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10 must-haves for winter running

By | November 17, 2014 4:07 am | 0 Comments

me in winter

I was snowshoeing here, hence the poles, but this is how I dress to run, too.

Don’t let winter keep you from running outdoors. You just need the right gear!

I can’t remember the last time I actually ran on my “dreadmill.” I know I didn’t run on it once last year — yep, even our epic polar vortex couldn’t force me onto the rat track (I hate the dreadmill THAT much). On the worst days, when bitter winds, sheets of ice or the most dreaded of all winter running surfaces – mushy slush—were present, I decided to take an extra rest day or I would cross-train (swim laps, weight lift, take a class, etc.).If you’re a newer runner or a really competitive runner, you may be horrified at the thought of taking a few extra rest days. I get that. I’ve been there, done that. I used to be like you. In fact, I was SO anal about never missing a run that I used to have two — count ’em two — treadmills in my basement, a “new” one and a “backup” treadmill.

But I’ve been running through Erie winters long enough to know it’s not going to kill me to take an extra day off, or two or (gasp) even four. And, in fact, it usually helps me—a lot. This is the time to let your body rest and heal. The racing season is over till spring.

The bottom line: I give in when Jack Frost really sticks it to us. That said, you’d be surprised how infrequently that happens. Rarely — very rarely — is the weather too bad to run outdoors. All you need is the right gear.

Here are 10 things I find essential to running through an Erie winter:

 

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1. Yak Trax and/or STABILicers. (About $30 each)

These are both traction aids that fit over your running shoes. Think of them as studded winter tires for your feet. Many runners use Yak Trax. After having been knocked to the ground in the middle of a run TWICE by broken Yak Traks, I switched to STABILicers. BUT, I have found that I really need to have both. Yaks are best in snow & slush. Stabilicers are best when there’s not much snow, but still a lot of ice.

I just bought some new Yak Traks made especially for runners that seem to be both of these products in one (ice cleats on the pad of the food & coils on the heels for snow).

You may think these would be hard to run with, but they are not terribly bothersome, even when you hit stretches of pavement. You barely know you have them on.

Also….be advised that if you run a lot, these are probably something you’ll need to buy annually. I buy a new pair at the start of each winter because the rubber straps get worn through (likely when you hit those stretches of pavement) and break.

 

2. Stretchy gloves and a couple pairs of cheap mittens. ($1 or so, each)

I probably have 15 pairs of black stretchy gloves. They’re perfect for running because they are lightweight, easy to put on/take off, small enough to stuff in your pocket or waistband if you get hot, they’re inexpensive, and you can toss them in the washer when you’re done sweating all over them.  I always buy black, so if I lose a glove, big deal…I match it up with another orphan glove.

I have a couple pairs of cheap mittens, too, because on the coldest of winter days, one little pair of stretchy gloves isn’t enough, but stretchy gloves topped with mittens will do the trick. On VERY cold days, you can put a Hot Hands pack between your gloves & mittens — warm hands, warm body.

 

3. Reflective vest or jacket. ($20 to $100).

I have a few types of reflective outer layers so I can A.) wash it between runs and B.) dress for the weather (by the way, dress for weather that is 10 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually  is…you heat up FAST even in winter!).

I have a lightweight Nathan reflective vest that I can put over a long-sleeve shirt or fleece vest and I have a couple of Illuminite windbreakers and an Illumnite vest for colder days.  An Illuminite jacket is worth the investment (I mean, seriously, how much is your life worth anyway?)

 

 

4. Turtleneck. ($10 to $50 )

You’ll want to cover your neck. Some runners like to use a scarf or a gaiter, but I prefer a good old fashioned turtleneck. You can get away with regular old cotton t-necks from Target, but when Under Armour sent me one of their ColdGear Mock Necks to try, I fell in love — LOVE, I tell you — and I shelled out the big bucks to get a couple more. I’ve never gone back to cotton T-necks. Note that the ColdGear Mock Necks come in two styles —  compression (which means it’s very tight to the body, which I like, and a new “fitted” mock neck, which doesn’t squeeze as much as compression. Check the size charts and order accordingly!

