Some Days Are Just Meant to Be Rest Days

20140107-122904.jpg

We have known for more than a week that today was going to be bitterly cold with brutal wind chills. As a result, I have been planning a rest day. I know some people were thinking ‘I wonder if Mike will be out in this weather’? I mean, I have run with very strong winds, and was even out running when the air temperature was -12 with no wind … so I can see it as a legitimate question.

But the answer is ‘no’!

I run outside because I love to run outside. I have been a New Englander since birth, and loving the seasons means dealing with some bitter cold. As I have said many times, my hands get cold easily and I hate that – and it has been worse the last 6 years since my Thyroid ‘died’. That is a big reason I was so excited about the Under Armour Coldgear Infrared gloves I got from a ‘Secret Santa’ and part of the reason I wrote the ‘keeping warm vs. not getting cold’ post – they didn’t warm my hands immediately, but I didn’t get too cold and my hands slowly got warmer.

Running in the cold isn’t a ‘macho thing’ for me, and for those who know me well that prospect would be laughable. I have never been a ‘guy’s guy’ in the traditional sense, so I have never felt the need to do something to appear tough. SO when I run in sub-zero wind chills, I make sure that I have all of the proper gear to keep myself safe, and if I ever feel discomfort I make sure my runs are routed to allow me a ‘quick exit’.

So I tailored my workouts to allow for a rest day today, running more than 20 miles in the last couple of days and more than 100 since my last real rest day. And today I fully rested – as in sleeping in and relaxing, and not even rushing too much to get to work. The boys had the day off – every school in the area was closed due to the dangerous wind chills – so there was no rush getting them going.

The weather is going to warm up more slowly than originally indicated, with the forecast indicating about a -10 wind chill tomorrow morning. I will be out there running, fully geared up and ready! Because to quote Monty Python … I may be an idiot but I’m no fool!

Everyone who does anything outdoors today, please be safe!

The Very Basics of Running Safety in the Dark & Snowy Winter

Winter Run Safety1

I cannot believe that I recently found myself in a position of debating some of the core, basic, common sense safety rules for running in the dark during winter. I mean, all you have to do is go to any running site and there will be a ‘Top 10 Winter Running Tips’ article or more every year, and they pretty much assume that you have SOME basic idea as an adult about basic safety. And yet … there I was befuddled by this other person, someone who other runners look to for advice, wondering whether it was ignorance (he is a trail runner for the most part) or machismo that caused him to take these positions. Megan wrote a while back about ‘letting it go’, that sometimes being right doesn’t make the argument worthwhile. So I did – I stepped away and didn’t participate.

But what I could NOT let go is the possibility that someone would listen to that bad advice and end up hurt. As we start a new year we will have new runners trying to keep resolutions. So here are a few core safety items for all runners:

1. Know Your Route
– Make sure you have a known route that provides you with all you need to stay safe. Snowy and icy days are NOT the times for ‘route discovery’, and ESPECIALLY during an active storm.
– Looping your neighborhood for mileage might seem boring, but if that is the safest choice … stick to it!
– For example, there is a ~100 meter section of the main road near me that has <12" of space between the travel lane and a jagged road edge that drops 12 – 18' at a steep angle. With snow and ice that edge gets further blurred, making it an easy spot to lose footing. In bad conditions I avoid that section.

2. Maximize Your Awareness
– I am a vocal advocate of taking off your earbuds while running outdoors. But ESPECIALLY when it is dark and wintery. You really want to make sure you can hear anything going on around you.
– When it is ‘hat weather’, use ‘tech’ instead of ‘bulk’. Older hats relied on bulk for warmth, whereas new tech materials work to keep your own heat trapped to form a thermal layer. This allows much thinner and lighter layers – and better hearing.
– Avoid hoods, or anything else that obscures your peripheral vision. In snow with sun, sunglasses are more important than during the summer. But make sure yours have an open side-view. Also, if you need a hood to protect against wind, make sure it isn’t blocking your vision.

3. Make Yourself Visible
– Wear bright colors. For example: I got a black thermal base layer for Christmas. Which is great, but it will never go with me as a ‘only layer’ the way my bright yellow one does – because I run in the dark and don’t want to be invisible.
– Reflective EVERYTHING – Brooks has the best stuff, because it ALL has reflective elements. But most gear now has some amount of reflectivity, and in the morning add on a reflective vest, cuffs, and so on.
– Head lamp / Wrist lights / flashers / etc – these make you visible a long way off and give drivers the chance to prepare. We have a young woman who runs with hand-lights, and I estimated the other night driving the boys that I could see her nearly 3/4 mile away. I wear a head lamp all the time. Another bonus – a head-lamp helps you navigate the lousy edges of many roads. And see critters who seek trash cans in the early mornings of spring and fall (e.g. skunks)

4. Run Defensively
– In the battle of Man vs. Car … car ALWAYS wins. So do EVERYTHING to ensure you never enter that battle.
– Run facing traffic – that gives you more warning about what is coming, and with your reflective gear and lights, they can also see you coming.
– Know your ‘escape route’. I mean this in case a car slips, but also in case you find yourself being followed/pursued.
– Remember that no amount of lights / safety gears is a ‘sure thing’, and that your own attention to safety has to be constant and unrelenting – which is also why I am an advocate for maximizing awareness.

