This Year’s Marathon Will be Cold. Here’s How to Prepare.

Finding motivation to go outside and exercise isn’t easy, and Houston’s recent bout of cold weather has the motivation coming in smaller doses. However, those prepping for this weekend’s marathon are still finishing up training and the cold weather won’t hold them back. So far in January, Houston temperatures have been lower than average and it’s safe to assume that we may be seeing cold weather during the 2018 Chevron Houston Marathon. Experts at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute have some tips for those running in the cold.

Dress Warm….But Not Too Warm

When planning to exercise in the cold, a common mistake is dressing too warm. When you exercise, it generates heat, which will naturally warm you. The best bet is to dress in layers. The first layer should be a synthetic material that draws sweat away from the body. Cotton materials will stay wet next to your skin. Wearing fleece or wool as a top layer will provide insulation.

Dressing in layers is ideal as you can remove some as soon as you start to sweat, and then replace them as needed.

Safety and the Sun

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t get sunburned. Use a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. A lip balm can also be helpful.

If running at night or early in the morning when it’s dark, the same rules apply as during the summer. Make sure to wear reflective clothing. If biking, we recommend both taillights and headlights. Shoes need to have plenty of traction in case the paths get slippery in the cold.

Stay Hydrated!

According to Chris Doyle, a dietetic intern with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, it’s actually easier to get dehydrated when exercising in the cold.

“Don’t let your performance suffer,” Doyle said. “Take measures to ensure you stay properly hydrated during the winter and prevent your performance from freezing.”

  1. Don’t let yourself become thirsty. Sweating often triggers the mechanism in your body to signal thirst. However, in the winter you sweat less due to lower temperatures. If you do feel thirsty, chances are you’re already dehydrated. Make it a point to drink before you feel thirsty.
  2. Eat fruits and vegetables. The high water content in these foods helps add to your fluid intake. For example, watermelon and strawberries are about 92 percent water; cucumbers and lettuce are 96 percent water.
  3. Consume soup and other salty foods. Not only does soup help to keep you warm, but the sodium content helps your body retain water and prevent dehydration. This technique is best used after exercising.
  4. Drink hot chocolate. When made with milk, hot chocolate is an ideal post-workout drink due to the protein-to-carbohydrate ratio in milk with the added benefit of warmth. The idea of sipping on a hot beverage is often more enticing when it’s cold.
  5. Limit alcohol. Consuming alcoholic beverages suppresses anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), reducing the kidney’s ability to reabsorb water resulting in more urine production.
  6. Carry a water bottle with you. When you have a bottle of water with you all the time, taking sips will become habitual and your fluid consumption will increase. Just remember, your body is better at absorbing small quantities of water, so it’s better to sip on fluids throughout the day than to chug a lot of water at one time.

For more training tips, visit IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute.

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Ali Vise