 

5. Winter-weight tights.($50 to $100)

Lightweight summer tights are going to cut it in winter. You need thick, preferably fleece-lined, tights. I like the ColdGear CompressionTights from Under Armour and, at $50, they’re pretty reasonably priced, as tights go.  (And, yes, I’ve sold my soul to the great and powerful Under Armour, but I’m telling you…it’s truly some of the best stuff out there and it lasts through lots of washes).

WalMart, Target and a lot of the other mass retailers have really stepped up the quality workout gear they offer…so you may find tights there that you like, too.

TIP: Word the wise, don’t dry your tech running gear. Tights, compression tops, bras, etc. should be drip dried. The heat of the dryer breaks down the material that makes your running gear fit tight/compress. Nothing will turn your sports bras and tights into saggy not-so-tights faster than a dryer.

 

6. Windbreaker ($20  to $50) and/or a lightweight soft shell jacket

I rarely run in more than a turtleneck, tights and a windbreaker in winter.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on a special waterproof windbreaker — most of them are water-resistant anyway. I have several so I can wash them after each run. Try to get one with a hood…never know when you might need it.

On very cold days, I will sometimes wear a lightweight tech jacket. This one, from Walmart, is just $3o and offers a bit more protection than a windbreaker. It washes well, too.

 

 

7. Winter hats.($5 each)

These get sweaty and super-gross, so you want a few of them if you’re going to run outside regularly. I sewed up a bunch of fleece hats several years ago. They were super-easy to make. I toss them into the washer after my run and they wash well.  Want to whip some up? Here are the instructions we used.

 

8. Sunglasses. ($5 to $50). Glare from the snow can be blinding, so sunglasses are a great idea if you’re running in the daytime. Sunglasses also help prevent your eyes from watering on a cold day. You can get away with el-cheap-o sunglasses, but real runner’s sunglasses are a good investment because they won’t fog.

 

9.  Fleece vest. ($10 to $30)

This is a nice layer to add on very cold days. I layer one between my t-neck and windbreaker and it provides just enough of an extra layer of warmth. I like fleece because it’s cozy and it will  hold up to lots of washings.

 

10.  A flashlight. ($2 to $10)

When a car is approaching me, I turn on my flashlight and point it toward my feet (or just to the right of my feet) so they can see where I’m at.  I have a couple of mini-maglites that I use, but I find the metal gets cold (to hold) in the winter and I typically leave it in my pocket unless I need it.

PISP in winter – your guide to water fountains and open restrooms

By | October 28, 2014 9:54 am | 0 Comments

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Erie runner Dennis Albrewcynski posted this Presque Isle State Park  runner PSA on the Erie Runners Club running groups Facebook page this weekend: “FYI, most of the restrooms at PISP are now closed.”

As anyone who runs at the park year-round can tell you (and probably learned the hard way), at some point the park shuts down most of the restrooms and water fountains. Freezing water lines, you know.

A series of runners responded to Dennis’ post, listing the restrooms they believe stay open year-round at the park.

I decided to go straight to my source at PISP — Ryan Rager, assistant park manager — for a definitive rundown of exactly where you can find relief at the park from now until late spring:

The restrooms at the following locations are open all year at the park:

- Ranger Station

- Rotary Pavilion

- The family-assist restroom at Perry Monument (the one in the middle)

The following water fountains are open all year at the park:

- Vista 4 by The Feather

- Breeze way of Rotary

So there you have it — do your business by the time you get to the Rotary Pavilion (between beaches 6 & 8) or plan accordingly.

P.S. Consider this my personal Winter Running at PISP PSA — it becomes very, very desolate on the back half of the park in the winter. Please don’t run alone. If you were to get injured or feel threatened in any way — you are miles from help.

