Running in the winter can be a great way to keep fit, although it certainly isn’t without its challenges. You’ll find yourself running on differing terrains, some which can have their own dangers, while the lower temperatures of the winter certainly have to be factored in. And don’t think you’ll beat any personal bests in the winter either. However, if you prepare properly, a run in the winter will give you added health benefits and give you a head start when it comes to the spring.
This guide to winter running begins by touching on the most important aspect of all – your clothing. Fortunately, here in the UK, we don’t get wild extremes in temperature, but preparing in the right way is still a must. Next up, there is some practical advice on safety when it comes to winter running. This page does assume you are running outside… of course, there is always the option of a home treadmill to consider!
The first thing you’ll need to do is to get the balance right in terms of layering. While it might be freezing outside, you have to consider the body heat you’ll generate when running. It is therefore suggested that you dress as if it is 15/20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. Here is a handy guide to layering for that winter run:
Layer 1 – A base layer of a sport specific, sweat wicking fabric is considered the best first layer. If you sweat excessively in cold weather, it can make you feel even more chilled, so this kind of fabric is perfect.
Layer 2 – This second layer may or may not be essential based on the temperature outside. Some might consider a long sleeve running shirt, while a fleece might be ideal if the temperatures are heading sub-zero.
Layer 3 – Once again, this can be dependant on the conditions. A windproof jacket can be ideal, especially if there is the particular problem of windchill, while a thinner shell might be ideal if the temperatures are not so severe.
On the legs, alongside running tights, you might want to consider a second layer, such as windproof pants. Keep those extremities warm too, with gloves or mittens for the hands, and potentially wear knee length socks too. A hat is another must when winter running, while in extreme cold, a balaclava could even be a viable option. Another good idea can be sunglasses, especially if there is snow on the ground or the winter sun is low – they can also protect your eyes from wind.
Having finished your run, it is important to get out of those clothes. Once you stop running you will cool down very quickly, so dry clothes or a warm shower can be ideal.
When running in the winter, it will invariably be darker than in the summer, so it can be an idea to wear something reflective, especially if part of your run sees you take to the roads. Running on the right side of the road is also a must, so you will always be aware of oncoming traffic (obviously this applies to the UK and other countries that drive ‘on the left’).
You will need to keep hydrated when making those winter runs. Cold air can make you feel less thirsty than warm weather running, so it can be easy to overlook hydration – however, it is every bit as important in winter running than it is in summer.
Warming up is very important in all aspects of running and is especially important in cold weather running. A 5 to 10 minute stretching warm up indoors before you head out will make transition from cold to warm easier.
Don’t expect that you’ll be able to keep the same pace as you do when running in the summer. Your muscles can work less efficiently in colder temperatures, while your body will produce more lactate too. Cold and dry air can make breathing more difficult too, especially for those with respiratory conditions such as asthma.
There are a number of benefits that running in the winter will give you. First up, you’ll burn more calories. Your body has to work harder in the winter, meaning more energy is needed, while the heart working harder will strengthen that organ too. The winter can be a time when people consume more due to the holiday season – winter running can offset any of those unwanted gains. With a regular running routine in less than ideal conditions, you’ll build your endurance too. Last, but certainly not least, running in the winter will build your mental strength – there is nothing more satisfying than that feeling of accomplishment of completing a winter run.
More Popular Fitness Guides: