What’s Your Number?

winter running

So many of us are stuck in a deep freeze right now…

…except for Darling Colby, who has been in Sunny Florida for the past week! If I didn’t love her so much, I would hate her…

They’re calling this cold snap the “Arctic Blast.” I guess “Polar Vortex” is sooooo 2014, so someone came up with a new catchphrase. Whatever. “They” are calling it the Arctic Blast and “they” sure are talking about it a lot. Cold temps, wind chill, deep freeze, snow squalls…yeah, yeah, I get it. It’s cold. Once it’s cold, I don’t really want to hear or talk about the minutiae of the different ways in which it is cold, but it is hard to avoid the chatter.

The Arctic Blast got me thinking about my temperature limits for running outside. Figuring out what the magic number is that will force me inside on the ‘mill. Because I really, really, hate the ‘mill.

Before last year’s Peak Snowshoe challenge, I might have said 10. But after having snowshoed up a mountain in weather that was in low single digits at the base and lived to tell, I’m a little more flexible now. Today I ran 4 miles in low teens and was HOT. Sweating, even. It was sunny and despite all the talk about wind chills lately, I barely felt a breeze. I was not bundled up like a character in “A Christmas Story,” either: I wore running tights with thermals under them, wool socks, a turtleneck baselayer, my Bundle Me running jacket and hat and gloves. The only part of me that wasn’t warm was my nose, and it was not painfully cold. Just not warm. I think the sun made all the difference. I also find that any run is more comfortable if I don’t listen to the weather report first. Honestly, all the drama and talk are more annoying than the cold itself.

So, I’m going to go out on a ledge and say that my limit for a short- or –mid length run is zero, assuming no snow or crazy wind. I could definitely add layers to what I was wearing today and make it through some lower temps. And I would definitely prefer that to the treadmill.

It’s the other end of the temperature spectrum that kills me. Heat and humidity. Ugh. I’ll take a day like today over an August dog day anytime, anywhere. I think my heat limit for running is 80-85 degrees and you can be sure that I will bitch the whole way. And feel like crap afterward. In New England, if it is over 70, it is bound to be humid, so the heat & humidity are a package deal and any 80 degree run is going to feel like a jaunt through the rainforest. I’m uncomfortable just thinking about it. I have heard about this magical thing called dry heat, but it rarely visits Connecticut. Sigh. The cold can be uncomfortable, but to me, heat, and especially, humidity are downright intolerable. I see people running in the middle of the day during the summer and am just amazed. How do they do it without passing out?

Are you a hot weather runner or a cold weather runner? Do you have limits for when you will exercise outside? What’s your number?

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46 thoughts on “What’s Your Number?

  1. Great post 🙂 I think it is important to figure out what works for you as limits and where you feel best. I did a post a couple of weeks ago (not for my personal blog) about ‘weather break points’, where we change our gear or layering … and when we give up.

    Last winter I discovered I could do -20F temperatures several times, but chose to not try on the one -30 day we had … so I say -20F as my ‘low end’.

    As for high end, I have done up to 90F and humid … but it wasn’t fun. At 85F and high humidity it was about as high as I felt ‘good’, but still couldn’t ever get caught up with hydration.

    • I can never get caught up with hydration on hot summer runs. It’s awful.

      I don’t know if it has ever gotten to -20F here, at least without wind chill. I’m impressed – don’t know if I could handle that!

      When I did the snowshoe race last year, I thought I would get frostbite standing in line waiting to pick up my bib, but once we started racing, I was fine and shedding layers left and right.

  2. When I lived in Minnesota, I would run in the (dark) evenings if it were above 0 degrees and above -10 degrees wind chill. Also, I was not the only one running outside on those cold, dark nights! The most important thing is to cover your mouth for breathing. That being said, after running the past two days in kinda cold weather (~20 degrees), I did take a break today. What a wimp I am!

