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January 11, 2015

What runners should do in poor weather conditions

There has been enough research done, articles written, books published and testimonies from people about the advantages of running as a health benefit and stress relief activity.

While it is a very popular sport that almost anyone can do with very little expense, there are still a few individuals who think that all the hard work of running for a few slower heartbeats and fat-pounds lost is just not worth the effort.

The benefit, as told by runners, is that it can be done anywhere at any time. Technology has made it easy for runners to be able to put in a few miles in almost any kind of weather. Quick-dry material for the summer, waterproof and windproof for the cold and rain, and accessories for the head and hands make running comfortable.

There are a few examples where, even with all of the technology to make a comfortable run, there are still a few examples of times when it is better to do the run on a treadmill indoors. One of the most obvious is when there is rain and lightning. Running with lightning is just not the best time to keep that streak going.

Ros Hill and I were keeping our streak alive one day when, at the top of a hill, lightning hit very close. They tell you to count the number of seconds and divide by 5, or something like that: and that will tell you how many miles away the lightning is from you.

I think our time was measured in hundredths of a second. That - as well as the sight of it hitting the ground about 30 yards away - made us aware that it was just too close for comfort.

Running in the cold can be done with layers of clothing and a few high-tech undergarments to keep you dry on a run. Sock caps, gloves, and maybe a scarf will make most runs in cold weather possible. I ran in below-zero temperatures; and the mask you wear over your mouth and nose to keep from breathing very cold air into your lungs takes some getting used to.

This past week - and a few days into next week - is where the hard-core runners are separated from the rest of the group. Cold temperatures are one thing, rain is another; and then the wind is something else. But when you combine all three together on a day you decide to go for a run, it takes a very dedicated runner to take that first step out their door.

It is possible to go for a run in those conditions, and to have a real bragging point with other runners about your adventure in miserable weather. Unless you have a streak going, need a good training run, or just want to try a challenge, days that are cold, wet, and windy are better done resting, lifting weights or trying out a treadmill in a warm and comfortable room.

When the weather is like that, a run is not always the best thing. While the run will be good exercise to benefit fitness, there are side effects that can make the run not that healthful.

Clothes that are windproof and water-resistant can help keep the run bearable. It might get cold, but not so bad that you can’t complete a short run. The problems start with getting chilled from the cold and rain; that can lead to a cold or the flu.

Where there are clothes that help with keeping the body somewhat comfortable, there is not much protection for the shoes on your feet. Whenever it rains, there will be puddles of water on the ground. You might be able to leap across some of them; but in almost every case, your feet are going to get wet.

It just seems that, when the feet get cold, the whole body wants to feel sympathy for the feet and get cold also. I have had cold feet before; and it just seems that, no matter how many warm clothes I have on, I will still get chilled.

It may take a few days; but from that run, my nose starts to run, my chest tickles enough to cause a few coughs, and overall I am just not feeling that good. Hindsight on the whole thing makes me realize that I would have been better off staying home and doing some stretching or sit-ups.

The best thing about living in central Texas is that cold days are few and far-between; and they occur only occasionally maybe three months out of the year. Hang in there; and, as the saying goes, “If you just wait a minute or two, the weather will change again.”

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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