What are some bad weather alternatives to running?
August 23, 2007 2:18 PM   Subscribe

What are some bad weather alternatives to running?

My girlfriend and I have gotten into running lately, but I'm wondering what we could do when it gets too cold or slippery outside to continue to do so? I'm looking for alternatives that are beneficial in about the same ways while being around the same level of difficulty as well.

We initially thought of joining a gym that has a running track, but those memberships tend to be expensive, and it's a lot less scenic. That might be what we end up doing, but I wonder if there's anything better.
posted by ignignokt to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't tell where you are located, but I live in Canada and I run all winter... In fact I prefer it to running in the dead heat and humidity of summer. Don't rule it out until you've done it. Get good gear and you'll be fine (assuming you don't live on Antarctica.)
posted by loiseau at 2:35 PM on August 23, 2007

I like running in winter, too. The cold makes you want to keep your pace up. It takes some getting used to, though. You want to start with 1/3 your normal routine and work back up.
posted by sweetkid at 2:37 PM on August 23, 2007

If you live near a college/university, their fieldhouse probably has an indoor track--it may be cheaper to get a membership there.
posted by rhoticity at 2:43 PM on August 23, 2007

Nthing running through the winter. I like winter running better than slogging through the heat and humidity of summer. Just wear a lot of layers!
posted by hollisimo at 2:51 PM on August 23, 2007

You need some ice grips, something like YakTrax. When I ran in the winter I slipped all over the place until I bought something like that (not YakTrax, but something similar).
posted by Anonymous at 2:56 PM on August 23, 2007

When it's snowy I run on trails in snowshoes. It's one hell of a workout.

My mom gave me some cleats that strap on to shoes for running in icy conditions, but I haven't tried them yet.

I rather enjoy running in the rain (with a big ol' rain jacket), though I don't enjoy *long* runs in the rain because then my shoes and socks get soggy and I get blistery, etc.

Other than that, if I want to run, I go to the gym and simply use the treadmill. This also ensures that I get an additional form of exercise (spin class, elliptical machine) because when I go to the gym, I like to make the trip worth it.

But mostly, these days I use a stairmaster machine at home that I bought used for $50. It's the best leg/butt/cardio workout I've ever gotten for time spent. (Except perhaps spin class, because in spin class there's an instructor who will kick my ass, whereas I'm on my own to set the intensity level on the stairmaster.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 2:56 PM on August 23, 2007

(Yeah, it's YakTrax that my mom gave me!)
posted by iguanapolitico at 2:57 PM on August 23, 2007

Best answer: And again. As long as the cold isn't at dangerous levels, you'll be surprised how much nicer it is in the cold than in the heat. I don't even wear long pants unless it's about freezing or below outside. Once your core temperature builds up, you'll be surprised how comfortable you are.

Rule of thumb: if you're not cold when you start running, you're wearing too much.

However, to answer the question more directly: If you're really going to stick with the running, then you might find that investing in a good treadmill is worth the trouble. My wife talked me into buying one, and I can't tell you how handy it's been to have around.

Just set it up where you can see a TV or computer monitor so you'll have something to watch while you go.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:58 PM on August 23, 2007

That "And again" was for hollisimo's comment, natch. Must preview.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:59 PM on August 23, 2007

Not a runner, but if you have access to a lap pool or something not too deep, maybe get some of those water shoes with tread on them and try "running" in a lap pool?

We used to do this in wrestling way back in high school, all of us would run in a circle and get a current going then reverse and run against it. That was in bad weather, if not then we ran outside (in Alaska in winter) for miles, in wrestling shoes (no padding) hard on the feet but winter running wasnt too bad really - better than running in high heat/humidity.
posted by clanger at 3:00 PM on August 23, 2007

nthing running in the cold/wet, although it takes a little practice to know how many layers to use. personally i found that a thinish wool hat and gloves were a good idea - small enough to take off if you get really hot, and they seem to keep you warmer than a similar weight worn as an extra body layer. also, of course, some kind of leggings/tracksuit bottoms rather than (or as well as) shorts!

for rain, you can try plastic bags on your socks (inside your shoes) or even your feet. they get sweaty wet, but stay warm. i found this worked better for cycling than running, though.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:02 PM on August 23, 2007

Sorry but another vote for running. Depending on the temp, gloves that cover fingers are an absolute must. If you wear glasses, consider contacts. When I wear my glasses in the winter, they get fogged to the point of blindness. Also, consider getting additional clothing for body parts that could chafe. Other than that, I normally wear shorts and a few layers of shirts/jacket.

Additionally, be damn careful not to run on the icy roads/sidewalks. Last year one of my running partners slipped on an icy sidewalk and broke her tailbone. She hasn't run since.
posted by toomuch at 3:25 PM on August 23, 2007

Response by poster: I'm in Chicago. I've run a few times in the winter, but my girlfriend's not too keen on it, as much because of the slipperiness as the cold.

But until there's no ice down, maybe we can keep going.

So, I take it you winter runners don't get sick any more often than anyone else?

Treadmills are just incredibly unsatisfying, but perhaps we'll have to live with those.
posted by ignignokt at 3:32 PM on August 23, 2007

FWIW, I don't get sick from running outside in the winter. I get sick by being stuck inside an office with other sick people. I have no empirical data on this but I seem to get sick less than others during cold/flu season. I always attributed this to being in shape. Where I live, one does have to be very wary of running outside when the pollution is especially high though.
posted by toomuch at 3:40 PM on August 23, 2007

Oh and I just want to point out that running while a light snow is falling has to be one of the coolest things on Earth. I don't know why, it just is.
posted by toomuch at 3:43 PM on August 23, 2007

Even a brisk walk in snowshoes will get your heart rate up, especially if the snow is deep. Cross-country skiing is also great exercise and a lot of fun once you get the hang of it (give it a couple sessions, even if you're sliding around a lot at first). As others have said, you'll be amazed at how warm you'll be after about 10 minutes of moving.