  3. I have a cold threshold of 20. When it gets below that, I won’t run outdoors. As for summer, I love anything above 85 with a high humidity level because I get to sweat like I was taking a shower. Everyone thinks I’m nuts…but I don’t care. I enjoy it…

    Also, no one else is out on the trails when it’s that hot so I don’t have to worry about bikers and other runners slowing me down.

    great post! thanks

  4. Hey!!! Great post!! I’m definitely a cool weather runner (not too hot/not too cold)!! Seriously, this past Sunday I was running in 70 degree weather!! Today, I ran inside (on an indoor track) because it was 10 degrees outside (I live in Hampton Roads, VA)!! Such weird weather lately!! I’m fine running in the low 30’s, though. Happy Running!! Have a happy Friday!! XOXO

  5. I do find it funny that the term Polar Vortex didn’t carry over to this year too. Weird.
    You are so awesome for running through the cold. It’s hard to get me out the door if it’s under 20. Maybe if I’m meeting friends, I can be convinced to run in the teens. & it’s not for my lack of winter gear, I’ve just never (ever ever) been ok with cold weather. I foresee a lot of treadmill time this winter.
    As for the summer? 95 is my limit. I love a good sweaty run in the heat (though I may whine about my pace in the moment) 😉

    • I’ll trade some of my cold tolerance for just a teeny bit of your heat tolerance! The thing I have the hardest time with in the summer is that I’m not just miserable during the run, but also feel wiped out afterward,at least when it is 80+.and pace? Abysmal.

  6. You Polar Vortex survivors are really kicking butt getting outside in those temperatures. My low end limit is 15F and if it’s over 80F then I’m probably not going to leave the house. It’s not my fault I was raised in a temperate climate!

    • Oh, those raised in a temperate climate need not apply for running positions in New England. It’s hot, and cold, sometimes in the same day. I think New England weather broke my internal thermostat sometime back in the 1970’s and I haven’t been the same since.

  7. Let’s see, I’ve done a half-marathon at minus 14 (F – actual temp, windchill was some ridiculous number). We finished with icicles on our eyelashes and eyebrows. It was brisk for sure but I felt like a badass when I was done so it was good. Cycling is a different story. My limit there is about 20. I hear you about the arctic lingity. They have to come up with “it’s winter, it’s cold” so people won’t give up on believing in global warming. It’s old. Ah well.

    • I do not like cycling in the cold. I use my trainer pretty much all winter. Never seem to warm up properly when cycling in the cold. You ARE a badass for doing a half in -14. I hope you toasted yourself with a nice hot adult beverage afterward!
      The talk about the cold can be maddening. Makes me stay away from newscasts.

  8. I am a wimp. My cold weather temp is about 40-45. I love a hot, humid summer run (Texas girl). I have run some mornings in the summer, at 5AM, where the humidity had the “feels like” in the triple digits. I wish all this cold would just.go.away.

    • Ummm….if you can run in “feels like” triple digits, you’re a warrior, not a wimp.
      Even though I don’t mind the cold as much as others, I’m happy to see that it should be in the 30’s for my next long run on Sunday. I’d hate to have to manage water and Gu for a run in these low temps.

  9. You’re brave! I just moved to Ontario from South Australia… They day I left it was 108F… today here is is around 0F. I’ve seen some brave soldiers running in the snow… but I’ve joined the gym and resigned myself to the treadmill… at least till I build up the courage to face the icy pavements!

    • Welcome to North America! I don’t think you’ll see 108F in Ontario anytime soon.
      Temperature fluctuations like that are so hard on your body. Icy pavements will send me inside. I have yaktrax runs, but there is only so much they can do on hard ice. Nothing wrong with the treadmill – I just hate it.

  10. I cannt imagine running in any weather like you’re experiencing. Everyone in SF starts freaking out when the temperature dips below 60. This morning i kept you guys experiencing the arctic blast in mind when i dragged myself out of bed to run in the “cold.”

  11. I hate the cold, and my hands and feet are cold on warm days. My preferred minimum temp would never be under 40 but I have run in the 30’s. As for heat, as long as there is no humidity, I have run up to 105F and felt ok. I hate humidity though and that tends to make me a baby.

  12. oh man. I have higher limits for heat, but a little less tolerance for cold.
    I’ll go running until 95 degrees Fahrenheit and 90% humidity, but I won’t like it.
    I’ll go running until minus 10 Fahrenheit, but if it’s below 0, I’m not too happy either.
    Either way, I figure it can get colder, I just have to wear more. If it get’s too hot, there’s only so much one can take off.

