Dr. Maharam: This winter I plan on running races in Central Park put on by the New York Road Runners just about every weekend. I find myself shivering after the races, and am afraid I may eventually get hypothermic. As you have been at these races for years giving medical care, do you have any tips for us to stay healthy running in the cold? – Chad M., New York City
Thanks, Chad. I had been thinking about writing a cold-weather post since our Rock ‘n Roll Las Vegas marathon and half-marathon are coming up the first weekend of December, bringing cooler, evening temperatures, not to mention Sunday’s New York City Marathon.
Your question now gives me the perfect set-up to go over cold weather running for this race and for the coming winter runs.
I do have some basic cold-weather tips. Please follow these guidelines for staying safe if race day is unusually cold and/or damp, and especially if there is wind. (All temperatures listed are Fahrenheit.)
* Stay warm before the race. If race morning is cold and/or wet, you should arrive just before the start of the race. This way you’ll avoid standing too long in the cold. Wearing extra clothing, such as long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a wind-resistant jacket. Wearing layered clothes that you don’t care about and can discard along the route can be a good idea. Spend a little extra time jogging in place to warm up your muscles before starting.
* As always, respect your limits. Cold temperatures restrict blood flow, which can cause muscles to contract and even cramp. You will feel stiff and tight, especially in the early miles, if you don’t warm up. If you try to force the pace, you may pull (tear) a muscle. Adjust your pace to allow your body a little extra time to warm up. You may have to slow down from your projected pace to get to the finish line safely.
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