If you'd rather move your workout indoors, nothing's going to be as scenic (obviously). In that case I'd recommend a treadmill, bike, or elliptical cross-trainer and something great to listen to on a music player. I like to use a subscription service (Rhapsody, Napster, whatever) to reload my mp3 player with new workout mixes pretty regularly, too keep myself motivated. Variety is important. Podcasts are also great - it's easier to stay on a treadmill for an hour instead of hitting the showers after 40 minutes when you really want to hear the end of This American Life (or whatever you prefer). Audio books might be good too. If the scenery's not going to keep you interested, the audio is a good substitute.
posted by vytae at 3:55 PM on August 23, 2007

Best answer: Running in cold, dry air isn't good for your lungs, so you may want to watch that.
posted by Camel of Space at 4:13 PM on August 23, 2007

You need screw shoes. Cheap and effective, always a winning combination
posted by gregoryc at 5:06 PM on August 23, 2007

Running in cold, dry air isn't good for your lungs, so you may want to watch that.

True dat. However any other aerobic activity that forces you to breathe heavily in cold, dry air such as ice-skating, skiing (downhill or cross-country), mountain-climbing, snow-shoeing etc. is perfectly fine. /sarcasm off.
posted by randomstriker at 7:25 PM on August 23, 2007

Best answer: I'm in Chicago.

'Nuff said. You get pretty cold temps plus lots of ice/snow in the wintertime up there. Don't blame you for hesitating to go out, though I'd encourage you to do so unless it's unbearable or unsafe.

Honestly, if you're not prepared to go outside, and the treadmill just sounds like a bleak alternative (and I don't blame you, though there are ways to distract yourself on a treadmill), then your best option is to find an affordable Y or other club with an indoor track.

So, I take it you winter runners don't get sick any more often than anyone else?

I'm south of the Mason/Dixon line, but we do get sub-freezing temperatures down here. Nothing like the two-pair-of-socks cold you get up there, natch, but the cold shouldn't make you sick as long as you dress appropriately. Being in Chicago, wind will of course be an issue, but as I said, you'll be surprised how comfortable you get when your core temperature gets raised enough. As mentioned above, wear two layers. I generally wear a good synthetic short-sleeved wicking shirt with a heavier long-sleeved shirt over it, shorts unless it gets near or below freezing, and pants or tights if it does.

Also, don't do anything stupid like run in all cotton clothing. That shit'll soak your sweat up, hold it, turn ice cold, and then you'll be miserable. Invest in good synthetic moisture-wicking running stuff, even socks.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:38 PM on August 23, 2007

For those of us who can't wear contacts, and must wear glasses, what is an option for wet weather?
posted by mmf at 8:43 PM on August 23, 2007

I found that I could run comfortably in weather down to 20 degrees F. Anything below that and my lips and nose get too cold. If you have a similar tolerance for the cold, that's only going to rule out a handful of days in the winter.

One of my fondest memories is running through a blizzard of massive snow flakes at night.
posted by 517 at 10:54 PM on August 23, 2007

Just to second Andrew Cooke's comment about thin gloves and a hat - I've found they're by far the best way of feeling warmer + easy to carry if you get too hot.

mmf - what's the problem exactly? I've run with glasses for years and at worst I just wipe them to make the drops run together rather than mist up. Maybe a baseball type cap would help though?
posted by crocomancer at 1:32 AM on August 24, 2007

on glasses.... i don't find rain that much of a problem. typically you can still see well enough. mist is more of a problem and you can work round this by putting soap on your lenses - wet the lenses and your fingers, rub your fingers on soap, and then rub the fingers on the lenses and leave to dry. again, it's not perfect, but it's good enough - you don't get the "whiteout".

as far as health goes, i never noticed running in the cold changing things (and of course, if it's running or nothing, you're probably more healthy running).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:35 AM on August 24, 2007

Running in cold, dry air isn't good for your lungs, so you may want to watch that.

This is a common concern of people who have never done aerobic activity at cold temperatures. It's way overblown. I've never had a problem and I've got a mild form of ashma.

You adapt. I regularly run at -20C and below without difficulty. For XC skiing below -30C, the main concern is the lack of a good grip wax, not breathing.

The only "trick" to low temperature activitiy is to dress for it, to know that sweat is your main enemy. At realy low temperatures, below -30C, it's often nice to have a light scarf or neckwarmer that you can breathe through, but I usually find those more of a bother than anything.
posted by bonehead at 8:36 AM on August 24, 2007

I haven't tried it myself yet but I was thinking about this too. My ideas were: 1. Easter martial arts style upper body combos. I was in a training program for those a while ago for a short time so I learned a few basic moves. Lower body moves are probably not so good where I live because neighbours down below will have something to say about it. 2. Static exercise like handstands, various hand balances - a very tough workout. I don't that very often but not to the point where it'd be a complete workout. In particular, headstand, handstand, balance on hands while keeping body horizontal to the ground (a very tough one, you need really good tummy muscles), balancing on hands where knees rest in the area behind elbows. Any yoga book will have about 10% of exercises that will be tough enough to work up a sweat when you do them persistently. 3. If you have a huge room, practice sword moves. Buy a good sword for around $200, perhaps a replica of Green Destiny from Crouching Tiger, put that movie in your dvd player and repeat everything they do, especially the picturesque saltos if you're up to it. Unfortunately I don't have enough space so I can't really do that..
posted by rainy at 11:34 AM on August 25, 2007

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