Just Write 41 ~ 10 in 1 degree

By | February 11, 2014 1:43 am | 0 Comments

I don’t even look at the temperature. Why bother? It’s cold as h#@ …it has been this whole frigid winter. I dig out my thickest, fleece-lined tights. They’re like form-fitting sweatpants — too hot for all but the coldest of winter runs. I don’t think I wore them at all last year. This year, they’ve seen plenty of use, as have my Yak Tracks.

I’ve gotten hardier as this sub-zero winter drags on. There was a time I drew the line at running in temps less than 20 degree. Psshhh…20 feels like a freakin’ heatwave now.

If I wait for 2o degrees, I may not run until flippin’ April, so I put on my thicker running socks, and three — count ‘em three — fleece-lined layers on top — a cold gear mock neck, a fitness hoodie and a double-layer windbreaker. I make sure to pick a winter hat that will completely cover my ears and put on a pair of gloves and top those with a pair of thick mittens.

Yet, a half mile into the run, I am still freezing. I stop as we run up Jordan road to pull up both hoods over my head and tie them tight. I feel and look like a complete dork, but I don’t really care.  There’s no room for vanity on single-digit (1 degree) long run days.  You do what has to be done to get the miles in.

There’s no wind, other than the breeze we are creating by running, which isn’t much because though we seem to be putting in maximum effort, we’re barely moving. Our mouths move faster, discussing everything from our weekend plans to upcoming races to spoiled kids to Yack Tracks versus Stabilicers.

Ten miles fly by in a flurry of conversation, the weather goes virtually unnoticed for nearly 2 hours. We’ve got grinding uphills, bratty kids, and other, more pressing issues to distract us from Jack Frost’s attempts to thwart our Saturday morning run.

Winter running can be exhausting. Gearing up to go, working so to hard to move forward, prying my frozen eyelashes apart, but I’ll still take it over the “dreadmill” any day.

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.

How to train throught he polar vortex

By | January 31, 2014 1:37 am | 0 Comments

Coach Jenny Hadfield at Runner’s World recently wrote a post answering this reader’s question:

I’m training for my first Boston Marathon and struggling to run through this winter’s Polar Vortex. I’m getting concerned that my preparation won’t be enough and will fall short of my typical training plan. I’m also feeling fatigued from long runs in this epic weather we’re having. Do you have any tips for training through the PV? Thanks a bunch! ~John

Poor John. Bad winter to be training for Boston. Spring marathons can be tough for us northerners.

Coach Jenny had some good advice, which you can read here.

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As for me, I’ve employed a few tactics to get through this winter.

I scale down mileage considerably every winter. Last weekend, I didn’t run at all (2 degrees? fine, 2 degree with wind? heck, no!) and instead opted to do some cross training workouts with Team Adrenaline — walking icy miles across Presque Isle Bay on Sunday and a balance/strength/core workout on Saturday morning under the pavilion at Shade’s Beach in Harborcreek, which was actually quite pleasant, considering the weather conditions that morning.

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It’s all about….

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And bundling up… (Truth be told, I was actually overdressed).

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Winter is a good time to work on strength and balance and it will help you tremendously come race season!

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All photos above by Eloise

I’ve also run a few times during my lunch hour, which I enjoy much more than I ever thought I would. The college I work for keeps all the paths nice and clear, and I can get a good 4 to 5 miles in because when it’s 3 degrees, you don’t sweat much so you don’t have to shower — a few baby wipes, a hairclip and fresh undies will get you through the rest of the workday (OH….don’t you “ewwww” me, you know you’ve all done even grosser things….who among us hasn’t ran a few…or fifteen…errands on their way home from a long run…amiright???)

I’ve have pounded out a few miles on the treadmill over the last few weeks, too. I hate running on the dreadmill and cannot manage more than 4 to 5 miles, though. (Unlike my friend Carol who ran 24 miles…TWENTY FOUR miles on her treadmill last week…I kid you not!).

Also, on a recent snow day at home, I totally booked a family vacation to Florida in March.

I asked around to see how others were handling this winter-from-he#$:

“I do intervals on the treadmill. It’s too cold and I know the treadmill is boring but intervals make it a little more exciting.” —Jessie Zahner

“Cross Training – my knees aren’t handling the change in gait from ice and packed snow very well. I also enjoy swimming and Team Adrenaline!” — Kristen Currier

“Scale back distance and increase cross training!,” — Leslie Cooksey

“Decrease distance (though I’m terrible at following this rule myself) increase cross-training. I prefer lifting/weight machines and swimming now,” — Bethany Kelley

“Cross training and treadmill. I have managed to get the majority of my long runs done outside but marathon training indoors is not my idea of fun. I will get my runs in one way or the other and prefer to have them all outside, but when it gets this cold, I would rather be safe and indoors then injured.” — Amy Cronk

“I still run, but I scale back and do way more cross training –  classes at the Y (zumba, kick boxing, spinning), and I do weights/strength training 3x a week. But a good running tip for frigid temps in addition to the obvious “layer/bundle up” is to run with a buddy! No one wants to find a frozen runner buried in a snow drift!” — Karen Beebee

“I have made friends with the treadmill…and try to justify it as wisdom and not wimpyness!” — Jennifer D.

“Polar vortex = opportunity! Last Sunday, we ran from the peninsula, across the bay to the to the Erie Yacht Club, then back across the bay to the monument.  From there we ran on, past Horseshoe Pond before returning on the peninsula trail (lake side).  You don’t get to run across the bay in warm, easy weather!” — Jason Robertson

“I dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer , put on my YakTrax , and give it h@#$! I focus on keeping my steps quick and light. I’ve been able to run outside all winter using this strategy!” —Ramon Patron, Jr.

 “Layers! Scale back as needed. Slower pace. I like Karen’s advice…running buddy!” — Debbie Humphreys

“Like Kristen, my knees have had a hard time with adjusting to the snow and slippery conditions. I’ve cut back on my mileage and focused more on crosstraining.” — Bri Hodges

“I love to run and it’s my sanity! It’s all about this proper layers. If you dress right it’s not bad. I cover my face with a neck warmer and wear double gloves. It slows you down but you can still get great exercise and fresh air! It’s just about toughing it out!” — Karen Groshek

“I’m with Karen, if your layered right, just go. The only time I scale back a bit is when it’s mostly ice, and not many clear spots along the roads. Early mornings (5am) works for me it’s refreshing and there is little traffic which allows for running in the road more ,with little distraction. — Rob Dever

“Wear extra layers on head, neck and hands. Stay close to home and pick routes that are not directly into the wind for long periods of time. Keep time not miles and be prepared to cut it short if things go bad.” — Ginny Sackett

“Wear double layers – shirt, tights and gloves. Make sure I have my buff to pull up over my face if running into the wind and run my planned mileage. I will plan a route that can be cut short if necessary. I also put Vaseline on the exposed parts of my face for protection.” — Karen Manganaro

“Always start against the wind.” — Chris Borgia

“I run on the treadmill hate every minute but I’m think its too cold to run outside. I need at least 25 degrees last time I ran outside under 25 my fingers were numb for months. Sorry not worth it. It’s also a good time to cross train in the winter and take a break from all those long runs.” – Amy Morrow

“Decrease distance and increase cross-training at home and then Team Adrenaline a few times a week!” – Stacey Hammer

“Layers, scale back, and yak trax! Point to point is preferred…especially if the end is at Romolo’s for mint mochas!” – Jen Kelly

Blue moon

By | December 18, 2013 1:27 am | 0 Comments

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“A deserted country road at 5 a.m. belongs to whoever runs on it. Raccoons, deer, and opossums rule the midnight hour, but at 5 a.m., even the ghosts are asleep. Houses are dimly lit by night lights if at all. Night-shifters are still at work, and the early risers haven’t risen. I ran  down the centerline of the road like a thief, like I owned it. After years of dodging cars along the thin shoulder, it was a kind of triumph to cruise unimpeded down the middle of the road. The moonlight cast a frozen sameness over the landscape, where with very little effort, I could imagine I was the last living creature on the planet. Everything I could see was a shade of blue, and the sound of that blue was silence.   — www.runnersworld.con/newbie

Looking for support? Join the Team

By | December 13, 2013 9:32 am | 0 Comments

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Photos by T.A. member, Eloise

The single most important thing you can do to stay motivated to exercise—especially through an Erie winter—is to make fitness friends.

