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 Bonnie Stein

          Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

By Bonnie Stein, M.Ed.

 

A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland. The song makes it sound like everyone loves walking in the winter.  Yet, I know plenty of racewalkers who fuss when the temperature dips below 60.  (Remember, we’re in Florida).

On the other hand, how about this e-mail note I received recently from racewalker, Leslie Pelletier who lives in Maine. “I had a wonderful 12 mile walk this morning at 3:00 AM (yes, that is when I train).  It was about 35 degrees.  No breeze, starlit sky, just perfect.  I cannot imagine using a treadmill in such lovely weather.”   In Florida we can’t imagine NOT using a treadmill in 35-degree weather.  For that matter – who can imagine racewalking regularly at 3:00 AM?

It goes to show that everything is relative.  Cold weather is defined differently by where you live.  My club, the West Florida Y Runners Club, hosts the Turkey Trot every Thanksgiving morning in Clearwater.  Each year attendance has grown and last year the race topped 11,000 runners and walkers.  However, this Thanksgiving we had our version of a cold snap – the temperature was 49 degrees and sunny on race morning.  1200 less walkers and runners showed up than had been expected.  The reason given by the race director – the “cold” weather.    If you live in a city where it drops to 20 degrees in the winter, then 49 and sunny might seem like ideal racing conditions.  If like Leslie in Maine, your winters dip into the single digits or below, then I suppose that 35 degrees seems “just perfect” for a winter walk.

Here in the South, we’re quite lucky that we don’t have to negotiate snow measured in feet or icy streets like Leslie does.  Yet, when the temperature drops, especially if there’s a wind chill factor, whether you’re in Atlanta, Tennessee, or even Florida - - - it can feel downright cold.  Nowadays with the new technical fabrics in running and walking apparel, there’s rarely a day you need to racewalk indoors in the South.   Look for moisture management fabrics such as CoolMax by DuPont, DriLayer by Moving Comfort, and other wicking materials.  Keep away from cotton.

I follow the “15 degrees rule” which seems to work well for training conditions.  To be comfortable while racewalking, you should dress as if it is 15 degrees warmer than it really is (20 degrees warmer if you’re racing).  For example, if it’s 60 degrees - dress as if it was 75.  Therefore, if the temperature is in the 60’s, you could still wear shorts.  The 15 degrees rule works as long as it is not excessively windy.  If it is very windy, use the real temperature to determine what to wear.  You should be a bit chilly at the start of your workout.  If you feel comfortable, you’re probably over-dressed.  You’ll be sorry 10 minutes into your walk.

When the temperature dips into the 50’s, running tights are recommended, along with a long sleeve wicking top.  I wear garden gloves when the temperature is in the 50’s.  When it's cold (under 50 degrees) or windy  - wear gloves and a headband to cover your ears.  Just keeping your extremities warm (hands and ears) will go a long way to keeping you comfortable.

Lightweight winter running tights are your best bet (for men and women) if the weather dips into the 40's.  Also wear a lightweight jacket.  Remember to layer with a few thin layers, rather than wearing a heavy sweatshirt or sweater.  That way as you warm up, you can remove layers and tie your jacket around your waist.  Remember to put your layers back on as soon as you cool down, even before you stretch.  Hypothermia sets in quicker than you might imagine, especially if you wear cotton instead of the better technical fabrics.

When the temperature is in the 30’s (thank goodness I’m done with that type of weather) wear winter-weight running tights, a warmer wicking shirt, fleece vest, and a lightweight jacket that could be tied around your waist.  A fleece headband and fleece gloves will work well.  If it’s in the 30’s and windy, you may need mittens and a hat instead of just a headband.  I still like the vest because it keeps your trunk warm even when you might need to remove the jacket.

When it was in the 20’s in Atlanta, I wore tights and a pair of running pants on top.  The fleece vest was exchanged for a fleece jacket with a wind-breaking vest below.  Here I wore a fleece headband and a hat, along with glove liners and mittens.  If you racewalk in weather below 20 degrees, I’m afraid you’re on your own.  I’ll be the one waving at you through the windows from the treadmill.

 
© 2007 by Bonnie Stein. All Rights Reserved.

LIMITS OF LIABILITY AND DISCLAIMER - The authors and publishers of this newsletter have used their best efforts in preparing the articles and information contained within it. Additionally, you are advised to consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. The authors and publishers make no warranty of any kind, expressed or implied, and shall not be liable in the event of incidental or consequential damages.

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