More tips for coping with cold (and colds)

It’s cold and flu season, which conveniently coincides with “it’s too cold to run” season. My friend Jen posed some questions yesterday about how to deal with this fact, so I’m posting some tips here in response. Here’s Jen’s question:

“I ran 6 miles on the treadmill over 2 weeks ago (I know, it’s just not cool to run long distances indoors, but I did). I got sick shortly after, and have not done a thing since. I’ve been tricking myself into thinking that I can’t run because I have this lingering, awful cough and still need to “rest.” How long do you usually take off after being sick? My 2nd question is, What do you wear when running outside? I always think it’s too cold and I’ll have trouble breathing. I think I’m wrong.”

I struggle with the too-sick-to-run issue, too. I usually run even when I’m practically hacking up a lung, which I’m sure has prolonged many an illness. So I consulted Runner’s World for advice. Check out the whole story here, but I’m digging the “neck rule” from David Nieman, Ph.D., who heads the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University: “Symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off, while symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don’t pose a risk to runners continuing workouts.” Nieman has run 58 marathons and ultras, so I’m sure he’s practiced what he preaches.

As for how to dress in cold weather, if you’re worried about it being too cold to breathe comfortably, try wearing a neck gaiter and covering your nose and mouth with it. Your breath will humidify the air, making it easier to breathe.

The best rule of thumb I’ve heard is to dress for a run as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.This morning, when I headed out for an 8-mile run (my longest of the week), my car’s thermostat read 27 degrees. I wore: A pair of Brooks running tights; a Dri-Fit T-shirt and long-sleeved shirt made from similar material; an ancient North Face fleece; my fleece hat from the George Washington 10K Classic; and my Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves, made from some fancy material that actually heats up when you sweat. These are AMAZING if you’re a sweatball like me.

Oh, and I don’t think long-distance running on a treadmill is uncool – it’s hard-core! It’s easy to head out for a run on a balmy spring day or a chilly autumn one. It’s what you do when it’s in the 20s and icky that makes you a runner, whether that’s treadmilling or braving the cold.

Check out several Runner’s World stories about coping with the cold here. Also, stay tuned: I’m planning to ask some friends in the TRULY frosty north to share some of their own coping mechanisms.

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