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Training & advice

Get ready for winter

Brrr! It’s getting chilly out there, the evenings are dark and often wet and the heating has gone on inside. It’s tempting to stay indoors rather than hitting the streets for a training run but you know that you mustn’t! Here are a few tips to keep your training on track during the winter months.

Dress to progress

There is a saying, in Scandanvia, that “there is no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing.” The best place to buy running clothing is from a running specialist, such as Sweatshop or Runner’s Need. They will have everything you need and the staff  are trained to give you the best advice.

During the winter months it is a good idea to “layer-up” Think of your clothing like an onion!

The base layer could be a lightweight top, ideally made from a technical running fabric. Cotton holds onto sweat, so stays wet but a technical top will draw sweat away, keeping you dry. They are not expensive and you will probably get one at your local running specialist shop for around £15.

The next layer will depend on the weather. It could be a lightweight fleece or, if it’s windy or raining, a lightweight jacket. If you get too hot, you can take it off and tie it around your waist. A fleece top will cost around £30. Jackets range in price, depending on what you want it to do. If it is to keep the wind off you can pick one up for around £40 but if you want all-singing-all-dancing waterproof with reflectivity and lots of pockets you can pay £200 and up. You can also layer your bottom half. A pair of leggings or running tights underneath a pair of shorts, or lightweight tracksuit bottoms will keep your legs warm.

If temperatures are close to or below freezing you will need a pair of gloves and a hat or fleece headband. Your hands and ears usually get cold first and are the last part of your body to warm up!

It is important to wear clothes that aren’t too heavy. If your clothes weigh you down, running will be much harder, you will get out of breath quicker and that can make you feel like turning round and running for home. There are many lightweight but warm and protective items on the market to make your running more comfortable.

Stand out on the streets

It is hard to run in the daylight during the winter months unless your work hours are very flexible. When running in the dark, it is essential that you can be seen by others, particularly drivers. Your clothes should be reflective or a bright, light colour, such as white or fluorescent yellow. Unfortunately many winter clothes are black or dark in colour so you need to think how you can stand out and make yourself more visible. Most good running apparel has reflectivity incorporated, but you do have to pay more it so you may prefer to invest in a fluorescent bib that can be worn over your running clothes. You can buy this for less than £10. Keep it on a peg near the front door so that you remember to put it on as you go out for your run.

Wherever possible, run in well-lit areas and avoid running anywhere you do not feel completely safe. If the weather is particularly bad and the pavement is icy, it is best not to run outside at all. If you have access to a gym, you could run on the treadmill or do another activity, such as swimming or a session on an exercise bike or cross trainer. If snow is the problem you may find it easier to run on grass or forest tracks than on the road, that can become more icy or slushy because of the traffic. Parks and fields can be more accessible in the snow because fresh snow is easier to run on and the bright, white of the snow can make seeing easier.

Make the warm up warmer!

The purpose of a warm up is to do just that and this can take longer in the winter. Start slowly and gradually progress the tempo over a longer time span than you would in the summer. This will probably take at least 10 minutes to reach the pace that you’re going to maintain for most of the run. Include dynamic stretches. Whatever you do, don’t stop to stretch because you will just cool down again.

Do a warmer cool-down

Just as you should warm up gradually before the session, you should cool down gradually after it. Carry on running at an easier pace or walk for five to ten minutes. This will help your body recover after your run. After the cool down you should do some static stretches but, at this time of the year, you should take this inside into a place that is warm and dry. Don’t stay out in the cold to do your static stretching.

Catch me if you can!

Make a conscious effort to avoid coughs and colds but, if they do strike you down, respect them and deal with them. It’s not always easy, but if you can avoid people who are sniffing and sneezing with winter ailments you may also avoid their germs. Simple measures, such as washing your hands regularly, especially after handling money, computer keyboards etc. that others have been using will also help. However, if you are struck down, you need to back off your training especially if it is particularly nasty and you should stop altogether if you have a sore throat or fever. When you have recovered you should gradually ease back into your training and don’t try to make up for ‘lost time’. Re-write your goals if necessary.

And finally…stay motivated

Here are our top tips to keep you motivated through the winter months

  1. Run with someone else. If you have arranged to go with someone else you are more likely to do it. You could also join a running club or group.
  2. Vary your training and your routes. Use our Training Wizard to plan, a week at a time, a programme that not only suits your lifestyle but inspires your to run
  3. Set a realistic goal
  4. Work on your mental strength
  5. Claim your Handicap and get involved in Reward Running to keep you motivation high