Top tips to beat the winter weather

Running on Christmas Day

While many of us have had a mild autumn and Christmas, the weather has recently taken a dip with storms and also snow this week. Here we offer some tips on running safely this winter. 

With so many runners battling against the snow, wind and rain over the last week, just one week into the new year, your running resolutions may get tested to the limit.

Although the weather forecast is slightly better for the weekend there is talk of snow to add to the mix so we thought it was a great time to bring advice on how to stay safe and enjoy your running in extreme weather conditions.

Running in cold and windy conditions - Layers and a windproof or 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. Some prefer to do it the other way round to warm up quicker and especially if you are lacking a layer.

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

Deep breaths of cold air can trigger a tight chest or asthma and should be avoided in our Covid climate. If you are prone to this you may be better exercising indoors on a cold night. Snoods are also useful for keeping inhaled air warmer.

Running in the rain - The hardest part of running in the rain is getting out of the door! If you set out on your run in dry conditions and it starts raining when you are out, it often feels refreshing unless it is coming down in bucket loads! A water resistant jacket comes into its own in wet conditions but make sure it is breathable. If it is completely waterproof and the seams are sealed you will find it gets wet inside from your perspiration. Many running jackets, on the market, are dark coloured but a fluorescent one or light colour is preferable as visiblity can be low in the rain and you need to be visible to traffic. Hi viz jackets can be purchased cheaply too.

Chafing can be a problem in wet, warm weather and you may need to protect yourself with a smear of vaseline on your feet, inner thighs, under your arms and on your nipples (if you're a man with no sports bra)!

A hat with a peak of brim can help keep rain out of your face and will keep your head dry.

When you get back from your run get your kit wash/dried and, rather than leaving your shoes in a wet heap by the door, take the sock liner out, stuff some newspaper in and leave them somewhere warm where they will dry. You shouldn't put your shoes in the washing machine as washing powder destroys the mid-sole. Nor should you put them too close to intense heat as this can also damage them. Hanging them on a dry line outside is a great way to get them aired and dry for teh next outing too.

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 or slushy ice. 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 grippy outsole or with studs will help keep you on your feet and running. Alternatively you could buy yourself some micro spikes that slip over 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.

Carry ID - If you are running on your own you should carry some form of ID so that you can be identified if anything untoward does happen to you. Many running specialists sell wrist wallets that have space for you to put your name, contact and medical details.

Cross training- Many runners take the opportunity to cross train when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Strength, flexibility or circuits are often a neglected area amongst many runners – so take the opportunity to try a different area of fitness. Likewise with flexibility and mobility, which are other ways to keep you robust and free from injury. Of course there also walking which is usually much safer and could give you a longer opportunity to slow down on your usual running routes to take in some of the scenes and tranquillity, especially if you get out earlier in the day. And remember some of the best greyhounds and race horses utilise walking as a key part of their training!   

Good luck with your cool winter sessions!