Runners should adjust their training schedule during cold spell

Published Jan 7, 2018 at 9:00am

Over the last couple days I have done much research and writing about the frigid cold temperatures experienced by central New York in recent weeks, and the dangerously cold wind chills brought on by Winter Storm Grayson.

With scorn, I admitted to Joe Wilczynski, president of Mohawk Valley Hill Striders (MVHS), that this cold spell has resulted in me not enjoying an outdoor run on the Erie Canalway Trail for more than two weeks. Even that run I had to be careful that a slippery ice and snow-covered gravel trail did not cause me to slip and fall. It also didn’t help the back injury I’m still recovering from because I had to adjust my footing for the conditions. I was a little sore and stiff for at least a day or two following.

So lately I have been keeping things indoors to stay warmer, which means I have taken to the treadmill, otherwise known to me and other fellow MVHS members as “the dreadmill.” And that’s when I’m feeling healthy. With winter can come nasty colds, which I tend to have right now, along with several co-workers.

But despite the cold temperatures and possible brief health setbacks, there are plenty of runners out there who must brave the elements, and occasional sniffle, as they train for upcoming marathons. MVHS member Katie McCauley, for example, is currently training for her third Boston Marathon to take place on April 16. Joe said he’s training others for a half marathon in February.

With this cold spell, Joe said he has been forced to cancel many runs at the SUNY Poly campus in Marcy, which is frustrating for him as a trainer, as well as the runners. Yet in conversation on Wednesday, I told Joe that while I may be bitter about taking to the treadmill, I realize there are others out there who would push themselves to go out in the dangerous conditions because they are in the midst of training for major runs. That’s when I said it would be useful to write a column warning runners when the winter elements were too harsh to brave the outdoors, as it could risk serious injury and other health issues.

At the same time, winter doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stay in the gym, as long as you are properly dressed and prepared for a run in suitable conditions.

“It may take an extra push of motivation in running outside in the winter, but it sure has its benefits,” Coach Joe said. “But due to extreme frigid weather conditions, it may be unsafe to attempt running outside in certain conditions.”

He said, “Many runners are training for spring marathons and half marathons and do not like to adjust their running training schedule. You may have no choice if the outside conditions are unacceptable. But there are still options to keep your fitness level improving.”

When forced to stay indoors, Joe suggested that runners exercise or work out with a friend or group. That way, you’ll not only be more accountable, you may be more motivated to attend if you see it as sort of a social activity.

“Join a gym and run your scheduled workouts inside on a treadmill,” Joe said. “As real runners describe the treadmill as a dreadmill (as previously mentioned, thanks Joe), it still has its advantages. It’s safer for your health inside on a treadmill than running outside in frigid below 0 temperatures.”

Coach advised runners to adjust their training schedule accordingly, and make sure to keep a close eye on the extended weather forecast. Runners should get outdoors if possible, and try to train during the part of the day when temperatures are at their warmest. When not able to get outside, or if the treadmill really isn’t your thing, Joe suggested cross training as a route of maintaining fitness and building strength for running.

“Runners like to run, but sometimes this may be the best choice,” he said. “Use the elliptical, bike, stair machine, strength training, core training...and seek a professional trainer to assist you. Try even a yoga or Pilates class, which can help you keep on track until the weather breaks.”

We’ve all heard the expression, the “winter blues” too. That’s why it’s key this time of year to focus your energy on keeping motivated. As I’m still working to get back to my old running self, I still wonder if I’ll be able to handle the full 15K Boilermaker Roadrace this year. But I’ve chosen to remain positive and focus on small goals.

I look forward to at least signing up for the 5K, as well as other small runs throughout the area. That would be a major improvement over 2017, so small steps are better than none. Even when my times are slightly slower, I continue to tell myself I’m still getting out, I’m still moving and we’re going to make this a great running 2018.

“It’s important to focus on the mental aspect during your workouts,” Joe said. “This weather will not last forever. Stay motivated, remain positive, prepare and stay focused.”