you push your body without interruption for more than 90 minutes, the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, which suppress immune function, gush out of your adrenal glands. Inflammatory cytokines, neutrophils, and monocytes (red-flag markers of physiological stress) take over your bloodstream, while your virus-fighting T cells and "natural killer cells" go into hiding. None of this is good. It doesn't make you sick on the spot, but for at least a few hours after the run, it makes your body as inviting to "bugs" as a porch light.“ [Bob Cooper again]

To remedy this you need to carb-up, cut back, get extra rest, and generally avoid sick people (kids especially are notorious carriers, no that doesn’t mean stay away from YOUR kids).

Most articles that I read agree that it is just as dangerous to wear too much as too little when temperatures drop below freezing. Once you start running, your core temperature will rise and stay elevated. Wear too much, and you’ll overheat. Wow is that logical or what?

The second rule seems to be to layering. Start with a thin, breathable base which pulls moisture away from your body. I like to wear a thin, long sleeve, turtleneck, synthetic sports shirt with a T-shirt over it. According to my research, below freezing one should add a mid-layer of lightweight fleece to keep the moisture away from your skin and to provide insulation – got one, wear it! The last layer should be a shell, which protects you from the wind, rain or snow – but still allows moisture to escape your layering system. Wow I’ve been dressing like this since I was a kid in central N.Y., kinda of like a common sense thing where I come from.

I have tried a couple high-tech fabrics this year, such as stretch nylon – it breathes better than I do I think. I also bought a running jacket (on sale last Spring) with a “brushed polyester lining for extra warmth and a water-repellant nylon shell for protection from wind and water.” It also has removable sleeves, so I can wear it on those crazy days when no one can figure out if it’s hot, cold or what’sup.

I’ve been drooling over the YAKTRAX the last few days since the snow and ice have been accumulating. But I figure by the time I order them and finally see UPS I be running in mud again. I wonder if they have summer sales (yeah, I’m cheap).

In warm weather I wear thin running socks, but lately I have been experimenting with various combinations of every kind of sock I own. Here is a sampling:

1. Thick white cotton sport socks: blistermania. Ouch!
2. Thin running socks with white cotton socks over them – much better, but a bit snug with my running shoes.
3. Semi-thick wool socks: see comment 1.
4. Polyester/Nylon dress socks: too thin, cold feet, a couple blisters.
5. Thin running socks under the above dress socks: worked well until the snow was over 4” deep.
6. Knee-high trail socks (call wandering socks here in Germany) under the above dress socks: very good, especially in snow over 4”.
7. A thicker pair of running socks: great, but costly.

I was never one to let a little snow, rain, mud, wind, hurricanes whatever stop me from running. It’s only a question of having the right outfit. Few people seem to believe me on this one.

Well I would like to say that Mr. Cooper is full of it because I caught pneumonia for the first time ever since I started running. And I'm not running for 90 minutes so my T-cells are right where they need to be. Dammit.

And I probably caught it from the guy at work we call "Bubonic Bob" because he is ALWAYS sick and comes to work with a fever and everything and always says "Oh, its just a little post-nasal drip". Yeah, I think he's a post-nasal drip.

Um, sorry for the rant.
I appreciate your comments Jon. I have a couple guys like that at work, they sit the whole day sneezing, wheezing, coughing and complaining about how bad they feel, but they NEVER stay home - at least until the whole office is sick.

I kind of wondered about old Mr. Cooper's comments to, I've had two colds so far this winter (probably caught from one of the guys at work). I usually try to run three times a week for about 85 minutes, than once every two weeks for 2-3 hours. Both times I caught the colds after one of the long runs.

Other subject, do they sell Nutella where you live? Its a chocolate-nut spread, a favorite bread spread among kids young and old. Had some this morning on my toast, its a good energy boost to get things going. I was looking for it last visit to NY, didn't see it in the store. I figure if anyone, you would know :)
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