Around this time last year, a lot of us were making promises to ourselves.

And for some of us, aforementioned promises may have stemmed from an early winter realization that a dreaded pair of “fat pants” had made it into regular wardrobe rotation. Or so — ahem — I heard.

At this point last year, I started promising all sorts of crazy things like, “I’m giving up carbohydrates” or “I’m going to take up running.”

And I woke up the morning of Jan. 1 with every intention of lacing up my running shoes and starting the year off with an earnest jog around the block. But it’s a cruel irony that my New Year resolutions happen to coincide with a time of year when Mother Nature is at her most inhospitable.

It’s hard enough to muster the motivation to leave the cozy confines of fleece sheets and triple-layered blankets, let alone venture out into the frigid atmosphere of winter.

I told myself I’d be a running god, if it weren’t for all that cold and snow. And I went back to bed.

The year wasn’t a total loss. I did train for and complete the Tri for a Cure sprint triathlon in August. But the race finish line also marked the immediate end to running of any kind.

Some say runners get addicted after a while. I didn’t have that problem.

Fast-forward to a familiar internal conversation. Except this time I’m trying to outsmart my own excuse machine before it puts the kibosh on another well-intentioned effort. Winter shouldn’t be the season of undoing all the good that was done over the summer.

But jump-starting a running routine in the daylight-sparse and chapped-lip months of winter? That can’t be a good idea. Can it?

In truth, running in the winter is no more challenging than it is in the summer, according to Coreen Lauren, RCA-certified running coach for sheJAMs, the women’s training and social club in Portland that I trained with this summer.

The apparel is just a little different.

“New year, new beginning,” said Lauren. “It’s always a great time to start.”

But before running champions of the future slip into SmartWool and sprint out into the street, Lauren advises taking things slow and having a goal.

“I try to coach people into starting with small goals,” she said. “Start by walking and just getting acclimated to being outside,” said Lauren, who added that 20 minutes a few times a week is a fine place to start.

And wearing the right cold-weather gear can make the difference between a season of successful running and a one-time-only stumbling jog of misery.

“Your performance is going to tank if you’re not warm,” said Lauren. “Your body’s working twice as hard trying to keep itself warm.”

To help keep your energy focused on the running task at hand, Lauren says it’s all about your middle.

“The most important part of your body that you need to keep warm is your core,” she said.

And the best way to accomplish that: layering.

The base layer should be a wicking material like Thinsulate or DryFit. These fabrics are designed to wick moisture from your body, which in turn will keep you drier and warmer. Contrary to the rad sweat suits of yesteryear, cotton is “the devil” and will trap sweat against the skin. In cold weather, your sweaty cotton T-shirt will become a damp, chilly and uncomfortable drapery.

A fleece layer can be worn over the base layer. Zip-ups are a bonus because they can be zipped up or down depending on the air temperature. On top goes a windbreaker.

“I tell everybody to have some sort of wind blocking external layer,” said Lauren. “Gore-Tex preferably, but any sort of wind blocker.”

Anyone who’s felt the wind’s cunning ability to sneak into the gap between a glove and coat sleeve knows why.

When it comes to heads and hands, it behooves runners to take Mom’s advice and wear a hat that fits over the ears and a decent pair of gloves. When it’s really cold, go with mittens. Sure, it’ll be harder to handle pocket change, but mittens are more adept at keeping your hands warm. Besides, fingers don’t like being away from each other.

To help warm the cold air as it’s inhaled, winter runners can also wear a scarf or face mask (like those worn by burglars, who would also benefit from a regular running regimen).

But it’s not just the temperature that runners have to consider. Winter brings with it more tangible side effects, like ice and snow, both of which have a sinister habit of making people fall down.

Winter runners can buy traction devices such as Yaktrax that attach to a standard running shoe. Those with a penchant for home remedies can create their own “screw shoes” by putting screws into the soles of their sneakers. A power screwdriver helps, as does using short screws. Nothing puts an end to a running career faster than a screw in the foot.

Lauren also suggests running during lunchtime, when the air temperature is at its peak and there are fewer drivers on the roads. And even though the sun seems like an afterthought in the winter, it’s still a good idea to apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses to divert frigid gusts of wind from cold-sensitive eyes.

And always, always hydrate.

“People think because it’s cold you don’t have to hydrate,” said Lauren. Drink, says Lauren, regardless of the weather.

Of course, despite all the preparation possible, there may still be days when outdoor running simply isn’t a good idea.

“If it’s blizzarding outside,” said Lauren, “or when the road is slick. People don’t know how to drive, don’t do it.”

Also under the safety heading are MP3 players. While rocking out to a dance club mix can be motivating, Lauren suggests leaving those devices at home.

“I encourage people to use (running) time as your meditative time for personal goals and listening to your body,” said Lauren. “You might notice, ‘Hey, I’m breathing heavy, I should slow down.’” Or , “I can hear that car that’s screeching around the corner or that guy jumping out of the woods,” Lauren joked.

Without the musical distractions, runners will be better able to take advantage of some of winter running’s perks. For example, the scenery.

“If you’re in town on (Baxter) Boulevard, the views are unbelievable because of the reflection off the water,” said Lauren. “Twin Brook (in Cumberland) is a really nice place to be outside. You don’t have the overwhelming amount of people. It’s just very peaceful. You don’t have as much distraction.”

Instead, I can muse on the rhythmic crunch of snow under my feet. And I can take Lauren’s advice, listen to my body and hear it whisper, “I’m glad we did this. And when we get home, let’s chuck those fat pants.”

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

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