Don’t look now but winter is pretty much already here.
Wednesday morning’s little snow episode reminded us that the cold stuff has returned, even if the official start of winter is still more than a week away.
Winter running presents some unique challenges but it doesn’t have to be all misery if you’re properly prepared.
With that in mind, here’s our annual checklist to keep in mind when heading out the door and into those flurries:
>1. Stay lit: If you’re running after dark, make sure you are well illuminated, especially on the streets. Head lamps (which attach to your head, of course) are effective and keep your hands free. Flashlights are also a good option. Go for the high-powered military grade to get the attention of oncoming traffic.
>2. Pick an out-and-back course: You want to pick a course which starts off going into the wind when you have a lot of energy and then have the wind at your back on the way home. And may the road rise up to meet you.
>3. Stretch first: Muscles take longer to warm up in winter. Do a three-to-five-minute stretch routine, then walk five or 10 minutes around the house. Work up a sweat if possible. It won’t feel as cold when you get outside. A post-run stretch is a good idea, too. This will help prevent stiffness and soreness the next morning.
>4. Dress in layers: No need to dress like you are visiting Alaska. A couple layers of synthetics will do. Don’t forget the hat and gloves. Put everything on before you do the aforementioned stretching session.
>5. Run with a partner: There’s nothing like setting up a running date with a partner (or two) to keep you from staying inside in front of the fireplace. The same goes for group outings with friends or a running club.
>6. New courses: Winter is the perfect time to explore new courses to prevent monotony and boredom. There’s nothing wrong with driving 10 miles to a state park to get some new sights and sounds.
>7. Plan a warm weather vacation: San Diego is our destination of choice for Christmas week. Not too hot, not too cool. Great roads, beaches and views of the Pacific. It’s a great way to get some relief from those daily frigid conditions.
>8. Cross training/Nordic skiing: When the snow reaches an appreciable amount on the ground, break out the cross-country skis and head to parks like Tyler or Core Creek. Cut your own trail or follow someone else’s track. Also, if you get out before the runners and hikers, the Delaware Canal path is not bad either.
>9. Proper footware: Hey, it’s often slushy or icy out there. So wear the sturdiest shoes you can find, with a good tread and water resistant uppers.
>10. Hydrate: Even though the thermometer is chilling out around the freezing mark, your body still loses electrolytes through perspiration. A quick sports drink before departure will cover this.
>11. Avoid the streets if you can: Run off the streets as much as possible. With the shortened days, it gets dark early. Drivers can’t see you well. Use sidewalks and, better yet, trails, canal paths, ballfields, etc.
>12. Music: One way to put up with the bad elements is to add headphones and your favorite crooner. Just make sure you don’t do this on busy roadways or trails with rocks and roots. Then the Rolling Stones are OK.
>13. Lip balm: Don’t forget the Chapstick. Your lips will thank you, especially when temps get down in the single digits.
>14. Winter Series: The Bucks County Roadrunners Club puts on a wonderful dozen races at Tyler State Park, scheduled for each Sunday. Head over there, socialize, compete, eat, drink and be merry.
>15. Gear down: With the scarcity of winter races, there’s no reason to get all hyper with the mileage. This is the time of year to slow the pace, build up your base and set a pace that’s comfortable for a change.
>16. Cross-train: When the really heavy stuff starts to fall, think about using indoor sports such as tennis, swimming and stationary biking as a replacement. And then there’s always the treadmill, aka, the “Dreadmill.’’
>17. Make it fun: Winter running doesn’t have to be a chore. Find ways to break up the old routine, go dashing through the snow and congratulate yourself when you get back from that run in one piece.
Bucks County Roadrunners Club Winter Series Covered Bridge 5K, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com