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Tips for Running in Winter- Jasper Blake

“Crap it’s cold”

We are a tough breed up here in Canada!  We spend almost half the year dealing with the wrath of winter.  Icy roads, fierce winds and abominable snowmen are a few of the challenges we face.

Running poses an interesting dilemma; stay inside or venture out.  This decision is quite obvious with the other two sports.  Swim in a heated indoor pool, not a lake.  Bike on a turbo-trainer or a set of rollers and get your head around some hours pedaling hard and not actually going anywhere.  When it comes to running you can spend time on the treadmill, but after having gone nowhere on your bike it is great to get a change of scenery.
So, as my dear mom would say, out the door you go young lad and jolly well enjoy the day that is provided for you.  Good advice, but keep these simple guidelines in mind.
Dress for the weather conditions.  You need to keep your muscles warm – particularly if you are on the flip side of being a kid which is probably most of you.  Consider wearing tights under track pants or the combination of short tights and compression socks to keep warm.
Warm up properly.  In the winter make sure that you warm up and cool down more slowly than in the summer.  Cold muscles equal tight muscles and tight muscles can lead to minor pulls or tears.  Ease into runs, especially harder workouts.
Run if it drops below minus twenty; consider the treadmill or an indoor running track.  Winter can stress your immune system.  Suddenly exposing your lungs to forced inhalations of crystallized, frosty air is like throwing gas onto a tire fire.
Wear three socks if you are of the male variety.  I am quite serious about this, there is nothing worse than running 30 minutes with a tail wind, getting all warm and sweaty only to turn around and face the wrath of the winter gods on your nether regions.  Many a time have I been caught out on runs where a headwind greeted me on the way back and a third sock was all I needed to maintain sanity.
Get inside immediately after runs so you don’t get chilled.  If it is particularly cold, consider starting and finishing your runs inside.  If you are running with a group that stretches or does some core exercises after the run, find a gymnasium or a living room so you don’t get chilled.
Remember to keep drinking.  Cold weather can be deceiving.  It may seem as if you’re not losing fluids during a workout but trust me, you are.  Remember to stay hydrated; it’s just as important in the winter as it is in the summer.
Invest in proper footwear.  Obviously stick to the shoes that are best for your foot and running gait but look into something with additional tread or grip particularly for snowy and icy roads.  I often run in a cross country shoe through the winter months as it offers more traction than a normal shoe.
Run on busy roads.  Road shoulders become smaller in the winter and visibility can be extremely bad at times.  Pick routes that have cleared sidewalks so you can avoid the road all together.  Remember that roads are icy and cars can be less predictable.  If you have to run on a busy shoulder I strongly recommend running towards oncoming traffic so you can pay attention to what the cars are doing and do a navy-seal dive into the snow bank if required.
Invest in some reflective running gear.  Winter days are short and darkness comes on quickly.  If you want to be safe, be seen.
Wear layers.  Yes, you’ve heard this before but tail winds can feel warm and headwinds can feel very cold especially when you start sweating.  Layers allow you to adjust your clothing choices if need be.
Experiment with alternative forms of winter activities.  Winter is one of the best aspects of Canada if you take advantage of it.  There are dozens of aerobic sports that take place in the winter months and many will translate fitness very well to running and biking.  Skate skiing is said to compliment cycling very well.  Cross country skiing (the classic version), and snowshoeing can compliment running.  Both of these activities present the opportunity to get out into the woods.  Keep in mind that where aerobic fitness is concerned, your heart and lungs don’t know the difference between activities so the cross over between sports can be very effective.  Not to mention the mental break from the other sports.  It is also another chance for you spandex lovers to wear some tight clothing in the off season.

Power Crankin- Jasper Blake

“Power Crankin”

There are many inventions that have hit the triathlon world over the years.  To be quite blunt, we are a sport of gadgets and gismos; to the point where you might call it a culture of “geekiness”.  I’ve seen a great deal of crap in the past ten years, things that honestly make me wonder if people really want to work hard for what they get or simply think buying the latest thing will make them go faster but perhaps that is the purest in me.

Occasionally there is a product that comes along that catches on for the right reasons.  PowerCranks are one such product.  Founded and developed by an engineering wiz Frank Day, PowerCranks offer a great way to develop your pedaling stroke.

The basic premise of a PowerCrank is that each crank arm operates independently on a one way clutch.  As a result, you can quite literally pedal with the crank arms at any opposing angle from 180 to 0 degrees of separation.  The result is that your legs cannot support each other and must work independently.

Single leg drills have been around for years as a way to develop leg strength and coordination equally on both legs.  I can remember some crazy single leg sets that one of my coaches used to prescribe.  It was a set of 6*12 minutes per leg on the trainer in the winter.  Those were some long trainer sessions but certainly improved my pedal stroke.  The only catch was the state of discomfort this caused.  Riding on a trainer can be bad enough on the mid section but doing it single legged is another level of awfulness.  PowerCranks allow you to achieve the same benefit if not better because you can sit properly on your saddle and pedal normally.

