Up until now we haven’t really had what one could class as a proper winter – when the ground freezes and the air smells of snow. That heavy winter coat and hat, chunky knit scarf and gloves have remained firmly at the back of the wardrobe. And the only thing you’ve had to wear during exercise outside is a waterproof layer.
But with colder weather on its way, it may be time to re-evaluate your running tactics to ensure you can blast your way through this Arctic period put a spring in your step during marathon season. All it takes is the right equipment and attitude. And if you’re still not convinced, I’ve pulled together a few tips on how to make the most of your winter runs:
Layer up with the right kit
While you may be tempted to pile on the layers, it’s really not necessary. The first few minutes are always difficult to handle when you head out on your winter run but, believe me, you’ll soon warm up. Leave that puffer jacket at home, don’t wear too many layers – three will suffice – and protect those extremities such as your hands and head.
All you need really to ensure you’re comfortable when running in the winter is a pair of running tights, baselayer, hat, gloves and suitable trainers. Then make sure you change as soon as you stop exercising as it’s then that you really start to feel the cold.
Have a plan you can stick to
Don’t you just love January? At the start of the month, you decide you’re going to radically change your life by coming up with resolutions such as I will run at least every day, ban myself from the biscuit tin and stop drinking during January. Then slowly these resolutions unravel and you find yourself on Blue Monday (so-called as it’s supposedly the most depressing day of the year – and yes it’s next Monday 18 January) feeling so deflated after a heavy session at the weekend.and to cheer yourself up you’re reaching for that second chocolate digestive biscuit.
When it comes to planning your running goals, don’t treat it like a resolution. Think of it as a project with an endgame in sight. Sign up for a race that you feel comfortable with and realistically plan your week as you would at work or with your partner on a Sunday afternoon. How much time can you really spend running during the week? Think about the frequency of your running sessions and how the type of running sessions you do. The point is be organised, focused and level-headed about your goals and keep it consistent. It’s better that you run three times a week rather than every day one week followed by three weeks of inactivity.
Mix it up
Add an element of cross-training into your plan. This could be something that has less impact such as cycling or spin, or a strength and conditioning class such as Pilates or Yoga. I’m a huge fan of barre as it works different muscles in my body and really helps me engage with my stomach muscles and over the past few weeks I’ve been attending spin classes, Yoga and Barre to keep my body strong.
At a recent event I was invited to, running coach Phoebe Thomas said that it’s better to cut your run slightly shorter and focus on exercises specifically aimed at building the muscles of each leg such as (find on internet). IN order to have a stronger and more balanced body, you have to mix it up and then you’ll become a stronger and more balanced runner.
This also goes for your running sessions. There’s no point in plodding away at the same old course. Add variety into your running plan with speed sessions, interval training and longer runs. Switch to off-road for one session per week. Only then will you adapt and become a better and stronger runner
Embrace the big freeze
While the thought running outside when it’s dark, damp and really really cold is not exactly inviting, the actuality is a very different story. In fact, it can be very enjoyable as you experience the stillness and calmness of your surroundings. Noticing the little things as you run around and how the season is changing week after week is one of the reasons I enjoy living in the UK. Even if it’s raining and I’m feeling grumpy, a run outside during the winter can help refresh my mind and lift my mood. Embrace it and get to know where you’re from.
Not only do I enjoy running because it brings me closer to nature, I also see it as my time away from everyone and everything. I use it to think about projects at work and at home, listen to music or the radio and generally clear my mind of all the noise. And while some training sessions may be more dedicated to running faster and building my strength, my longer run commutes or Sunday runs are simply a way for me to relax. But when times are getting tough, I do reach for my trusty Radio 4 Extra Dramas and Podcasts to entertain and distract me. This may not be for everyone but you can find ways to motivate you.
Again, Phoebe Thomas said she distracts herself by thinking about her running technique, repeating the phrase “tall and light”. Find a method that works for you and helps you to reach the end of that running session.
Look after yourself
Eating well and not burning the candle at both ends is vital to becoming a healthier and happier person. If you’re feeling really tired, don’t push it as you could end up sick in bed for a week. Likewise, as tempting as it may be, don’t attempt to run a marathon when your ankle is feeling slightly dodgy. Rest it until the swelling goes down as this could lead to a worse injury. Yep, if only I could listen to my own advice.
Undoubtedly, it can be tough, especially if you’re new to running. But slowly as you become fitter and stronger you fall in love with this amazing activity and even when it’s snowing outside you just want to be out there, embracing the elements.