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How cold is too cold: Local athletes work to stay fit even when the mercury falls

Posted on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 3:36 pm

When it comes to exercise in the cold, the difference between success and dangerous exposure can come down to planning and proper clothing. -File photo provided by Mitsy Coffelt

 

STAFF WRITER
John Coffelt

It’s cold out there ­– so cold that recent temperatures were actually lower than some places in the Arctic.

But with all the winter weather, is it OK or even advisable to “ruck up” and fight the cold for your daily exercise routine?

Local runner Tiffany Clutter, a certified aerobics instructor and retired personal trainer for 20 years, says that with the proper precautions running in the cold is even better.

“Running outside is my absolute favorite form of exercise,” she said. “There’s just something spectacular about the air, the trees, the birds and geographical landmarks that keeps me lacing up. When I decided to retire, I still take the occasional aerobics class, but mostly, I run.”

When it’s cold outside, Clutter says, “though it might sound crazy, “but it makes the running even better. Now we have had some crazy low temperatures lately, and I will admit, I have a limit to the lows that I will run in; but overall, in the winter – I love it.”

“The worst part of cold weather running is all the extra laundry,” Clutter said.

“The key to surviving cold weather exercise is layers. Certainly you have heard this before, but it’s absolutely the truth. For temps 30-40 degrees, a hat is a must. The ears should be covered.”

As a guideline for an average runner, Clutter offers these clothing suggestions as a starting point.

In the 30-40 degree range, she will wear a tank, a long sleeve spandex blend shirt and a very thin down vest.

She cautions against overheating.

“Yes you can get overheated running in the cold. For that reason, upper body layers are key.”

So that she doesn’t leave a trail of clothes behind her, she frequently shrugs out of my vest (inching it around my waist) to allow chest and back cooling. Convertible mittens are great because they offer warmth, but can be vented easily.

When the weather turns colder, 15-30 degrees, she recommends two pair of running pants. The top layer pants should be the next size up to allow for freedom of joint movement.

“Two pair of super tight pants will leave you feeling constricted.”

Also for 15-30 degree temps, she adds an additional long sleeve spandex blend long sleeve top under the vest.

She said that below 20 degrees, runners will require some type of face cover, with eye openings.

“It can be as simple as a handkerchief, but there are many varieties of fitness versions available. One’s nose and mouth need protection, when it’s that cold.”

Cutter admits, though, that 15 degrees is her limit.

“I know lots of runners that will brave the elements in lower temps. As long as I feel confident about the terrain (meaning no ice), I am good to go,” she said.

Tullahoma runner Amy Harryman changes her routine in the winter months.

“I love running outside, but anything below 50 degrees my joints tell me ‘no.’ Come winter, I broaden my workouts to circuit training with a mix of weights and cardio at Planet Fitness. In the past I would swim or run on the treadmills at D.W. Wilson (Community m Center).  I always look forward to summer,” she said.

Hickerson Elementary School teacher Randa Prater said the gym is her happy place, but even so, cold days are tough to stay motivated.

“I don’t run much anymore. But I have a friend who keeps trying to get me to go, and I just can’t make myself run in anything below like 55. My knees don’t like the treadmill, so I avoid them at all costs. I also get really bored running on a treadmill. Making it to the gym is hard when it is this cold as well.

“The gym is my happy place. I need it, but when the weather is this cold it is harder to make myself get up and go.”

Manchester Times Facebook commenter Jamie Treadwell recently finished a 5K in 15 degrees and almost suffered a cold-related injury.

“New Years Day I did a 5k in 15 degrees. Even in two layers (one rated for 20 degrees) I still received the beginnings of ‘frost nip’ (precursor to frostbite) on my legs. From that point on it has been nothing but treadmill (except for the night before the snow hit, when it was 40 degrees. I did an outside run).”

For her it’s a trainer for the bike that will allow me to make it stationary or the indoor pool at the Rec.

Tullahoma ultra marathon runner Tricia Hiers doesn’t like running in anything below 20 or if there is ice.

“If there is any ice, I do not risk running outside at all. I’ve known too many people who have slipped on ice while running and hurt themselves, so I do not take the risk. I will either look at the weather ahead of time and flip my training schedule days so that I can complete my longer runs ahead of the weather, or I will just suck it up and run on the treadmill.”

She notes the positive of doing more indoors is that more time strength and cross training.

Local fitness and martial arts instructor Tim Garrett focuses much of his training in the gym, but when he runs, he does so with a high intensity interval training mindset.

“For example, steps for 30 seconds, then do a set-up of pushups or core exercise and run back down. I will do that at varying intervals and intensities for about 30 or 40 minutes,” said Garrett, of Transformation Wellness and Martial Arts, that offers HIIT Transformation program are based on high intensity intervals of measured and progressively increasing and varying loads and movements used in everyday life with the purpose of improving flexibility, range of motion, strength, endurance, and body composition in the most efficient and safest ways possible.

“Once of my favorite places is the steps behind First National Bank on the square. It is amazing and you have everything needed to do an amazing total body HIIT workout and enjoy the outdoors,” he said.

He suggests not letting the cold be an excuse not to exercise.

“I work out at the same intensity all the time year around. I work out about 4 or 5 days per week, less than 40 minutes each workout.  The cold does put a bit of a damper on thins and it is more difficult to get motivated but you just got to do what you got to … more rowing, burpees, bodyweight stuff, kettlebells, etc. These workouts are just as tough and often times more difficult.

Garrett suggests, “Every local person should be a member and support the Manchester Recreation Center. These are some of my favorite places to workout, when it is really cold outside move, more inside.”

Motivation is a constant for avid Manchester runner Douglas Yurcik.

Yurick has been doing a Facebook days in a row. As of Jan. 19, he is on day 158 and logged 412.42 miles

“I don’t always have time to do runs at work – run streak requires only 1 mile a day to keep it going – so I have to just ‘suck it up’ and dress in layers of clothing, gloves, hats, etc to keep warm

He said that typically after about 12 minutes into the run he can begin to feel his fingers again.

“I do look at what the weather is like, and might push the run back till later in the afternoon, but with it getting darker earlier, I have to try and do it as early as possible. If it’s impossible to run outside – I will find a treadmill to get the “mile” in – so basically with this current streak – I have to do whatever is necessary to keep it going.”

Having dropped 26 pounds, he is currently training for the Ragnar in March and the Oak Barrel Half in April.

Another option offered by commenter Steve Jernigan is the Bess family’s Tri-Star fitness with their Crossfit workouts.

“I have been in since July and had blood work done before and after and have improved in every measure. Workouts are fun and challenging for sure,” he adds.

 

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