gA RECENT JAPANESE STUDY REPORTED RESULTS THAT PROBABLY SURPRISED NO ONE WHO HAS EVER EXERCISED WITH HIGH INTENSITY IN THE COLD AND WET. IN THE ARTICLE “Rain exacerbates cold and metabolic strain during high intensity running” researchers describe how they simulated outdoor (wind) rainy conditions and had 12 men run for 60 minutes on a treadmill in a climate chamber with an air temperature of 5 degrees Centigrade (41 degrees Fahrenheit). In the experimental RAIN group, a continuous soaking with water was delivered via nozzles in front and above the runners. The “rain” water temp was about 2 degrees lower than that of the ambient air (~ 39 degrees F).
In CONTROL conditions participants did not experience the “rain”. All study participants were part of a university track team and previously exercised 6 days per week; ages averaged 21 years.
Runners performed each of the runs (RAIN and CONTROL) after a 12 hour fast, and wore identical 100% polyester running shirts and shorts.
Skin (chest, upper arm, thigh, and calf) and rectal (oh dear) temperatures were measured at 10, 40, 50, and 60 minutes. Oxygen consumption, perceived rate of exertion, and plasma lactate and epinephrine levels were also measured.
It was found that “rain increased heat loss during the early phase of exercise in the cold then heat production increased transiently and transiently suppressed cold stress”.
This has been my experience. I optimistically believe that by initially going out hard my body heat will keep me warm. However the study demonstrated that “with time, body heat loss intensified due to increasing wet area, and then energy expenditure and lactate increased due to cold stress”. The scientific results matched what experience has taught most any-weather runners: inevitably, cold and discomfort set in, which effects performance.
The study scientists concluded “therefore, rain may decrease exercise performance and affect sport safety”.
So, we now have science to back up the fact that we need to protect ourselves when exercising outdoors in cold and wet (rain or snow) conditions with gear that resists precipitation. [Proper pre-run nourishment would also help but the topic isn't to be covered in this post.]
Since the study participants wore only shirts and shorts in this activity, it does not take a complicated scientific theory to predict they would soon begin to feel the effects of the simulated cold and wet weather. Even pre-schoolers are likely to know that leaving the school building to play outside without extra covering won't be much fun after a while.
Outdoor exercisers know that taking simple measures like wearing a visor hat, adding a water resistant shell over a long sleeve tech-shirt underlayer, and donning tights that cover the legs can go a long way toward retaining warmth and comfort during sport. Still, if environmental wetness penetrates clothing layers and reaches the skin, misery is sure to set in. Now science shows us that performance is worsened and injury is risked.
The same can be said for wetness effecting the feet. Another item of GEAR that can make a cold and wet workout possible and even enjoyable are water resistant shoes. Might Gore-tex material keep out water and snow better than usual running shoe mesh uppers? I reasoned this would be true and decided to give Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 Mid GTX trail shoes a trial of Michigan's late fall weather.
West Michigan recently had the earliest dump of cold and snow ever in November, and my shoes arrived in time for a tough, preliminary road test. The high-top design and Gore-tex fabric kept my feet and ankles warm and dry on each of 3 walk/runs; I won’t need ankle gaiters wearing these shoes. The Vibram soles gripped the few icy spots I encountered. However, because winter has not yet fully arrived here a true test of slipping prevention will need to wait until much colder and snowier conditions prevail.
With such limited experience my personal trial of the HOKA's Goretex trail shoe is not completed, but going into the winter months, I feel better prepared than usual to enjoy the season during outdoor exercise sessions. There are likely other shoes that will serve the purpose, but since supplies often don’t last long of this type of gear, it seems like an earlier ‘heads-up’ notice about potential gear solutions to winter problems was needed.
Share your wet/cold fighting tips with Earned Runs!
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
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Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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