Were not for my running friends, I wouldn’t be out running (and laughing) through five frigid and hilly miles in the dark on a Wednesday night after a long day at work, I wouldn’t be running 55 hill repeats on a lakeside golf course on a snowy-blowy Tuesday night, and I wouldn’t be laying on my back in six inches of snow doing leg lifts in a snowstorm.

I consistently tell my running friends that I hate them for making me do this stuff, but…you know I secretly love it, right?  You know you would, too.

Wondering how to make fitness friends that will keep you motivated?

Look no further than Lawrence Park where chiropractor and fitness enthusiast Steve Krauza heads up Team Adrenaline.

I first met Steve Kruaza when I interviewed him for a story for the newspaper in 2011. (Read it here). A study had just been released (don’t recall what it was now), identifying Erie county as home to the least healthy people in the state.  He was really bothered by that and it inspired him to start Team Adrenaline.

He told me that his goal was “To make Erie County the healthiest county in the Commonwealth by 2024,” and I remember thinking “I love your spirit, man, but that’s an awfully high bar.”  Despite my skepticism, however, I admired his gumption and, as a former fat chick who had experience the life-transforming power of regular exercised, I hoped he would succeed.

While he may have a ways to go to make all of Erie County fit, he’s sure made a dent in east county.

The last workout I attended (yep, I finally “drank the Kool-Aide” and bought a punch card), 23 people showed up to workout in near-blizzard conditions.  That’s dedication.

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This happened. That’s me in the pink polka-dot hat.

What is Team Adrenaline?

It best be described as an “organic” or “urban” workout.  All the workouts are done outside year-round using minimal “equipment” beyond what nature or the venue provides (curbs for box jumps, bleachers for running, etc.).  See video below.

Workouts are offered on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. at Iroquois High School, Thursday nights at 6 p.m. at Liberty Park and Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. at various locations (Check before you go on Saturday…these workouts are often held at Harbocreek Community Park, Shades Beach, Presque Isle, etc.).

Workouts typically last an hour and they are never the same (though you will see the same elements — planks, sprints, pushups, etc.).

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Who is it for?

The workouts can be done at your own level and modifications are given, so these workouts are good for people of any fitness ability and/or age.

I’d also say that this is perfect for people who have trouble staying motivated. The team makes you accountable…and they make it fun…so you’ll want to show up.

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How much does it cost?

Your first workout is always free…and feel free to bring a friend, too.

Then, if you like it and want to join the team, you’ll need to buy a “punch card” with a specific number of workouts on it, each workout is one punch. Cost of the cards range from $7.50 to $10 a workout, depending on the size of the punch card purchased.

BUT….Right now the punch cards are on sale for 1/2 price until January 1st.  The half price breakdown is this: 6 workouts = $30. 12 workouts = $54. 24 workouts = $96. 35 workouts = $122.50.

The nice thing is that you only “pay” for the workouts you come to (and Doc is know to throw freebies in there from time to time), and the cards never expire.

Why should you join?

Camaraderie. Inspiration. Motivation.

But…primarily because this “team” is like a family and that’s one of the big reasons why it works.  You’ll end up with more than workout buddies, you’ll end up with friends — the kind of friends who are really good for you — who inspire you to laugh and sweat and live in the moment….and to do pushups in 7-degree weather and to try a triathlon and to dress up like characters from “A Christmas Story” and run through the streets of Erie.

