UVU runners battle the elements to continue training

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Micah Jensen, Staff Writer

First appearing in print on September 29, 2014.

Fall is here—hot chocolate and the beautiful sight of leaves changing color— and with the new season also comes a time of preparation for Utah Valley University athletics.

As the cold season approaches, our student athletes face a unique challenge. UVU is known for having a very successful track and field program, but this can be challenging when the team has to fight the diverse climate of Utah. Over time, the runners have developed different ways of beating Mother Nature and maintaining their high levels of performance.

Seth Gutzwiller, a member of the UVU cross country team, explained some of the difficulties he faces with the weather getting cold.

“Your muscles become tight,” he said. This is an obvious problem as a runner, so he uses extra clothing to stay warm. “I’ll wear spandex and then cover over that with layers.”

Some athletes go to a more extreme measure to stay warm, but with less clothing.

“I’ve never tried it, but some runners rub down with vegetable oil,” Gutzwiller said.

Being comfortable while running is important to one’s success. “Personally, it’s making sure my body temperature is up so I can focus on my workouts,” said Jasmine Nesbitt, of the women’s cross country team.

Often, the cold and snow pose serious hazards to runners. Nesbitt explained that snow can make her calves sore because of the loss of traction while running in it. Fighting to keep the same speed is hard when fighting against the snow.

Gutzwiller added that being a runner here includes two aspects that can really cause damage. The first is the dry climate. Running in the dry air can damage an athlete’s lungs. While training on a treadmill, he will use a damp rag that he occasionally breathes through to simulate moisture in his lungs.

Poor air condition is another reason athletes have to worry about the effects of running on their health. The inversion, Gutzwiller said, is worrisome to runner constantly training outdoors.

Surrounded by mountains, despite a lack of wind, when air temperatures drop in Orem, the pollution stays trapped in the lower parts of the valley, making the air unsafe to breath. This causes what we call inversion. Going outside is dangerous to our health, so running in it can be downright stupid. On days like this, Gutzwiller, Nesbitt and the rest of the runners have alternatives. Treadmills, inside tracks, or just taking a drive to get up in the mountains and out of the bad air, are a few ways to avoid the damaging effects of air pollution.

On average, UVU cross country runners average 80 miles per week. Because there is almost no offseason in this sport, they have to find ways to train, no matter what the conditions are. So they bundle up, head for the hills and fight the odds to make sure they stay ready for the next race.