Running Safely in the Winter
By Robert Weiss, DPM
Winter running presents the runner with hazardous conditions that may not be present at other times of the year. For example, in the winter, we are often forced to work out in the darkness of early morning or after work.
One of the most important pieces of safety equipment for added visibility is a reflective vest. It is a small investment but may be the best life insurance one can buy for winter running. Also available are reflective tapes and arm bands. In addition, many runners carry a flashlight to alert on-coming motorists, as well as to see the road in front of them.
It is also important to do warm-up exercises (stretching and strengthening) before entering the cold weather, as it will reduce the initial chill and thus decrease the risk of injury that may occur as muscles tighten from the cold.
One should also use critical thinking about the clothing that is to be worn. Wear several layers of light clothing to keep the wind out and the proper materials to allow moisture to be released. Protection of the skin from frostbite is vital - especially the face; wear a scarf, a ski mask, or even a surgical mask over the nose and mouth. This will also aid in warming the air which is inhaled. Since the largest amount of body heat escapes through the head, wear a hat. Safety in foot gear must also be followed; good traction in snow and on wet roads is very important. Also, make sure the shoes are roomy for movement of the toes, as tight shoes will reduce blood supply to your feet.
In addition to following these safety guidelines for winter running, also pay close attention to changes in your body temperature to prevent fatigue and perspiration which can lead to chills or perhaps hypothermia.
Dr. Robert F. Weiss is a podiatrist specializing in foot and ankle surgery with a practice in Darien, affiliated with Stamford Hospital and member of Stamford Health Medical Group-Foot & Ankle Institute. A member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials, he is a veteran of 35 marathons.