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Pitfalls of Winter Running

Watch out for cold temps and slippery surfaces

SATURDAY, Feb. 21, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Once you get hooked on exercise, giving it up for even a day or two can be difficult.

However, for people whose workouts include running outdoors, winter can pose some special challenges.

The biggest potential problem is frostbite. To avoid this, dress in layers. Two to four layers on the top and one to two layers for your legs are generally sufficient, according to the Road Runners Club of America. Clothing, especially the layers closest to your skin, should be made of material that wicks moisture away from the body. Wool, silk, polypropylene and polyester are all good choices. Since most of the body's heat is lost through the head and hands, don't forget to cover them properly.

It's OK, however, to feel slightly cold when you start to run because you'll warm up quickly during your workout. Clothing with vents or zippers can also help keep you from getting overheated as you warm up.

Another big problem for winter runners is ice. Obviously if you can avoid running on slippery surfaces, you should. However, since that's not always possible, be careful you don't alter your foot-strike pattern too dramatically, advises the American Academy of Podiatric Medicine. Many runners increase their traction on ice and snow by landing on their whole foot, rather than the natural heel to toe motion. This puts runners at risk for muscle strain and overuse injuries.

The podiatric association also says it takes muscles longer to warm up in cold weather, making stretching even more important.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers advice on safe running.

SOURCES: Road Runners Club of America; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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