When we think of dangerous sports, we often think of activities that produce the most injuries: football, hockey, basketball, etc. These so-called ‘dangerous’ sports are usually contact sports, or they are sports that demand a high level of energy combined with a high level of movement. However, there are risks involved in every sport, and that means every athlete needs to be aware of best practices and injury prevention techniques. With the onset of winter around the corner, it is especially important for athletes who will still be active in the cold weather to be prepared for, and know how to treat, potential injuries.
Runners are amongst those athletes that practice their sport year-round, and some runners (myself include) actually prefer to train in the cold weather, thus putting our bodies to the ultimate test as we push ourselves to excel in spite of freezing temperatures. For any athlete who will be exposed to winter weather during training over the next few months, there are a few important things to keep in mind that will help prevent injuries.
- Wear Layers
This one may seem obvious, but it’s extremely important. If you’re mindful about your layering, then you’ll be able to run in any type of temperature. The best practice is to start with a tighter, moisture wicking layer so you won’t have any sweat or moisture sticking to your skin, making you more comfortable and less at-risk for hypothermia. Your second and third layers should be chosen on a case by case basis. If the temperature isn’t too low, and the wind isn’t too strong, layering a thin, but insulated running jacket or pullover on top is ideal. This will provide you with mobility and protection without being too bulky. However, it’s always best to over-layer; you can easily strip layers off during a run, but it’s much harder to warm yourself up if you haven’t prepared correctly.
- Don’t neglect your hands, feet and head
When I was little, my mom would scream at me if I left the house during winter without a hat. At the time, I was annoyed and worried about my hair getting messed up; however, nowadays when I go for a run in the winter, I always wear a hat. It is common knowledge that we lose much of our heat through the top of our head, but wearing a thin running beanie is an easy way to preserve your body heat. Plus, there are all kinds of cool running hats on the market right now. Some have built-in Bluetooth headphones, while others have sun-visors to block out that harsh winter sun.
Wearing proper gloves and socks is important, too. Exposing your hands and fingers to extremely cold temperatures during a long run could be very harmful, and you also need to make sure your toes and feet are getting the proper amount of circulation. Stocking up on socks and gloves designed specifically for running in cold weather is a good way to make sure you’re never caught on a run with frozen fingers or toes.
- Stay hydrated
Staying hydrating during a winter run can sometimes become an afterthought for athletes. Training in freezing temperatures feels much different than training under the blaring summer sun, but that doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need just as much hydration during the winter. You are still sweating and losing electrolytes during winter training, so be sure to consistently rehydrate. A great way to keep hydration close at hand is with a running belt. These belts are designed to fit small bottles around your waist which you can easily grab during a run. Fill these with water and any other sports drink of your preference, and use them regularly during your winter training!
Being prepared during winter training is very important, but it is just as important to take care of your body before and after your cold weather activities. Check out Anjuna Medicine’s article, “Acupuncture and Massage for Cold Weather Sports Injuries” for more information on how acupuncture and massage therapy treatments can help prevent and heal specific injuries athlete’s encounter during winter.