Today was my first outdoor winter run of the year so the running surface was solid snow and ice but the temperature a mild 20°F. When you live in Northeastern Minnesota dealing with the cold is just a way of life, particularly in the winter, but for some reason after my heart attack I became more susceptible to its bite. My body felt like it was freezing every time I stepped outside and my extremities were always cold and numb feeling. My favorite winter sport pre-heart attack was riding snowmobiles but post-heart attack it was simply too difficult to stay warm to really enjoy it. Needless to say, the first few times I tried running during the winter I failed miserably; my heart rate skyrocketed to unknown heights and stayed elevated long after I stopped. Exercise outside had turned into a miserable experience and definitely did not seem to be beneficial to my health at all. Now a year later, I’m finally back outside exercising so I have to say am very happy to see I’m making progress.
That year marked some of my first attempts to exercise after my heart attack so I always wore a heart monitor to keep a close eye on how my heart reacted to activities. It was interesting to find out that when I ran outside in sub-freezing weather my average heart rate was at least 20 bpm higher than it was when I ran the same exact speed indoors on a treadmill! Not sure why but those were then numbers and not only would my heart start racing but my feet and hands would be completely numb within the first couple miles. Wasn’t too hard to switch to an indoor workout where it was nice and toasty warm so for the next few years that’s what I did. However, being a Minnesotan, I couldn’t keep hiding from the cold so to be able to get back to exercising in the the winter was one of my first goals and I did it.
Today marked the reaching of my goal and it was an awesome day! …Well, maybe those of you from the desert will have trouble relating it to awesome but trust me it was. I went 10 miles in sub-freezing weather, on snow and ice covered roads with zero issues! No racing heart, no numb fingers chipping off in the cold or losing the feeling in my legs! Just an a great run on a winter day. Definitely awesome!
I went slow, keeping my averaging speed no more than 9.5 minute miles. The footing was really cushy in places along the side of the road where snow had drifted up but it’s like running in sand so it actually required a little more effort. In other areas, ground was pretty icy which made the footing more of a challenge and forced me run with a shorter stride/faster cadence. At a nine and half minute mile pace, I was able to breathe through my nose pretty good and since I didn’t get a sore throat from the cold air I’m going to say that technique worked well. I am going to continue to restrict all my speed work indoors on the treadmill until warm weather comes back but hopefully I will repeat many slower paced outdoor runs like today’s throughout the winter! Click here if you would like to view this run as it recorded on my Garmin.