AskHuyen #3: Winter Running

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Running in the winter

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Hey Huyen! The air is really dry in the winter, and I find myself getting a sore throat really quick. How do YOU run in the winter and make it more enjoyable?

Layers: Nike Dri-FIT Tank + Nike Dri-Fit Half Zip + Generic Half-Zip Sweater + Lululemon Half Zip + Gloves & Peruvian Handband Souvenir 

Layers: Nike Dri-FIT Tank + Nike Dri-Fit Half Zip + Generic Half-Zip Sweater + Lululemon Half Zip + Gloves & Peruvian Handband Souvenir 

Up there with San Francisco hills and shin splints, winter time is one of the true tests of a runner. Okay so shin splints may be in a league of their own, but for new and experienced runners alike, cold weather could take your outdoor running routine out of the…well...running… completely! 

As a Georgia resident, the weather does a lot of things throughout the year, including drop well below a comfortable temperature for jogs. I see the chilliness as a little challenge each year, and still run at least twice a week during the cold months. I'll cover my winter running strategies that may be useful for your throat issues and make your run more fun.

First, my strategies that keep me from getting a sore throat:

  1. I make sure my chest and throat are covered. Sounds obvious but sometimes people will just wear a crew neck sweatshirt that still leaves their throat exposed. I rock my Nike half-zips. If you don’t have a running zip-up that covers your throat, this breathable running scarf is a more affordable option. 
  2. I also consistently breath in through my nose and out through my mouth. My coaches made me do this in high school and it helped me manage cramps when running. Using this breathing technique in cold weather minutely delays the cold air hitting my throat and lungs, making breathing more controlled and less harsh.
  3. People really don’t think they'll sweat in cold weather, but depending on your exercise intensity and duration- it can absolutely happen. I usually run at least 3 miles and am always sweaty by the end. For the same reasons you hydrate well in the summer, stay well hydrated in the cold months, too. If you’re throat’s already dry, then cold, dry air will fast-track you to Sore Throat Central.

As for my general strategies,

Jogging in place at a traffic light.

Jogging in place at a traffic light.

  1. I start by putting more layers on top of that half-zip I mentioned earlier. Another obvious-sounding recommendation, but some people may choose to just wear their warmest winter coat or layered cotton long-sleeves. I like to have the option of unzipping or taking off a sweater, rather than being stuck in one hot jacket. The layers of cotton long-sleeves may be warm- but aren’t the most sweat-wicking fabric and can cling grossly to your body. I try to have a dry-fit layer closest to my skin.
  2. One of my crucial layers is my gloves because -Lawd, the first run I did this winter, I genuinely felt like my fingers were going to fall off. And it happens! Since your hands and feet are furthest from your core, they can lose heat faster and be more susceptible to frostbite. Even if it’s not cold enough for frostbite to be a concern, your uncomfortably cold hands can cause you to clench your fists, which could mean unnecessary tension in your arms and shoulders. So, wear gloves if you can!
  3. I do a dynamic warm-up to prepare my muscles. A few I do from this video include A-skips, butt kicks, birds, and high knees.
  4. Since I run around Nawfside Atlanta, aka the Gwinnett Suburbs, I stop at quite a few traffic lights. When I get to the lights I try to keep my heart rate up and my body warm by jogging in place, while bobbing my head to whatever’s bumpin' in my headphones.
  5. Speaking of headphones, I don't know how I made it through three seasons of cross country without listening to music while I ran. For some people, it helps put you in the right mindset to push yourself through the run.
  6. If you need a more literal push, you can never go wrong with a workout buddy who wants to run with you. Even if you're on different fitness levels, the fact that they want to go with you means that you have an accountability parter. If one of you is slower than the other, you can lunge while they power walk, or stop to do squats in place as they rest. An audible "let's go" can be the difference between literally going the extra mile, or turning around to go home.
  7. Finally, as your nose might be running, your head feels weirdly moist under your hat and you're wondering why you're doing this to yourself- remember the purpose you attached to this run. It's putting you closer to your health goals and proving that there's yet another obstacle that can't get in your way.
Nancy doing the Bird warm-up drill.

Nancy doing the Bird warm-up drill.