As many Jets and Giants fans are happily bragging, New York will indeed be hosting the 2014 Super Bowl; its first time in a cold-weather city. When I heard this I thought about how tough football players are, playing through the heat, the cold, wind, rain, and snow. Heck, they may even be as tough as mailmen.
But then I thought about it some more. What are they really doing? It’s essentially a weekly speedwork session (with some tackles thrown in) which occasionally takes place during a downpour.
But haven’t I done that? In fact, almost every runner out there has done something of the sort. Be it a long run in the rain, a tempo run in -10 degrees, or a beach run in 105 degree heat, we can all say ‘been there, done that’ to these tough football players. We brave the elements, and we don’t even need to be televised to do it.
This isn’t a post about just about how tough we runners are, though. It’s about the eternal question: ‘hot or cold?’ Some might consider “to be or not to be?” the eternal question, but to me this is one of the runner’s eternal questions (others include ‘to race or not to race?’ and ‘to pass at the finish line or not to pass?’).
And when debating hot and cold with myself, two recent races quickly came to mind: The Manhattan Half Marathon in freezing weather and the Long Island Half Marathon in 80 degrees with 80% humidity. I finished in approximately the same time for both, the Manhattan one being a PR and the Long Island one way off of the PR I set out to do. Finishing times aside, the Manahattan Half in the cold was by far a better race. And I’ve noticed that when it comes to long runs in general, cold
weather makes me go faster and longer than anything I can do in the heat. I’m
not alone with this sentiment, many other runners feel this way too.
There are biological reasons for this; the heat drains water and electrolytes quickly, while in the cold you lose less water and allow your muscles to slowly warm up over the run.
But this is for long runs. When it comes to short or mid-distance runs, it’s pretty much a toss up. The cold makes it more of a hassle to go out, because there’s much more to put on. On a hot day, you pull on your shortest shorts and sleeveless running shirt and head out the door. So for short runs, it really just depends on my mood.
When it comes to speedwork, the clear answer is heat. The cold stiffens your muscles and therefore requires a considerable warm-up prior to speedwork. And I hate warm-ups.
So in short, heat for speed, cold for long, and either for short/mid-distance. Oh, and football players are not as tough as you might think. Not compared to we runners, that is.