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For many runners, jogging outside is almost a Zen-like activity. Being alone with your thoughts, finding your groove, watching the scenery go past.
That's great from May to November in Wisconsin – give or take a month or two on either end – but sooner or later the upper Midwest winter will kick in, and you'll face challenges beyond finding your second wind.
We asked Trae Hoepner of Performance Running Outfitters for his advice on how to get through the winter keeping up your running routine without injuring yourself.
OnMilwaukee: What advice do you have for relatively new outdoor runners facing their first Wisconsin winter?
Trae Hoepner: Spring is right around the corner! (Laughs) I do say that, but then I tell them the first thing that adjusts is your lungs. The air is cold, but your lungs will adapt. Make sure you have a great base layer, and that layering clothing is very important. We have a great resource in the Pettit to run, so don't be afraid to use that on the really bad days.
Lastly, stay active, do a winter race series like Lighthouse's Conquer the Cold. If you don't have something to train for, it is easier to go dormant in the cold.
OnMilwaukee: Are there devices you can use to help with your grip, to avoid injury, if you're determined to run outside in winter where there might be slippery spots?
Hoepner: When it gets icy, make sure to get some YakTrax ... they will keep you upright as much as possible. We like either the YakTrax or putting sheet metal screws into your older shoes or shoes you just use for winter. Watch a You Tube video to see about placement.
OnMilwaukee: You mentioned layering. How do you fight the cold without overheating yourself?
Hoepner: Always dress like it is 15 degrees warmer. (A) great base layer ... like craft!
OnMilwaukee Is it a better idea to simply move your run indoors to a treadmill?
Hoepner: If you like treadmill running, that is great, but it feels so good to finish an outside run in the winter. I, and a lot of runners, hate treadmills, so this is not an option for us. The Pettit is a great resource and option, so thank you Badgerland Striders for getting us a new track and extra lane in there.
OnMilwaukee: It's a mental switch, in part, isn't it? I mean from running outside to running on a treadmill, and vice-versa.
Hoepner: Mental and physical. The treadmill is doing some of the work for you, so you should put on a slight incline to offset the help. Some people, like my wife, have no issue at all doing a long run on the treadmill, but for others it is terribly monotonous. Reading or watching TV can be helpful to distract your mind. Also throwing a towel over the monitor can be helpful to not focus in on how far you have gone at all times.
OnMilwaukee: Is there anything to consider in terms of technique and form when making the switch from the street to the belt?
Hoepner: In the winter time, it is more important to have good form and keep your cadence up. This will keep your feet underneath you more so you don't slip as much. You should not have to change anything on a treadmill, but getting used to being on a moving object can have its challenges for some.
OnMilwaukee: So you run outside in winter?
Hoepner: One of my favorite runs of all time was a cold, snowy night. It was possibly one of the slowest runs I have ever been on, but I just enjoyed the scenery on the rural roads out in Delafield as the snow fell. The air was cold and crisp to breath in, but I just felt like the run was cleansing me. This night no one was around and no cars were on the roads so it was just me and my thoughts.
Typically I run with friends and customers in the winter, just so we can all complain together how miserable it is. I do love chatting while running and when the roads are slippery, we tend to slow down to a pace that is comfortable to talk.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.