Good news. You still have more than three months to get ready for the Tacoma City and Capital City marathons and, perhaps more real-istically, half mara-thons.
Using a series of complex and highly unscientific formulas I’ve developed for analyzing Northwest weather I’ve been able to determine that this will give you precisely three days of ideal outdoor training conditions.
In other words, if you want to be in good shape for the May 6 race in Tacoma or the May 20 run in Olympia you better not wait for the weather to cooperate.
Here are 10 tips to get you through the winter:
1. Get tough
If you aren’t already used to it, running in the cold and rain can seem like a formidable challenge. But, if you’re prepared, often you’ll realize the hardest part is just getting out the door. The more you train in the rain, the less daunting it becomes. Besides, nobody has guaranteed perfect weather for race day, so you better be comfortable running in any conditions.
Paul Morrison, a marathon runner and owner of Bonney Lake’s Fleet Feet, says layering your clothes is “the most important thing” to being comfortable during winter runs. He suggests three layers of clothes that can easily be stripped off and put back on as you see fit. He says some runners even wear gloves that convert into mittens when they feel especially cold.
3. Good socks
The right pair of socks is especially important in the winter if you want to keep your toes warm and dry. Cotton socks won’t do the trick. Morrison, co-director of the Tacoma City Marathon, uses and recommends merino wool socks. “They are good for a wide range of temperatures, both cold and warm,” he said. “They wick moisture and will keep you comfortable whether they are wet or dry.”
4. Dark but reflective
Dark clothes will keep you warmer than light clothes, but they’ll also be harder for motorists to see.
“Your outer layer always needs to have reflectivity,” Morrison said. Also, look for running shoes and hats with reflectivity, he said. A headlamp or blinking LED light also will make you more visible.
And if you run with your dog, take care of it, too.
“Dogs need to be safe too,” Morrison said. “When I run with my dog I put him in (a reflective) vest.”
5. Stay off the road
Running on roads can be especially dicey in the winter. Sidewalks, local tracks or multipurpose trails like Pierce County’s Foothills Trail and Thurston County’s Western-Chehalis Trail offer more safety.
But if you do have to run on the road try to stay off the asphalt. Not only does this keep you a few more feet away from traffic, but you’re more likely to find better traction in cold weather.
“Ice typically doesn’t form on the gravel as fast as it does on the road,” Morrison said.
6. The “dreadmill”
Yes, the treadmill can be boring, but if you’re stuck inside it’s also a good way to log miles without getting suited up in three layers of clothes.
“I ran 10 miles on the treadmill the other day,” Morrison said. “I have a TV in front of my treadmill and I put on an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, ‘The Running Man,’ and I watched the whole thing.”
The treadmill isn’t your only option if you just can’t get outside.
“Really anything that gets your blood flowing will work,” Morrison said.
This might be a fitness class at your local gym, some time on a spin bike or a callisthenic workout in your living room.
8. Face guard
When the weather approaches freezing level, the cold air can hurt your lungs.
“Be careful,” Morrison said. “It’s good to have something over your face if you run when it gets really cold out.”
After running five miles in the rain, you might be tempted to dash straight for the warmth of the shower, but it’s important to treat your body right. Stretching before and after you run is important any time of year. Don’t let the chill lead to bad habits.
10. Have a partner
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Workout partners are good.
It can be hard enough just to muster up the energy to go running, let alone heading out when the weather stinks.
Having a good training partner will make it harder for both of you to wimp out.
Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via craig.hill@ thenewstribune.com, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys. Get more fitness coverage at thenewstribune.com/fitness.
Visit blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure for our marathon training guide.