Get winter run ready
by Alyx Murray Jackman
Monday, January 21, 2019
When the days get shorter, the evenings get colder and the mornings become frosty, it’s easy to wrap up warm inside and forget about getting active outdoors and maintaining your running fitness. The onset of winter typically comes with rain, cold and darkness, none of which are particularly great for running outdoors. However, that’s only if you’re not prepared! With the correct running gear, warm up and motivation, running in the rain, cold and darkness can be easy and fun. Read on to find out about what to wear, how to warm up and how to keep motivated for winter running and outdoor fitness.
What to wear for winter running
Ideally, you should try to stick to paths that are free from snow and ice. However, if that’s not possible, then choose a pair of trainers that have lots of grip and traction. This will help you stay upright in the mud, and prevent you slipping in the rain or on ice. A lot of runners use their trail shoes more in the winter because with more rain comes more mud. If you haven’t got a pair of trail shoes yet, then you could try investing in some for your next outing.
If you like running in shorts, then consider buying a pair of base layer leggings that you can wear underneath. Leggings will keep your legs warm on winter nights and will give your knees an extra shield from the wind. It’s best to buy a pair that will keep you warm but are still breathable. The breathability will help to move your sweat away from your body, keeping you warmer.
Some standard advice when it comes to choosing an outfit for winter running is to dress as though it’s a bit warmer than it really is. Your body will warm up during your run, so if you wear too many layers then you’ll end up wanting to shed a couple and will have to carry them with you. Buying a lightweight and windproof jacket is your best bet as this will protect you from harsh winter winds, but won’t be too heavy if you need to tie it around your waist halfway through your run. As it’s likely to be dark when you’re running in the winter, opt for a jacket that is fully reflective or at least has some reflective strips on the back or sleeves. This will keep you visible, so you don’t go surprising any dog walkers, cyclists or drivers.
To avoid your extremities getting stiff and cold, running gloves for the winter months are a must. There will be some days when you won’t need them but it’s highly likely that one day you’ll be three minutes into a 5-kilometer run and wish you had brought your gloves with you. Even just a thin pair will give your fingers and knuckles some protection from the wind and shouldn’t cause any discomfort. Make sure you try on the gloves before purchasing them, as you don’t want the fabric bunching up in your fist while you’re running.
Protect those ears! Your ears can get chilly really quickly, especially if you have short hair and it’s windy. Get a running hat or headband that fits over at least the top half of your ears to protect them from the wind chill. Some running hats now come with built-in head torches which are perfect to keep you visible and allow you to see the path in front of you. In really cold temperatures it is also advisable to wear a face mask or running buff to keep your cheeks warm and shielded from the wind.
How to warm up for a run in cold weather
Before heading outside, make sure you do a full warm up inside. By starting your warm up inside where it is already warm, your body temperature will rise faster and you’ll be more prepared for your winter run. Do a 10 minute warm up inside, and then ease into your run outside by running at a gentler pace for the first 5 minutes. Doing a long warm up ensures mobility in your joints and will prevent them from seizing up during your run. A warm up will also prepare your muscles for activity and stops them over-contracting when you step out into the cold.
Focus on exercises that will help with mobility and will increase your body temperature and heart rate:
- Run up and down the stairs
- High knees on the spot
- High skips
- Curtsy lunges
- Leg swings
How to start running in the winter as a beginner
Make sure you stay hydrated! If you don’t want to run with a water bottle, then make sure you plan your route so that you can drink some water half way through (find a local water fountain or stop at a cafe where you can get tap water), or drink some water before and after your run. Because you may not sweat as much when you’re running in the cold, you may not feel as though you need to drink. However, it’s important to keep hydrated as your body has been working extra hard to both keep you warm and keep you moving.
Get changed out of your running kit and into some warmer clothes as soon as possible. Your sweat will cool you down, and you might get a chill if you don’t put on some dry clothes quickly.
Take it easy! Starting your running journey during the winter can be great because there aren’t as many people out and so the pavements will be free for you to roam. However, it’s important that you still have rest days and try to focus on regular but short runs rather than trying to improve your distance straight away (you can focus on that in the warmer months!).
Keeping motivated to run when it’s cold and wet outside
When the weather is cold and damp, it can be useful to daydream about warmer climates while you’re running. Think about signing up for a race somewhere warm to break up your winter. Alternatively, you could sign up for a race for the Springtime to help you stick to regular training runs throughout the winter.
Another idea is to set up running dates, where you catch up with a friend over a run followed by coffee. Planning to meet someone else for a run can really help to keep you motivated in the winter, as you won’t want to leave them standing out in the cold on their own.