Even the most committed runners can find sticking to their training plan difficult when winter rolls round. I mean, for most of us, running this season means heading out in the dark at least a few days a week, as well as when it’s icy, wet or snowy. In fact, I’m sure there are plenty of people who think running in these conditions is just plain crazy.
But the truth is that it can actually be really rewarding. I always find a run perks me up, and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that you’ve defied the wind and rain and managed to have a decent run anyway!
So, here are my tips for running in the winter.
1) Get the right kit
For me, by the far the most important part of winter running is having the right kit, since without it you’ll be freezing and pretty miserable (that said, I do sometimes see people jogging in shorts and a t-shirt at this time of year – I won’t pretend to understand how or why they do it!).
You need to remember three main things: technical fabrics, layers and reflectivity. Let’s look at each in turn:
• Technical fabrics: If you’re a keen runner already, you’ll know that breathable fabrics that wick away sweat are worth their weight in gold. In winter, it’s tempting to turn away from these and go for thicker options, but this is best avoided – which brings me on to my next point.
• Layers: Instead of piling on the fleeces, wear a few layers of technical fabrics to make sure you don’t end up soaked in sweat – that’s something you definitely don’t want when outside in a blast of cold air! Also look for thin windbreakers and light bamboo jumpers.
• Reflectivity: You may be able to see the cars and people around you, but if it’s dark and you’re moving at speed, spotting you will be much harder. So, wear bright and reflective clothing.
2) Maintain your motivation
One of the biggest barriers to winter running is motivation. For most of us, once we get outside and have been running for a few minutes, we’re absolutely fine – it’s actually forcing ourselves to leave the cosy house that’s the problem!
There are a number of tricks you can try. Having a specific distance goal in mind helps, since you’ll need to run regularly to achieve it (maybe sign up a race for early next year as an extra incentive), while you could also arrange to run with a friend.
I also find simply thinking ahead makes a difference. For instance, each weekend you could work out when you aim to run the following week. This way, you’ll know you can fit enough runs in around your other commitments, and you’ll be mentally prepared for them.
3) Be flexible
Now, I know I just advised you to plan ahead, but I’d like to add that flexibility is also important. For instance, if you intend to run on Tuesday and discover it’ll be pouring with rain that day while Wednesday will be dry and bright, switch to Wednesday if you can.
This just means you’ll have more opportunities to run in (comparatively) good weather, so you should enjoy it more. That said, it’s important to make sure you don’t end up running a lot less as a result – so remember to keep thinking ahead if you do make any changes!
4) Ditch the wet kit
Just as a quick final note, as soon as you get home you should get changed. And yes, I do mean before you shower. Ok, that means you will have more clothes to wash, but warming down in sweat-soaked kit when you’ve been running in the freezing cold is a sure-fire way to catch a chill.
So, get changed, warm down and stretch, then enjoy a nice shower and a hot drink! It’s also a good idea to treat yourself to some chocolate milk, which can promote muscle recovery and make your next run that little bit easier, while breathing oxygen-enriched air from a home oxygen canister can also help.