The White Runners, is a not so veiled reference to the White Walkers of Game of Thrones fame, an ancient race of humanoid ice creatures, who come from North of the Wall. The White Runners (Walkers) are thousands of years old, from the time preceding the Age of Heroes. Born of powerful and untested magic.
Now you’re talking.
This is how I want to see myself as we slowly creep away from the Winter Solstice, with short days, and long nights. A period of raw cold and wind. Ice and snow. I want to see myself as a creature born of powerful magic to usher in an Age of Heroes. A fierce runner. In reality, when temps dip below 30 F, I want to don fuzzy socks and fleecy sweat pants, wrap myself in a blanket, and beach myself in front of the electric fireplace like an overstuffed woolly burrito. That image is infinitely less sexy.
I know that when temps are low and nights are long, others are still training . . .and so must I. So how do you convince yourself to hit the trails when a Netflix GoT’s binge and tacos await?
Let’s start with how to dress. The rule of thumb is that you should always dress for 20 degrees warmer than ambient temperature, as you will heat up when you start running. For me, I consider windchill in the ambient temperature. So . . .this morning’s temps at my house are a blistering 15 F. This means my gear selection should reflect what I would wear in 35 F temps. A few key tips: 1.) dress in layers with a moisture wicking base layer – this will pull moisture away from your skin so you don’t sit in your own sweat and get cold; 2.) wear outer layers that allow for temperature modulation – 3/4 zip shirts, vests, zippers in the sleeves/underarms; 3.) if it’s windy, add a wind resistant, light weight outer layer; and 4.) Protect your face/ears and hands with hats, gloves, and buffs. Additional ideas for how to dress can be found using this handy dandy tool. And don’t forget for night runs, add reflective gear and headlamps – nobody needs to finally get motivated to brave the cold night for a run only to be sideswiped by a taco truck.
Now that you’re dressed to impress, how do you motivate yourself to get out the door? For me, the hardest part is the first few minutes in the cold. If I have a couple minutes standing around before I start running, I will surely lose motivation. So, I always arrive at run group with just minutes to spare so I can hop right from my warm car to the back of my running pack until the blood flow gets going. When running from home or work, I like to get all my gear on and warm up in the house/office (i.e. doing a few chores or stretches). I have heard that some folks will drink a cup of hot coffee or cocoa to warm up before the run. I also knew someone who took a hot shower and then went for a run. They liked starting warm and fantasizing about returning to the hot shower after their run.
Regardless of how you do it, the principle is the same, start warm and get going. Science agrees, you need to raise your energy level to make it easier to get over the energy of activation. Say what? For every chemical reaction (like fuel combustion in an engine), a certain amount of energy needs to be put into the system; you need to get over an “energy hump” (aka – energy of activation) to get the reaction to easily proceed. And guess what. . .most chemical reactions use heat to reach the energy of activation. So, grab the warm socks, chug a cup of Joe, and do a few jumping jacks, then get moving!
Winter is also a good time to set running “dates” and goals for the New Year. Motivation to go out into the frozen tundra is easier found when you have a bunch of friends waiting for you. We are fortunate in that we have multiple local running groups that meet during the week. I am guaranteed to get in my week night runs when I meet up with my running family. I also have several folks in my running group who have set ambitious goals for the new year – running their first marathon or ultra-marathon. Big goals means big commitment so there is no room for slacking during the winter months.
So now that we are armed with the tools to face the cold and dark, it is time to rekindle our fierceness for running with more Game of Thrones references:
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. . . I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”
Aww yeah. It’s time to run.