Training through the cold builds grit, it builds mental toughness, and it builds muscle. However, without proper precautions, it could build to be a dangerous endeavor. All this said hitting the track is still a great option. Here are some tips for Track Safety when running through the winter.
Fighting the Cold: The Warm Up
Running keeps you warm. However your first step onto the track your blood will be moving like jam in January (that is to say… slowly). The beginning of your session is dangerous as injuries are more likely when your muscles are cold. The muscles are tighter in the cold and lack of proper warm-up and circulation could be bad news.
Our recommendation? Take a LONG warm up. Stretch at home before you head out. Take an extra warm up lap on the track. Listen to your body. If its particularly cold, throw a Thermacare patch on your lower back (amazon.com). As it heats up, it will warm your kidneys. Your blood will pass through your Kidneys and carry that warm energy throughout the rest of your body.
Snow, Sleet, Rain, and Hail
If there is a downpour, blizzard, hailstorm… just stay inside. No surface will have grip, your will be cold, you will be wet, and unless you’re a special breed of person who revels in hardship, you will be miserable. Slipping hazards are like snakes in the bush, hard to spot until you’re on top of them. Here are some tips to help you spot and address any issues you encounter on the track.
Snow Tracks – Walk the track lane you would like to use. If your shoes don’t let in too much water, shuffle your feet as you do it to displace the snow in your lane. Doing this will clear the lane and allow you to feel for any hazardous areas. The heat from the sun should help clear up the rest of the snow as you begin your training. NEVER USE A SHOVEL ON A TRACK. The metal or plastic blade where the shovel makes contact with the surface could potentially cause damage.
Wet Tracks – If your track was built correctly it should allow for drainage preventing puddles. This isn’t always the case on older tracks. Puddles CAN be swept with a broom to remove excess water. Another option is to just avoid the puddles if they are not in your lane.
Icy Tracks – Icy tracks are the most difficult to make safe. We recommend you avoid tracks if they are covered in ice. This is the time to consider a treadmill or another indoor machine.
Compromised Immune System
The cold season always seems to bring the cold & flu season with it. Running outside and exposing your body to extreme heat and extreme cold can wreak havoc on your immune system. Here are some tips on keeping you on your feet and your immune system in tact.
Eat Right – Fueling your body with the proper nutrients is an important component of physical fitness. This is more prevalent in the winter months because you will be burning more calories as you fight the cold. So make sure you have the carbs, fats, and protein you need to preform.
Supplementation – Dietary Supplements can take on a larger role in the winter. For those of us 30 Degrees or so north/south of the equator, vitamin D from the sun doesn’t reach us as frequently. Vitamin D is a key component in boosting your immune system, reducing depression, and assisting in weight loss. Two other supplements to consider over the winter are Vitamin A and Vitamin C, both of which have been shown to prevent illness and boost the immune system.
Stay Warm – Trying to stay warm when its cold out is not difficult, it just takes preparation. Wear the proper clothing. Layer up with thermal base layers and your outer shell should reflect the weather you are running in. Stay waterproof if its raining and wet, breathable if it is dry. Another thing you could do is make coffee or tea at home then bring it with you. Before and after your run you will have a warm beverage to warm from the inside out, which will help fight any illnesses lurking.
The Take Away
When it comes to cold weather training on the track, be sure to allot yourself some extra time to warm up as your muscles will take a little more coercing in the cold weather. Watch out for hazards on the track itself, including icy spots, puddles, snow, slippery surfaces, and anything else that would cause you to lose your grip. Lastly, stay on top of your nutrition. You need calories to burn if you plan on training, and more so if you plan on training in the cold. Supplementing vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin C could help your immune system fight the illnesses that come with the cold weather.