As I said, these are just the basics – there are other considerations:
Women: I absolutely HATE that there is an entire set of ‘gender specific’ rules, but while there are cases of men runners getting shot or otherwise killed, in general when you hear about assault, rape, kidnapping or other things happening to runners – it is to women. Dorothy Beal has a couple of great posts here and here to help you.
Hydration / Fuel: you need to work just as hard to stay hydrated in winter, but your body doesn’t scream for it like during the summer. And if you are going to be away from home for a while, be sure to carry some fuel (Gu, energy bar, etc) and water.
Cell Phone: true confession – until recently I ran with my phone ONLY on the weekends or evenings. On my morning runs I would leave it at home. The sad thing is that it is your easiest and most direct safety ‘lifeline’ and should always be with you. Please buy a belt and carry your phone … also a RoadID is a great idea.
Hypothermia: the picture below is my slushy and soaked shoes from a couple of nights ago. We had 3-4″ of slushy snow and the temperatures were just above freezing. My feet were soaked within a quarter mile. And then I ran a total of 7.75 miles. Fortunately at the outdoor temperatures I was not in danger of hypothermia – but my feet were never warm the entire time. Running outside presents some real dangers of hypothermia due to wind and low temperatures. Be aware and dress appropriately.

Winter Run Safety3

‘Pre-Hab’ to Prevent Injuries!

Running Injury Prevention

Too many of my running blogger friends have suffered injuries this year, though I am happy to say that almost all of them are well on the road to recovery and getting back to running. In pretty much every case, the blog leading up to the injury detailed workouts, plans, upcoming races and so on … and quickly transitioned to research about the injury and what was required to heal properly.

The expectation – which is being borne out based on my reading – is that these blogs will transition quickly back to running activities once the injury and recovery are in the past. That isn’t a bad thing – it is runners focusing on running. But is how much we miss running and our rush to get back out there setting us up for the NEXT injury?

That is where an article at RunnersConnect comes in, talking about ‘pre-hab’ to prevent injuries. Here is the intro:

Anyone who has ever had a running injury (and let’s face it that probably includes most of you) will be familiar with receiving a list of strengthening exercises designed to help get you back to 100%. Most therapists will tell you (myself included) that the runners who recover the quickest tend to be those who find/make time to do their rehab exercises.

Unfortunately, once runners are back on the road, that’s when the strengthening exercises normally stop.

Basically what the article is saying is that by keeping the strength training elements in our routine (that were so important during rehab) we will do a better job of preventing NEW injuries!

Strength training can reduce sports injuries to less than a third and overuse injuries by almost 50%.

I make no small point that I have been very lucky to have run for so many years without serious injury. I also admit to never being very good about cross-training or doing other exercises to limit my risk of injury. This past year I started doing some bodyweight exercises from BMax, but once the weather warmed up I pretty much just went back to running.

So my question for everyone out there … now that you are healthy, what are YOU doing to prevent your next injury?

Bizarre ‘Runner Hit by Flying Deer’ Story Reminds Us Hazards Are Everywhere!

This is NOT your usual Running Hazard

This is NOT your usual Running Hazard

As someone who runs outside all year round, mostly in the pre-dawn darkness, I am very aware of the need for runner safety and awareness. I have written a bunch here and elsewhere about keeping visible while running, and also recommeded against wearing headphones while running outdoors due to decreased awareness. I talk about hydration and pretty much any other safety-related thing about running.

However, I would never have listed ‘flying deer’ as one of the potential hazards! But check out this story from the Washington Post:

Rivera, 27, was jogging on a path adjoining Claiborne Parkway in Ashburn near the Dulles Greenway about 6 p.m. A 71-year-old woman from South Riding was driving a Toyota SUV on the road. And the deer — a buck — came from somewhere.

The SUV struck the deer, which sent the animal flying into Rivera, who remembers running one minute and then coming to in an ambulance as a paramedic told her he needed to cut away one of her favorite running shirts “because it had deer blood all over it.’’

Fortunately both the driver and runner are OK, though tragically the buck died.

I only mention this because it is a reminder of how quickly things can happen when you are out for a run. At my company we watched a safety video integrated into a training course, and the outcome was that due to several safety lapses, a runner on a path near a construction site was killed by falling debris from work being done above. She did nothing wrong, and there would have been no sign for her to watch for … but she never came home.

And with all of the other goals we might have for running, the #1 priority has to be the same as our mantra at work – the FIRST priority is to get home safe.