Running, Hot and Cold
When I lived in South Texas, where I took my running up another level, I got used to running in the heat. In serious heat. Summers could run more than 100 days with temperatures over 100 degrees. We used to say there was a warm season and a windy season, which was also warm, but with wind. I think my blood thinned. It was hard. I would have to work on drinking enough water every day to make sure that I didn’t get dehydrated. I would feel sticky just walking out the front door. But I rarely decided not to run just because of the heat. I’d just wait for the sun to go down (which let’s be honest, didn’t help that much).
Since moving to Indiana, I’ve been running in the cold. The real cold. I ran the Jingle Bell 10k in Indy in the middle of December in below freezing temperatures. I ran fast–for me. I even won something. The week before Christmas, I was in Spokane and ran everyday in below freezing temperatures on snow and in snow. It was amazing. Unlike running in the heat which feels to me like a sap on my energy, running in the cold is invigorating. It wakes you up. Cold running makes me happy. Maybe because running releases the hormones that combat depression that winter often makes us prone to with the shorter days and the grayer weather. I’ve been running on snow and ice in both Indiana and most recently in Spokane, Washington and find that running in the snow and ice slows you down but is an amazing core workout because you have to work those muscles just to stay upright.
My first winter in Indiana I was not thrilled by the idea. I ran on treadmills, but I don’t like the treadmill. It doesn’t let me adjust my pace the way I would like to, the way that allows me to respond to my body and do what feels good, as I discuss here. But it was so cold! I invested in some gear: I bought a running hat and running gloves, more warm running clothes, I already had a running windbreaker. With the right gear, I feel pretty good out there until about 15º and below (once, running outside my phone stopped working and said it was overheated, but since it was 10º outside, I decided that that’s the only temperature-related notice they have). A colleague suggested doing a short five minute workout in my house so that I would already be warmed up before going outside, so I started doing that. But still, there were days that I just chickened out because of the cold.
I’ve been thinking about cold running because I have returned to hot yoga in the last week–I’ve gone everyday for the last five days. When I first started doing yoga in graduate school it was at a Baptiste hot power yoga studio in University City in Philadelphia. I liked the workout. I would smell myself sweating out the toxins. But boy is it hot (Bikram yoga, which is the bread and butter of this studio, puts the heat at about 105º with 40% humidity). With this return to hot yoga in the context of a cold running routine, I’m not nearly as excited by the heat as I used to be. It’s great. I like the sweat. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m twelve or fifteen years older than the last time I did real hot yoga. Maybe it is because this studio is really not messing around about the heat. Maybe the heat just makes you think about cold. Maybe it’s because after a cold run my lungs feel bigger, like all the cold air rushed in and hasn’t left, while hot yoga makes me feel like I am never quite getting enough air. Instead of feeling like a respite from the cold, the hot yoga has me missing cold runs.
I never thought I’d be looking forward to the cold runs. But here I am. Beep beep boop.