Running in winter can be tough. It’s cold and dark outside, but you need to be out pounding the streets to get ready for spring races – or just to keep the effects of too many mince pies and spiced lattes at bay.
But the conditions outside mean that running in winter needs a different approach to running throughout the rest of the year, from what you wear down to how you structure your training run.
Follow these seven simple rules for running in winter.
Those evenings after work are quickly becoming much darker than they were three months ago, so it’s a good idea to wear bright gear to make sure you can be seen while running at night. A running jacket in a high visibility shade like pink or yellow with a reflective stripe will make it easy for drivers to spot you if you’re running on roads. If you’re doing a trail run, or along lanes that aren’t lit, consider wearing a head torch for extra visibility.
If you’re running in the cold, keep warm with layers of light clothing, rather than a thick sweatshirt. That way as you warm up, or if the conditions change, you can easily shed one layer and not find yourself suddenly too cold. And go for a waterproof outer layer to protect yourself from the drizzle.
Layers will keep most of your body toasty, but running in cold weather – especially if the wind picks up – can leave those sensitive, exposed areas like your fingers, ears and noses feeling sore. A good pair of water- and wind-resistant gloves will keep those digits warm (plus you’ll avoid that post-run numbness we’re all too familiar with!), and if you’re not comfortable running in a hat, a headband will keep your ears protected.
Running in winter is a different beast to running in the warmer months. The effects of the cold weather on your body and the conditions you’re running in (think damp or even icy roads) mean that you’re unlikely to hit the speeds or distances you know you’re capable of. Don’t let this dampen your motivation – it happens to the best of us! – but do adapt your training routine. A run that gradually builds up speed is better in cold weather than a stop/start interval training session.
Running in cold weather means your warm up will take longer than it does in the summer. Start your session with a brisk walk and build up into a slow jog then into your usual running pace over 10 or 15 minutes. This will get your blood moving gradually, allowing your muscles to warm up gently. And try to get the ball rolling before you leave the house, with a few light exercises or stretches to the get your blood pumping so the cold outside isn’t such a shock to the system.
The idea of going out into the cold, dark evening to run can swiftly lose its appeal. Making a few commitments can help keep you motivated to get those trainers on. Try buddying up with a running partner – you’re less likely to cancel if you know you’d be letting someone else down. Or consider joining a local running club with regular training sessions.
It’s always important not to cut corners on the cool down after a run, but especially in winter. But standing outside in the cold, particularly if your kit is damp, is never a good idea. Get inside for some post-run stretching, which will allow your body to cool down gradually, or even consider some light yoga for 10 minutes.
Running regularly? Treat yourself to a detox spa package to relax and restore those sore muscles.