Have you heard of Raynaud's disease? It is a condition where certain areas of your body, especially your fingers and toes, become very cold and numb in response to cold temperatures and stress. When your body is stimulated by either the cold or stress, the arteries to your limbs and skin narrow and there is decreased blood supply. The affected areas initially turn white and you lose feeling . This will last as long as you are in the cold or the stress is affecting you. When you do warm up or the stress is removed, the affected areas turn blue and then red as the blood supply returns. This can be quite painful and cause burning, prickling, stinging, and swelling. It can take up to 15 minutes before the affected areas return to normal.
I have Raynaud's disease in my fingers, and my hands will look the picture shown below if I am not warm enough (these are my fingers after a run I did not properly prepare for).
I have had the condition since I was young, so managing the symptoms is nothing new to me. I am used to getting picked on for wearing mittens when it's 50 degrees, and I get frequent comments on the color of my hands. There is no definitive cause of Raynaud's, and there is also no cure. However, there are ways to avoid it and minimize the effects. You can take medication, but I have found the best management is avoiding it.
Do you suffer from Raynaud's or know anyone who does? If the cold weather is the cause of your symptoms, then obviously keep your hands warm at all costs! My top tips for doing this are listed below. If stress is the cause of your symptoms, try to anticipate stressful situations and diminish your stress response. Deep breathing, positive thinking, mindfulness, and perspective are all helpful tactics.
Tips for keeping your hands warm (these go for everyone - not just those of us with Raynaud's!):
- Keep your core warm. If your core is warm, then your body will be more likely to send blood out to your limbs. Try wearing a vest or an extra layer over your mid-section.
- Keep your wrists covered. You can have a great jacket and excellent hand protection, but it won't do you much good if air is creeping in at your wrists. Look for mittens with long wrist cuffs or shirts/jackets with thumb holes that you can tuck inside the mittens. I will also lift the wrist band of my jacket up and over the bottom of the mittens if the mitten cuff isn't long.
- Use hand warmers or microwaveable mittens. My favorites are LLBean hand warmers (we buy them in bulk) and these microwaveable gel pack mittens. The best part about opening hand warmers is you have them for the next 8-10 hours, not just the duration of your run!
- Always have gloves or mittens with you. You never know when you will be outside or in the cold. I have a pair of mittens stored in my car glove box year round.
- Mittens are warmer than gloves, but a glove liner inside your mittens is even better. Do not wear gloves or mittens that are too big - cold air will accumulate in the empty space. My husband bought me the Women's Burton Premium Warmest Mitt for non-running, and they are the best mittens I have ever owned! They would probably be too warm and bulky for running though.
- Quickly change out of your running clothes upon returning home. The cold, wet fabric will make you chilled and more susceptible. On cold days, I try to get in the shower within 10 minutes of finishing my run or I change my outfit.
- Drink something warm or hold a hot cup/mug. I have hot tea after almost every cold run that I do, and it makes a huge difference! I will bring it in a thermos if I am away from home.
Below is what I wore for my run this morning in -12 degree F.
- Four tops: short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, heavy pull over, zip-up jacket.
- Two bottoms: fleece lined running tights, winder breaker pants.
- Fleece lined neck and head warmer with fleece lined headband over that
- Gloves inside mittens with two packs of hand warmers
- Wool socks
I stayed warm throughout the whole 90 minute run, except the last 15 minutes my arms started to chill. I probably could have gone with two long sleeves instead of one and/or have worn a fleece lined top. All these layers adds quite a bit of weight, so I don't worry too much about speed when I have this many clothes on. It's more about getting out there, staying warm, and doing what you love!