PowerCranks are a tool that can make an hour trainer session more productive.  I am fortunate to work, on occasion, with one of Canada’s top cycling coaches in Victoria and he believes PowerCranks are one of the best tools for learning a proper pedaling technique.  If you use them properly different parts of the pedaling circle will be emphasized.

Like every great training tool, there are some things you should keep in mind if you decide to integrate PowerCranks into your training.  The first is to integrate PowerCranks slowly.  Overdoing any new exercise can lead to injuries.  I would suggest consulting with a coach who is familiar with PowerCranks to help you implement them into your program properly.  I would also keep in mind that cadence, not necessarily power, is what you might struggle with initially.  PowerCranks are easier at lower cadences so make a point of starting low and building up to normal cadence as you get better.  Finally, PowerCranks will help you understand and develop a good pedal stroke with appropriate pressure in each quadrant.  Contrary to popular belief, a perfect circle with equal pressure at every degree is not ideal.  If you try to do this with PowerCranks you won’t last long because the smaller muscles in your hips and legs will have a difficult time keeping pace with your larger muscles that operate the push phase.

Integrating a new tool can be both challenging and stimulating, especially in the winter months when trainer rides might require some spicing up.  PowerCranks are a great way to add some spice.

Winter Training Part 2- Stefan Timms

Beat Old Man Winter

Unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere that is warm all year round, chances are you will have to deal with cold at some point in your training and racing this season.  Besides the dangers associated with cold exposure, frigid temperatures can affect athletic performance as well.
The human body has a built in thermostat that functions similar to the one in your home.  The hypothalamus gland, located in the brain, is this thermostat and it strives to maintain a stable core body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit based on feedback received from the skin, the nervous system, blood vessels, and other physiological receptors.  When the hypothalamus senses an environment that threatens to change the core temperature of the body, it initiates processes that influence heat loss or preservation by the body.
Extreme cold temperatures may cause the body to sacrifice blood flow to peripheral tissues to maintain a stable core temperature and sustain life. The risks of exercising in the cold include bronchial irritations from increased ventilation of cold dry air and in extreme cases, frostbite to the hands, face, or other exposed skin.
While exercise produces metabolic heat that helps to maintain stable body temperatures and increases circulation to the periphery, prolonged exercise in the cold provides some challenges.  The first problem is that faster movement though the air, especially while cycling, increases wind chill and therefore heat loss.  This can be overcome by wearing an outer layer of clothing that blocks wind such as Gore-Tex®.  Covering skin, especially the extremities will help to reduce heat loss to the wind and cold as well.
Another obstacle to overcome when exercising in cold temperatures is avoiding an increased heat loss to conduction from sweat soaked and cold clothes next to the skin.  Avoid wearing cotton that will trap moisture.  Instead choose layers that will wick moisture away from the skin such as special polyester blends like CoolMax®.  While wearing wicking layers is important, the outer wind resistant layer should be breathable to allow wicked moisture to escape and evaporate, keeping you dry.
Fluid and carbohydrate needs are increased during cold weather racing and training as well.  You may not notice fluid loss due to the colder and drier air so a conscious effort must be made to consume extra liquids.  While fluid loss from sweating may be decreased in the cold, more moisture is lost through exhalation than in normal conditions.  In addition, working muscles utilize glycogen at a higher rate in the cold due to increased adrenaline produced by the body in response to cold stress.  This increased glycogen utilization leads to a higher risk of hypoglycemia without adequate carbohydrate ingestion.  Liberal intake of a carbohydrate containing sports drink will serve the increased need of both fluids and carbohydrates.
Failing to dress properly for the cold or address fluid and carbohydrate needs will negatively affect your athletic performance.  The body will shunt blood flow away from the periphery and working muscles toward the center of the body to keep internal, more crucial, organs warm.  As noted, carbohydrates usage will increase as well.  The cold will affect the nervous system and fine motor control.
When training or racing in cold weather, be on the lookout for signs of hypothermia that include shivering, confusion, drowsiness and weakness.  In extreme cases, the athlete may even stop shivering and go unconscious.  When training in the cold, utilize training routes that keep you close to home in case you need to head back earlier than expected.
Another challenge that cold weather creates is dangerous or unusual terrain due to snow and ice.  Running routes can become hazardous due to uneven frozen surfaces.  Try to find and use special running “spikes” that strap onto your running shoes for more stable footing.  If running or cycling outdoors is simply not an option due to surface conditions, embrace Old Man Winter by cross-training with a different winter sport such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.  If all else fails, indoor training on a treadmill or stationary bike trainer may be required.
Finally, do not think that just because you live where there is no snow on the ground that you are not susceptible to the dangers and performance decreases of cold.  Wind-chills or wet clothing can cause hypothermia at what may seem to be warm ambient temperatures as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  This wind-chill on a “warm” day is especially common if you live and train on hilly terrain where you may be descending while wet with sweat from climbing the previous hill.
With good planning, and by following the tips above, it should be possible to maximize your training opportunities despite living in a colder climate.