Running in cold weather

Running on Christmas Day

We are quite lucky in Britain in that we rarely see extreme weather conditions but we do get many different kinds of weather that can challenge our running routines. With Scotland recently hitting -15 degrees Celsius, you may need to heed some of the points here.

Below are our tips on how to ensure you get out of the door no matter what it is doing outside.

Running in snow and ice

Of all the weather conditions this is probably the cause of the most missed days of training. Snowy conditions can be treacherous if the snow packs down into slippy ice, especially first thing the following morning.  If the snow has freshly fallen it can be easier and more enjoyable to run off-road, in the park or through the woods. The trick is to have the right footwear. Trail shoes with a high traction outsole or with studs will help keep you on your feet and running. Alternatively you could buy yourself some micro spikes that slip over your shoes or make yourself a pair of screw shoes! So that's the bottom part of the body taken care of. The next most important part is the top. Snowy and icy weather can mean freezing temperatures and so a hat or a fleecy headband will help you to stay warm and protect your ears from the cold. If it is actually snowing you may want a hat with a brim to keep the snow from hitting your face. On the positive side, snowy conditions can be very scenic and beautiful and because the snow is reflective you can enjoy running earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon and have better visibility than when the snow isn't there.

Running in cold and windy conditions

Layers and a windproof jacket on top will keep you happy and warm on a wild, winter night. Avoid cotton as it will become wet and heavy. Look for fabrics that wick moisture from the skin so that you stay dry and comfortable throughout your run. However, you should avoid overdressing. Don't forget that you will warm up after ten minutes or so and you may need to put up with being slightly cold at the beginning but it is better to tolerate that than become too warm and not be able to run as well as you might otherwise. Some leggings, a long sleeved top with a jacket over the top and hat and gloves is often all that is needed. If your jacket has pockets you can take the gloves and hat off as you get warm and carry them in the pocket.

Route choice is important if the wind is strong and cold. Try to find a route that is sheltered - perhaps through woodlands or a valley footpath with banks on either side. Set out with the wind in your face so that you get used to the cold at the beginning of the run and then when you are on your way back and possibly more tired, you don't have to battle against the wind and cold.

When you have finished your run put on more warm clothes or have a shower or bath as soon as you can as your body temperature will fall quickly once you stop moving.

Deep breaths of cold air can trigger a tight chest or asthma. If you are prone to this you may be better exercising indoors on a cold night.

Indoor options may include home circuits or a spin bike or a treadmill if you are lucky enough to have this. Many of your usual workouts can be repeated on a bike or on a treadmill. Slight manipulations can also ad good variety too e.g. adding 1% to an incline at the same pace every 2 minutes and then reducing it after you near your limits. Or you may prefer to increase the speed by 1km/hour every 2 minutes.