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Be Ready to Winter – Part 2

“Be Ready to Winter” with these helpful tips on layering essentials to get you through your Winter training.

It seems clear that the current weather trend in Georgia is taking a page out of the classic film Groundhog Day (1993). Like Phil Connors (perfectly portrayed by Saturday Night Live funnyman Bill Murray), we are continually experiencing more of the same temperatures (minus Sonny & Cher). I’ve yet to see any grumbling or griping though. Mornings begin in the forties and rise to delightful afternoons in the sixties. Conditions are perfect. There’s no sign of a blizzard either, though Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog from the movie, did in fact see his shadow this year. Is this an ominous sign? Will the additional six weeks of winter yield slush, sleet, snow, and ice, or will the golden sun keep Georgia on the warmer side until spring arrives?

Be Ready to Winter

In part one of the winter training series, I structured my remarks under the assumption that one or more days between now and spring will be yucky. Like other runners in the Peach State, I’m up for bypassing the snow and ice altogether, but Georgia weather is understandably unpredictable. According to a March 2014 article from WSB Radio meteorologist Kirk Mellish, snow has blanketed Georgia before in both March and April, the most recent in April being 1987. So – should snow fall in the upcoming weeks – swing by your local Big Peach Running Co. store for frigid weather gear. Keep these five essentials in mind as you peruse the walls (brands vary by location).

1. Base Layer. For winter training, a base layer is not your favorite cotton tee shirt. Cotton is rotten. A base layer, as the name implies, is intended to function like a second skin by wicking away sweat while simultaneously trapping body heat to preserve warmth. Synthetic fabrics (e.g. polyester, polypropylene, nylon) will suffice for most runners, but in truly bitter conditions, consider Merino wool for added warmth. Speaking of Merino, Big Peach stores carry Merino socks too.

2. Tights. Most runners opt for shorts even in colder weather, but there comes a point for each person when warmth is warranted. Enter tights – the name says it all. Tights are intended to hug the skin and prevent wind from passing through the fabric (polyester and spandex). Tights are functional too: reflective strips in strategic places, zippered pockets, mild to moderate compression, and a bevy of colors make tights an undisputed staple in your winter collection.

3. Thermal Cap. You’ve likely heard the claim that “40 to 45% of body heat is lost through the head, but according to a 2008 report in the British Medical Journal, only 7-10% percent of body heat is lost through the noggin. Still, 10% is a noteworthy number as it pertains to staying warm. Like tights for the legs, a stretchy thermal cap is designed to keep the head warm and soft. Bright colors and reflective strips add to the visibility factor for runs at dawn or dusk.

4. Gloves. As a boy, I remember jumping at the chance to play in the snow that blanketed the front yard. My mom dressed me from head to toe, but all I can recall now are those gloves twice the size of my hands. The thickness of those gloves was also unmistakable; I was readily equipped to skip the backyard follies and navigate the foreboding terrain of Antarctica. As a point of differentiation, running gloves are remarkably thin, but wonderfully warm. Moreover, the features are plentiful, including smartphone touch screen functionality, fleece nose wipes, a wind shield (think mittens) and extended cuffs to cover the wrists and further minimize exposure.

5. Jacket. Leave the hooded puffer and cashmere topcoat in the hall closet for a night out on the town. Instead, invest in a running jacket that is ready to bravely push back against the elements, namely wind and rain. Most running jackets today are wind and rain resistant, though some go a step further and make the waterproof option a distinct point of pride. Ventilated panels, zippered pockets, a hood, and high visibility (e.g. the Nike AeroLoft) are a fantastic bonus.

In the words of Mignon McLaughlin, “Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition.” What is this condition? Is it loneliness, isolation, despair? Winter runs can feel depressing, even melancholy, when the trees are stripped of their green leaves and the exquisite flowers are nowhere to be found. Cloudy days seem redundant as the sun too is bent on concealing his warmth and restoring rays. Maybe this is why winter running is very different from other seasons. Less people are doing it; they are either switching to the treadmill or checking out altogether until more inviting temperatures return consistently.

Regarding consistency, choose to press forward in spite of any snow, sleet, and rain that may befall you. Choose to make the upcoming weeks count. Remember that spring, summer, and fall are not the only seasons that fill us with hope. Hope is still prevalent in winter; the hope is that winter will not last forever but give way to the next season – and the next. Hope is year-round…just like running outside.

Austin Bonds is a Guest Advocate at the Big Peach Suwanee location.