I call myself a runner the way drunk smokers call themselves non-smokers. “I never smoke,” they assure you as they buy their second pack of Turkish Silvers of the weekend at a deli at 4am. Similarly, “I am a runner,” but I’ve only laced up my Nikes for athletic purposes twice since October. My first excuse surfaces when my morning alarm precedes the sunrise. I crack open one eye, confirm that it’s still dark out, and, after considering a number of Law & Order: SVU's single-female-jogger scenarios, tell myself that pressing snooze is my only shot at safety. I file my second excuse as soon as temperatures dip below 40, because when it’s bed vs. polar vortex, you know as well as I do who's going to win.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to run. When it’s spring or fall, or any cusp-y weather for that matter, I will pound the pavement until runner’s high kicks in. You know, that rush of endorphins to your cerebral cortex that has you smiling through your seventh mile, pumping up the Beyoncé, and contemplating life-altering decisions like changing your relationship status or deciding that passing up those furry Céline sandals was a mistake you just can't live with. If this is my brain on drugs, this is my brain on running. And, in this season of S.A.D., there is really nothing I could use more than the intense surge of euphoria that accompanies a good, outdoor aerobic workout.
So, in addition to washing my face every night, my 2014 resolution is to stop thinking that stepping outside in the cold at dawn makes me some kind of martyr. If Nick Axelrod [above] can do it, I can do it, too. I hereby pledge to keep running in the cold, so I asked LA-based running instructor (and part-time model; watch this video) David Siik just how to do it:
The Gear: "You have to find the right warm layers. On bottom, you’ll need a pair of tights. Most manufacturers make different tights for different seasons, so, for winter, look for a pair that’s heavier, with a brushed insulation on the inside. Mizuno has a great pair called the Breath Thermo Layered Tight that is actually composed of two thin layers. If you’re not so excited about pulling on a pair of tights for public viewing, you can just throw a pair of above-the-knee running shorts over them. You’ll get a little extra warmth in the parts that count."
For your top half, Siik says, "It’s all about the layers. If you're someone who cares about fashion and the way you look when you run, winter apparel is your time to shine! 'Running layers' is a very 'in' look. [Laughs] Start with a moisture-wicking, close-to-the-body, long sleeve shirt. Clothes that hold onto moisture, like cotton tees, will get soggy, heavy, and very cold, which is a quick way to get sick. After that, running jackets and vests come in more options, styles, colors, and levels of warmth than you can imagine. My guidance here would be to always opt for zippers—you will be happy to let out unwanted steam when you need to—and check the cuffs for built-in mittens and thumb loops. I never travel without my Houdini Jacket from Patagonia. It is the most versatile shell I've ever owned: featherweight, packs into a tiny pouch, incredible at blocking wind, and works in wet or dry cold weather conditions. It also looks great when you’re just walking around.
"For your extremities, running gloves are essential. They’re slim, but that little bit of fabric makes all the difference. The same thing goes for your head: get a thin, form-fitting beanie or headband. And, for the sun, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lip balm with SPF shouldn't be forgotten just because it's not 80 degrees outside.
In terms of footwear, "The good news is that most shoes transition easily from summer to fall and winter. The only shoes I don’t love for running in the cold are the super lightweight, flexible, minimalist shoes—sneaker support and stability has saved me from many a slip and ankle twist. If you’re in a terribly icy area, you can get an aggressive trail shoe with bigger treads. Mizuno’s Wave Ascend 8 is a surprisingly lightweight trail shoe with an awesome gripping sole to keep you off your bum. But I always tell people to go to a running store and ask for help. The people who work there are usually passionate, caring runners who will have a lot of advice for your specific shoe needs. It’s time very well-spent."
The Technique: "Shorten your stride! Longer strides require greater force and push-off from the ground. Icy patches can be unpredictable and dangerous, so the last thing you want to do is step on a slippery spot in a full stride. My rule of thumb is, the slipperier the conditions, the shorter the stride. You’ll have much better control and more traction that way. And, if you are going to do any speed work, be sure to do it toward the end of your workout when you are very warm, and in a place that is dry with great traction."
Warm Up and Recovery: "The biggest mistake you can make is heading outside and immediately starting to stretch in the cold. It’s always a good idea to jog a bit, get your body moving, and then, after an active warm up, do some light stretching. Stretching a cold, compact muscle is just a recipe for a pulled muscle. Jog first, stretch second.
"The post-run stretch is so important, so make sure you give yourself time to get a good one in after cooling down. You can get extra loose with a foam roller. I like the Trigger Point Performance Roller because it's less than half the length of most rollers, making it very easy to travel with and stow away, and it has a grid pattern that I find useful for working out those extra tight areas. And please, hydrate. You can become just as dehydrated in the winter as you can in the summer. No matter how cold it is, make it a point to have a post-run drink."
And with that, I'll see you on the streets.
Photo from Nick's Instagram.