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Smart strategies, tips can help you warm up to running on cold days

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- People have several reasons to run outdoors.

For those who enjoy running it can be simply be breathing in fresh air, witnessing a sunrise or experiencing the changing seasons.

Others simply find themselves needing to keep up running year round because of the regulation changes to the fitness program.

For most it is tough to be motivated to run outdoors when the mercury drops, there are 30-mile-per-hour winds hurling ice pellets into your face or avoiding ankle deep puddles on the road after a monsoon rain.

Here are some smart strategies of general tips, safety concerns in cold environments and suggested cold weather running clothes for keeping warm in cold weather runs and avoiding unnecessary injuries.

General tips for avoiding possible hypothermia, dehydration or frostbite and run effectively in cold/wet weather:

· Run closer to home or work area and do multiple loops.

· Take shorter runs of no more than 30 minutes at a time.

· Always look at wind chill in addition to temperature and wind speeds and direction of winds so you run with the wind on the way back.

· Switch to mid-day runs when it is warmer.

· Pre-warm clothing in a dryer and warm your body indoors with a warm to hot shower or exercise before going outside.

· Make it safe and social. Run with a buddy or join a group. You'll have a built in motivational source, a friend to chat with along the way and it is safer to run in numbers.

· Wet weather such as rain conducts heat more rapidly than air, which means the heat you generate quickly dissipates. When you add the cooling effect of wind it becomes worse. Wear a shell with a breathable base under it to let moisture and sweat escape. Even better if the shell has vents built in.

· It is just as important to hydrate well in the cold weather as in the hot. Most don't think about hydration in the cold months but if you layer your clothing against the cold you actually sweat quite a bit.

· As soon as you stop running, your body temperature starts dropping. It's particularly important to get out of your wet clothes as soon as possible during cold weather runs for this reason so you don't have an increased risk for hypothermia.

· For an extra post-cold-run boost, stash a thermos in your car with warm non caffeinated drinks, and drink the steaming liquid as soon as you're done running. This will help keep your core temperature normal.

· Get out of running shoes and into dry socks and shoes right away.

Tips on maneuvering through the environmental hazards:

· Even soft surfaces like grass or cinder can freeze and become hard in the winter. If you've got a bum knee or, say, a history of shin splints, it's probably best to alternate outside runs with treadmill running or cross-training activities.

· Consider relocating your running route to low-lying areas and avoid areas along rivers or lakes with no tree cover.

· Cold temperatures restrict blood flow and causes muscles to contract and even cramp. Use an extended warm-up.

· Old injuries can resurface easily if you don't use an extended warm-up and a slower pace until your body is properly warmed after 10-15 minutes in the weather.

Shorten your stride when running on areas that may have ice or snow to help prevent slipping and falling. Running on snow and ice takes a lot more energy. Focus on getting in time rather than pace or distance on challenging weather days.

Be seen if you run in the dark hours and wear a reflective vest or flashing lights so you're seen in traffic. In snowy weather, wear bright clothing. Run with an I.D. or a runner's I.D. in your shoe just in case.

Recommended Cold Weather Clothing:

Start with a thin, breathable base layer, which pulls, or wicks, moisture away from your body.

Below freezing, add a mid-layer of lightweight fleece to keep the moisture moving away from your skin as well as to provide insulation.

Last layer is a shell, which protects you from wind but still allows moisture to escape your layering system.

Nearly a quarter of your body heat escapes through your head, so a hat is like a portable temperature regulator and a must.

Mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves by creating a big warm air pocket around your entire hand. Taking them off allows you to dump a lot of heat.

Wear wool socks for cold winter days, especially in snowy, sloppy conditions. Wool retains its insulating properties even when it's wet, thanks to air pockets in the fiber that trap warm air.

A long front zipper allows you to control how much heat to keep next to your body. Convert a jacket to a vest, and back again, with removable sleeves for easy changes for body temperature.

When shopping for a pair of winter shoes, ask the staff at your local running store for a pair with EVA foam cushioning, the material that was least affected by cold temperatures because as temperatures get colder, the shock absorption of shoes decreases and may result in a injury risk. Polyurethane midsole are impacted the most by cold weather according to some studies.

Wear trainers with the sturdiest uppers--those with waterproof materials or heavier, supportive overlays and little or no mesh paneling. The porous mesh on lighter-weight shoes will let wind, snow, and water seep inside, quickly freezing your feet.

If you don't want to buy new shoes, insulate vented shoes with duct tape.

Suggest preheating your shoes with a five-minute blast of warm air from a hairdryer (keep it a foot away) to warm-up the feet as you head out the door.

Tights or wind pants and long socks will protect your legs. Avoid traditional sweat pants or sweat shirts as they will soak up moisture and hold it against your body, making it harder for you to stay warm.

Dress for 15-20 degrees warmer than the current temperature. Dressing lightly allows for your body temperature to increase as you run. You want to feel chilled at the start. If you're warm and it's cold outside, you're definitely overdressed.

Always, always stretch every major muscle group after your workout! Go to http://www.thestretchinghandbook.com/ to learn how.