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Want more info?

Read Eloise’s take on T.A. in her post: Better Than I Used to Be

Visit krauzachiro orcall 898-2346 or email: frontdesk (at symbol) krauzachiro.com (NOTE: I don’t put the @ symbol in email addresses in my blog posts or the person ends up with gobs of spam, but you need to use it in that address if you email Steve).

ERC Snowflake 5K set for Saturday

By | December 10, 2013 6:57 am | 0 Comments

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If the weather forecast is right, the ERC Snowflake 5K will live up to its moniker on Saturday. The race starts at 10 a.m. in front of the Rotary Pavilion. Note, however, that the pre- and post-race festivities (and day of race registration) will be held at Cabin #2 in the Waterworks Area at Presque Isle State Park, next to the Rotary.

Word to the wise: There are no restrooms at the cabins, but…the restrooms will be open in the Rotary Pavilion.

The first 200 registered will get a gift boxed set of two 9 oz. stemless wine glasses imprinted with the race logo. Awards will be given in 5-year age groups.

Day of race registration is $20 and starts at 8:30 a.m. at Cabin #2. Application & information here.

This year, race proceeds will benefit the Northwest Pa. ALS Association (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), The Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, and Orphan Angels animal rescue.

Word to the wise, part 2: Bring your ice cleats and/or Yak tracks. Presque Isle State Park does not use any salt on their roadways…so it’s likely there will be ice. If we’re lucky, there will be snow (which provides traction), too.

 

Winter “tires” for your feet

By | November 13, 2013 1:14 am | 0 Comments

And….so it begins. Now that we’ve seen our first snow and ice for this 2013/2014 winter season, it’s time to talk about outfitting your feet with some  “winter tires.”

I almost always brave the elements because, in my book, freezing winds and feet of snow are preferable to the running on the “dreadmill” or running circles around all the gawkers on the machines at the gym.

Yes, you can run outside all winter. You just need to get on solid footing.  Here are three good options:

 

1. Yaktrax Pro. Yaks are make of coil and rubber and they stretch over your running shoes for added traction on snow and ice. You may have seen them and wondered just how comfortable they are to run in? You’d be surprised. You don’t even notice them, unless you’re on pavement and, even then, it’s no more annoying than the scritch-scritch sound the coils make when hitting the pavement.

You can get Yaktrax at Achille’s Running Shop or the Erie Sports Store for $30 to $40. They usually sell two versions — “walkers” and “pro,” which are more expensive.  If you’re going to run with these, you want the Pro models. The difference is in how well they stay on your shoes; the “pro” version have extra straps to keep them secure.

Most people love them. Read a review by Mid West Running Mom and another good one by Predawn Runner.

I used to use Yaks, but got tired of wearing through two pairs every winter and, twice, they caused me to fall in mid-run when one of the rubber straps broke and a coil shimmied out and grabbed the lace of my other shoe (so…imagine running full out and someone ties your shoes together…bam…on ice. I’m still pissed). Plus, they are hard to get on & off.

So, I switched to ….

 

2. Stabilicers Sport. These winter cleats have hard rubber lugs and nine 1/8-inch steel cleats that provide a good grip on ice and hard-packed snow. They stretch to fit over your running shoes and they hold strong; I’ve never had them slip off.  They’re also easier to take on & off — a big plus in my book. They’re compact enough that if you wear them on a run and discover you don’t need them, you can take them off and carry them.

Since the entire bottom is rubber, they shouldn’t wear through as quickly as Yaktrax. I’m going on my third winter running in my Stabilicers.  You can get them for less than $40 at the Erie Sports Store.

Low on cash? Like to buck the system? Then….

 


3. Screw it…make your own. If you’re the do-it-yourself kind, you can make your own winter cleats with sheet metal screws and a cordless drill. Complete instructions here.

Sound familiar? I originally posted this January 4th, 2012, but…hey…why reinvent the wheel, er…”winter tires for runners” post?