If you’re prepared (and careful), you can still enjoy running even in March's kind of weather. Experts say it’s all about knowing your body.
Keep in mind that staying active in the cold months is a major way to help dispel the wintertime blues.
Susan Albanese, a personal trainer, teaches fitness classes for the Dover Parks and Recreation Department.
“Being outside, running, breathing in the fresh air and having the sun shine on you, helps improve your mental state,” she said. “Studies have shown it even helps people suffering from depression.”
People need to keep on the go during the winter months, Albanese said. “Running in the morning, it really sets your mood for the whole day.”
Runners can continue their workouts despite the cold weather, but must take precautions, said Jean Knaack, executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based Road Runners Club of America.
“When it gets below freezing, the risk of hypothermia will happen very quickly,” Knaack said. “Your core body temperature can drop quickly, and when the temperature gets that low, you get into the danger zone.”
Hypothermia takes place when the body cannot generate heat fast enough to make up for that lost through exposure to cold. Once body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees, internal organs, including the heart, do not function as efficiently as they should.
One way of preventing overexposure is to dress in layers, which helps maintain the core temperature but also keeps the body, particularly the extremities, warm during warm-up and cool-down.
Runners also should wear hats to prevent heat loss through the head and keep ears and fingers covered to prevent frostbite. They also should ditch the earbuds because it’s important to be able to hear what is going on around them while running, she said.
Instead of doing stretching exercises, which can cause microscopic tears in muscle fiber, Knaack recommends a slow movement warmup, including walking or slow jogging to prepare for a run.
If driving to a running trail, it’s a good idea to keep a dry change of clothing and a blanket in the car, Knaack said.
Runners may find they don’t do the same distances or speeds during the winter because the body uses extra energy to maintain that essential core temperature, Knaack said.
“It’s not a matter if you should try to run faster,” she said. “People should run at a pace that’s appropriate to the weather."