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Five tips for winter runners

The lack of a polar vortex is allowing runners to get a jump start on their 2015 exercise programs and distance training. “While the human body can function just fine if you run in the winter, there are a few things you can do to make sure you exercise safely,” said Jason Heinold, certified athletic trainer at Carle Sports Medicine.

Training tips:

  • Dress appropriately for the weather. “You want to make sure you dress in breathable layers with the outside layer being wind- and waterproof. Always wear a moisture-wicking material as your base layer to keep moisture away from your skin. Wear waterproof shoes, if possible. If it is below freezing, cover any exposed skin to prevent frostbite,” Heinold advised.
  • Safety first! “There are fewer hours of daylight in the winter, so you may have to run in the dark. Make sure you are visible with reflective gear, head lamps or flashlights. Never assume that a car sees you or will be able to stop. Carry identification and a cell phone in case of an emergency. Try to avoid ice- and snow-covered streets. If you can’t, shorten your steps so you have better control and balance,” Heinold said.
  • Plan your route. “Try to use a smaller or multiple loops close to home in case you need to cut your run short due to temperature or injury. Let someone know your route and your approximate time frame for your run. Run into the wind first to make it more comfortable at the end of your run when you are tired and sweating. It is OK to run inside when the weather is not cooperating,” Heinold commented.
  • Stay hydrated. “Always make sure you are hydrated before your run. Even though it’s cold out, you’ll need to consume 4-6 ounces of water every 20 minutes so you do not become dehydrated. If your run is longer than 60 minutes, use a sports drink with carbohydrates and electrolytes. Dehydration may increase your chances for hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure you replace fluid loss after your run,” Heinold added.
  • Protect your skin. Your skin will lose moisture when it is below freezing. Cover your ears, hands and face. Always apply a skin protectant (petroleum jelly, lip balm) to exposed skin to prevent windburn and sunburn. If it is sunny, wear sunglasses to prevent snow blindness,” Heinold explained.

If you injure yourself or suffer persistent pain while running, Carle Sports Medicine trainers and physicians can help get you back on your feet and running smoothly. “We analyze a person’s gait. We can do a frame-by-frame analysis with the patient. Instead of us just telling them what they are doing wrong, though, they can actually see it. It’s information runners want to have, because they want to be able to run for the rest of their lives,” Heinold concluded.

People interested in a training session and gait analysis at Carle Sports Medicine can talk with their doctor for a referral.