“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone”
Let’s get one thing straight here. Despite some rather pretty sunrises and frosty mornings that I fill my Instagram feed up with (@becsinter in case you’re not already following me), January can feel pretty darn miserable. The festive season is over, the pressure’s on to become some better version of yourself (pah ha ha) and to top it all off, you’re skint.
So how do you shake off the January blues in one foul swoop?
Just get out there and run.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Jumping out of bed when the temperature’s below zero is no picnic but once you’re out there, you’ll feel so much better for it (thanks to the production of endorphins). You’ll also give yourself some mindspace, which is much-needed when life is hectic. Plus you’ll make yourself stronger, fitter and more resilient in the year to come.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Top running coach and ambassador for the Cancer Research UK Winter London Run, Tom Craggs, says: “The winter months will provide the foundation and platform on which you will build your fitness and PBs later on in 2017.”
In other words, make most of this opportunity to become a faster you. Here’s how to train strong throughout the winter:
- Build up your speed slowly
When it’s cold, it takes longer for your muscles to warm up. Craggs warns: “Driving a cold engine hard is never a great option…yet with limited training time I often see runners heading out aiming to hit top speed straight away”. The key to success is This means you need to spend more time warming up. Whether that means a slow jog to the top of the road and building up the pace (which I do on my morning
Instead of trying to push your cold muscles too much, too soon, take the time to warm up slowly. If this means a slow jog before speeding up your pace or spending 10 minutes doing drills (high knees, heel flicks etc), then add this into your schedule. Tom even suggests completing active stretching and drills inside when the temperature’s just too cold outside.
- Layer up
Lightweight layers are the way to go when training in winter made from sweat-wicking fabrics. For as Tom says, “this will allow you strip down as you warm up”. He also mentions high-viz clothing when running in the dark. You want to keep your body warm and comfortable so you can concentrate on training.
- Be consistent
There’s absolutely no point in running every day for one week only to return to it a month later. “Consistency is everything when it comes to endurance sport,” says Tom. Make yourself a plan and be realistic about it. Tom continues: “Bank your training sessions early; time pressures will mount during the day so set the alarm clock if you want to continue your development.”
- Have a goal
Whether that be beating your 5K time at the weekly Parkrun or running your first marathon, have an aim and build up to it. Tom maintains that: “Most of us find having a target sharpens the focus of your training yet those key spring races will seem a long way off in January. Stay on target by entering some races early in 2017 to keep on track.” One of the best runs in the not too distant future is, of course, The London Winter 10km. Part of Central London is closed off for this iconic race, so why not sign up today?
- Don’t just run
Take it from someone who’s been running for a while, your body will benefit from other training too. And because running is essentially about standing on one leg (if you break it down), exercises that focus on single leg stability and core strength will definitely help. Tom Craggs suggests trying Pilates and also including single leg squats, deadlifts and basics such as press ups and chin ups as you get stronger. Yes, it’s boring but the hard graft will be worth it.
- Stay warm and dry
While running is great for your health, be wary of after hard interval sessions or long runs as this can affect your immune system and make you more vulnerable to infections and illness. Tom emphasises the importance of bringing spare clothes with you to the gym, club or your own sessions, so you can quickly remove damp clothes immediately after your session and cool down in dry, warm garments. Not only will this help to stop you picking up bugs, you’ll also feel more comfortable. Another way to help yourself is to go inside for your post run stretching session.
Have I missed anything out above? Let me know in the comments below what keeps you motivated to train in winter?