    • That’s my thinking, too. I also figure that I can cover my mouth to make breathing easier in extreme cold, but there is nothing I can do when it is hot and humid to feel like I am taking a full breath.

  13. I don’t know if the temperature is so much the number that I go by as the wind itself. Here we get such incredible blasts, and my outdoor running is limited to the lake front, so that complicates things. I think my number is zero, wind gusts is anything over 15. Which is frequent, and I go anyway, but definitely not when the two are happening at the same time.

    • Agree that the wind is the biggest factor in winter. In summer, it’s the humidity. Heat alone or cold alone are bearable, but factor in that special extra something-something and it’s awful. The winds coming off the lake must be epic. I avoid the beach areas in my town for winter runs and the Long Island Sound ain’t got nothing on Lake Michigan. Do you have to wear weighted shoes or what? 😉

  14. Last night my run was 3F with a windchill of -16F. I think that is getting pretty close to my limit. I’m not sure what my upper limit is – Michigan isn’t exactly known for its hot summers. I usually just weight until the sun starts to go down so at least I have the benefit of not being in the sun. Probably would skip my run if it was 90+.

    • I can tolerate temps better with n sun, too. I usually run very early in the morning in summers, so the sun is low, but unfortunately that is also when the humidity levels usually are at their highest. Running in the evening doesn’t work for me though – maybe when my kids are a little older, but not for now.

  15. For me, outdoor winter running isn’t limited so much by temperature as by conditions. If it’s icy, windy, or precipitating in any way (I’m looking at you, freezing rain), I’ll most likely go to the treadmill. Also, I’m not currently equipped for running in the dark (no head lamps or reflective vests or anything), so unless conditions are ideal during my lunch break, I’m pretty much stuck on the treadmill all winter. Of course, I don’t actually hate the treadmill, so it’s not a big deal.

    • I’m jealous that you don’t hate the treadmill. I wish I liked it better. It makes me feel like I have vertigo or something. I don’t run in the dark – even with the equipment, my area is not great for it. Windy roads, no sidewalks or streetlights, but plenty of cars. Too scary.
      Ice and freezing rain are the worst. I do love running in the snow, though.

  16. I’m a nativan Californian, so I don’t mind heat (don’t race well in it, but don’t mind running in it). I lived in Indio for a summer and my limit is about 100-110* for outdoor runs. 90’s are fine. Cold is a different story, but for me, the decision to move to treadmill isn’t usually just about the cold. Cold + dark + snow/ice + wind all play factors. I ran outside this week in 10* and it was lovely. But I didn’t today (25*), because there’s ice all over the running path. So I guess my range is 0-100 degrees? Did I mention that I REALLY HATE the treadmill?

    • That is a mighty large range. You definitely hate the treadmill! I will absolutely run in weather that doesn’t please me (other than ice, lightning, etc.) because when all is said and done, I’d rather be miserable outside than miserable on the treadmill.

  17. I’m sooooo a cold weather runner Tina! Go figure I’m in Florida where I melt 90% of the year haha! 😛 As long as I can keep my hands warm I could do 0-10 degrees if my hands start turning into ice sickles the rest of me quickly goes south then it’s GAME OVER!!! On the heat end of the spectrum 90 is my limit and that is only for the shorter distances because the heat index and humidity that come with that temp in Florida will murder you lol.

    • not even lol! I was thisclose to ending up a CSI victim on a run in Orlando last fall. Oh, the heat. And humidity. I can almost still feel it in my chilled bones.
      How did a cold weather runner end up in Florida and keep running? I’m impressed!!

      • Bahaha I know right! Here’s the story boy moves to Florida for school and just before he’s ready to return to Maryland he meets a girl who’s a natural Floridian … boy never leaves

    • Turn that frown upside down! It’s refreshing! And it gives everyone something to talk about!
      You had to see me making my way through the streets of NYC in snow and inappropriate footwear on Tuesday. Yeesh; I was a slip and fall waiting to happen. A lot of the walks around Rock Center are granite and marble, too, which added a little extra slick excitement to my commute!!!

  18. Ahh, this is such a great post!! I don’t like either extreme actually so I’ve got two limits. I won’t run outside if real feel is less than the teens or above 90-95. Good thing I really don’t mind the treadmill! 🙂

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