Going for a winter run? Here's what you need to know

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

Running outside is a great way to exercise and spend some time, but with the weather getting colder, there's more you need to be aware of when heading out for a post meal jog.

WellSpan Health physical therapist Chadd Rudasill has some tips if you want to exercise outside during the cold winter months.

"The No. 1 tip that I've always found helpful is if you dress approximately 10 to 20 degrees warmer than it is. So if it's 40 degrees out, dress like it's 50 to 60 degrees," Rudasill said in an interview. "That way you're not overdressing, but you also want to have enough layers to stay warm."

Multiple layers are important because if you get hot while exercising, you can shed those layers. Rudasill also recommended wearing wool or polyester, which will allow your skin to breathe and also dry quickly.

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York YMCA's 2022 turkey trot in York on Nov. 24, 2022.

Risks from not taking precautions before running in the cold are fairly straightforward, Rudasill said. Those include hypothermia or frostbite.

Symptoms of hypothermia, caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures, include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech and drowsiness. If a person's temperature is under 95 degrees Fahrenheit, they should be taken to a medical facility immediately. If that is not possible, get the person to a warm area as soon as possible, remove any wet clothing and warm the center of the body.

Symptoms of frostbite, also caused by prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures, include a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, and numbness. Similar to hypothermia, sufferers should be taken to a medical facility immediately. If that is not possible, get the person to a warm area and put the affected areas in warm, not hot, water as soon as possible.

Greg Pituch, of Jefferson, said he's been running ultramarathons for five years now. He had some advice to pass along.

"Be wary of icy spots, and limit the speedwork," Pituch recommended. "Hitting the pavement hard after slipping can cause serious damage.  It is also easy to pull a muscle if you are careless and go too fast when you slip on the ice."

Running shoes can cause concern because they're fairly lightweight without a lot of insulation, Rudasill said. That could mean frostbite on toes. In addition, running on ice is a concern; make sure your shoes have good traction for the surface you're running on.

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"Another risk a lot of people overlook is dehydration. A lot of people don't sweat as much when it's cold, but you're still using that fluid, so you got to make sure you rehydrate, hydrate before and hydrate after," Rudasill said.

As the days get shorter, that means longer hours of darkness. Bringing a light, like a headlamp, can be helpful if running in the late afternoon or evening.

If you're running an out and back, Rudasill recommended running into the wind on your way out so that you can run with the wind on your way back and not get extra windchill when you're sweaty and tired.

Running in the winter is worth it, Leo Motter, of eastern York County, said.

"Even familiar trails are utterly transformed when the leaves come down and the ground turns white.  With the leaves off the trees you have much better views when you're running on a ridge or hilltop.  You can suddenly see for miles," Motter said via email. "One of the most magical experiences is running while the snow is actually falling, which makes the whole landscape even more silent and beautiful."

More than during other seasons, Motter recommended bringing a cellphone in case of emergency. Especially if you run in the woods, you can't count on another runner or passerby coming by.

"There's no bad running season.  There are only seasons where you need a little bit more gear!" he wrote.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.