Walking in a Winter Wonderland

A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland.

The seasonal song makes it sound like everyone loves walking in the winter. Yet, I know plenty of Florida racewalkers who fuss when the temperature dips below 60.

On the other hand, how about this e-mail note I received from racewalker, Leslie Pelletier, who lives in Maine. "I had a wonderful 12-mile walk this morning at 3 a.m. (yes, that is when I train). It was about 35 degrees. No breeze, starlit sky, just perfect. I cannot imagine using a treadmill in such lovely weather." In Florida we can't imagine not using a treadmill in 35-degree weather. For that matter, who can imagine racewalking regularly at 3 a.m.?

I was in Chicago doing racewalking lessons the first weekend in November, and when it was 26 degrees for my first lesson in the morning, I realized that even though it's perfect weather in Florida now, the racewalkers and walkers farther north could use some direction on how to dress properly for the colder walking weather.

Cold weather is relative—it's defined differently by where you live. The West-Central area of Florida hosts the Turkey Trot every Thanksgiving morning in Clearwater. Each year attendance has grown and a few years ago, the race topped 11,000 runners and walkers (it's grown to over 1500 since then). One year on Thanksgiving, we had our version of a cold snap, the temperature was 49 degrees and sunny on race morning. Twelve hundred less walkers and runners showed up than had been expected.

The reason given by the race director—the "cold" weather. If you live in a city where it drops to 20 degrees or less in the winter, then 49 degrees and sunny might seem like ideal racing conditions. If like Leslie in Maine, your winters dip into the single digits or below, then I suppose that 35 degrees seems "just perfect" for a winter walk.

If you live in Florida like I do, there's no reason that you can't be outdoors walking every day. As Dr. Anthony Abbott (Fitness Institute International) says, "You can't be fit only six months of the year when weather conditions are perfect." If you're going to pick walking or running as your fitness sport, it's best to learn how to be prepared to do it on most days.  

In the north where it's freezing and icy, you'll need to either find an indoor track or treadmill to do your walking or else find another outdoor sport (cross country skiing, snow shoeing) when conditions are not appropriate for walking or racewalking. Knowing how to dress can go a long way in keeping you enjoying your walking outdoors throughout most of the winter.

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