Fitness After 50: The Winter Nuts

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By Vicki Morgan

I’m staring at a thick blanket of white. Both God and nature have conspired to create a blizzard in Colorado Springs, and apparently all the snow landed in my neighborhood.

I’m dizzy, spacey and deaf from the barometric pressure. Worse yet, I can’t get out of my own driveway. Just as I’m reaching the pinnacle of my pity party, I see a struggling humanoid in the distance. He (or she) is dressed for the slopes, toppling clumsily along like a lame bug, two walking sticks flailing, and wait … is that a smile I see through the ski mask? Why, yes it is!

This brave and crazy soul is part of a tribe that I refer to as simply, The Winter Nuts. These folks love tackling snow in any form, and can’t wait to challenge themselves by getting out to enjoy it. The more treacherous, the better. And I have to admit, I’m a little jealous. I’d like to go out there and brave the cold. But a little voice known to most of us as Common Sense tells me otherwise.

So you want to take a walk in the snow? First of all, I don’t recommend it. If I did, I’d be sued. But for those who want to brave the blizzard aftermath, or hike in subzero temperatures, this article is for you.

I spoke with one particular Winter Nut who was willing to share his favorite tips for having fun in a frozen wasteland.   His name is John Hann.  John is an Enterprise Architect who specializes in cloud computing, IoT, web and rest architectures. When he’s not running computers and such, he’s running up mountains. Though always an avid runner, John found mountain running to be his true calling in the late 90s.  Since then, John has competed in 16 Pikes Peak Ascents and 1 Pikes Peak Marathon along with other various races.  Here’s the abbreviated version of our chat:

Vicki: What about tips for running on slick asphalt?

John: You have to focus on your dexterity and shortening your stride, so that you’re more balanced over the top of your feet. If there’s packed snow, you can purchase traction devices to help you maintain traction. Sometimes they don’t work in really steep terrain, so I personally use sheet metal screws. I screw them into my shoes along the bottom around the perimeter … 3/8” screws in the front and ½” screws in the back … around six in the back and four or five in the front. This provides a fair amount of grip and doesn’t impact or change the feel of the shoe on your foot. Matt Carpenter is the one who showed me that one when I ran with the Incline Club. Matt currently holds the record on the Pike’s Peak Ascent.

Vicki: What do recommend for running uphill in slick or snowy conditions?

John: Same thing … sheet metal screws in the shoes. External traction devices can actually slip in steep terrain.

Vicki: So, what’s your cutoff point for cold weather? Is there such a thing as too cold?

John: I don’t think I have a cutoff point. I’ve run when it’s 15 or 20 degrees below zero.

Vicki: How do you dress for weather like that?

John: The key is dressing in layers. If it’s going to be really cold, I might have four or five layers; a tight Lycra type running shirt underneath, and a long sleeved shirt over that, and maybe a sweatshirt. If it’s really cold I might add a windbreak vest underneath, or as an outer layer. The inner layers are going to get wet when you sweat. The outer layers absorb the squishy moisture and keep that sweat warm.

Vicki: If somebody has to stop during a really cold run for any reason, what are some survival techniques for not freezing to death?

John: You HAVE to stay moving. As long as you’re moving along, you’ll be fine. If you have to stop and walk, there will be a problem because you’re going to cool down really quick. So don’t stop. You’ll be in trouble. I’ve done mountains runs where it was so steep I couldn’t run anymore. My feet were “postholing” (sinking knee deep into the snow). In that scenario, I did get cold really fast, and I couldn’t feel my feet. But once I pressed up to the top, I could start running again and my feet warmed up after about 20 minutes. But you have to stay moving. If you’re not going to be able to stay moving, then you shouldn’t go where you’re going to be isolated like that.

Vicki: What about the head, ears and neck?

John: One of the keys to staying warm for me is a neck sweater, and then a headband and a regular ski hat. The neck sweater keeps the wind from going down my shirt, and then I can pull it up over your face. The back of the neck tends to stay warm, but the front of the neck tends to get damp when you breathe into it. With a neck sweater, I can rotate it around. I like the neck sweater better than a ski mask because I like to be able to pull it down, pull it up and rotate it to the back to thaw out as needed. I use a headband for the ears, or a regular hat, and sunglasses for the eyes. Goggles tend to steam up. Again, movement is key because the wind will keep your sunglasses from fogging up.

Well, as the song says, “There’s no fitness like snow fitness”. There are great memories to be made in the snow, but they should be positive memories, not negative ones. So have fun, stay safe, and enjoy these tips as you do.

I feel compelled to remind you, that running on ice and in extreme cold weather is dangerous and should not be done.  This article is not an endorsement to do so and any information provided and used is at the sole risk of the reader. The rest of us should go the gym or workout at home. Now my derriere is legally covered, thank you very much!  Happy and Healthy Holidays, everyone.

Vicki Morgan CPT ACTION is a Senior Strength & Fitness Instructor at Flex Gym and Fitness. You can reach her at 719-445-8566 or visit seniorstrength.pro. Remember to consult a physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary.

JohnHann-4-miles-up-Barr-Trail

John Hann four miles up Barr Trail.

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