Running in the winter can sometimes be challenging, but is a great reason to get outside and move our bodies. We get some expert advice on how to run safely during the colder months...
Winter running is can be magical. Think crisp, sunny mornings and never needing to break a sweat thanks to the cool temperature. But it usually also comes with a dose of wind, rain, and dark evenings. We spoke to ultra runner and running coach Alex Parren to find out how to run safely during the colder months – and how to motivate ourselves when the last thing we want to do is lace up our trainers.
Check out our favourite base layers for winter running!
Winterproof your running wardrobe
They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing – and this is particularly true for runners. If you get it right with what you’re wearing, an otherwise miserable run in the cold and wet can easily become very enjoyable.
Your best defence against the elements is layering up, as this way you can adjust what you’re wearing in line with what the weather is doing (and we all know how changeable the weather can be!).
A lightweight, packable gilet or jacket, like the Sundried Essentials Gilet, will do wonders to keep you dry and warm if it unexpectedly starts raining, and you can pack it away once the rain stops. And why not add a baselayer under that Gilet. Runderwear Running Baselayer (for men and women) offers maximum comfort every mile. It’s seamless and the mitten-style hands are genius for those colder outings. The hot pink, for women, adds a pop of colour to your wardrobe and ensures you are seen on those darker winter runs.
If you still wear shorts in the winter (which plenty of people do), protect and support your legs with the likes of CEP Run Compression Socks. Compression technology is proven to improve blood flow, reduce the risk of injury, and improve endurance – all of which are extra important for winter training. As an added bonus, long socks will keep your lower legs warm and allow you to continue wearing your favourite running shorts throughout the colder months.
Remember to stay hydrated
When it comes to hydration, it’s important to adjust your strategy in line with the weather. You won’t need as many electrolytes as you do in the summer, but you’ll still need water for those long winter training runs. The Sundried Hydration Backpack or similar will be perfect for keeping your hands free and allowing for well-hydrated long runs. A good running bag will also have space for storing layers that you may want to access quickly, such as a hat, gloves or waterproof jacket.
For fuelling those long winter runs, opt for energy gels, like Science in Sport’s Beta Fuel gels which not only provide a generous amount of carbohydrate but also include nootropics – a supplement that improves cognitive function. This is incredibly useful for endurance runs when your brain uses up a lot of glycogen.
Make the most of your time
Winter is the ideal time to work on any physical weaknesses and fine-tune your body ready for the summer racing season. This is the time to increase your strength and conditioning work, which will build a strong body and prevent injury. Identify any imbalances you may have or any ways in which your running form could be better, and work to fix them while there is no racing pressure.
Winter is also an important time to supplement your diet, as the dark days with little to no sunlight can affect our health and immune system. Joint health and immunity supplements such as the PhD Move Capsules will be key during the months when natural Vitamin D3 from sunlight is scarce.
Upgrade your warm-up
In winter, you won’t get away with counting your first mile of running as your warm-up as you might do in summer. Our muscles are naturally colder in winter which means they’ll need more time and attention to prime them for movement. Cold muscles are much more likely to strain or tear, which is the last thing you want during an important winter training block.
Develop a proper warm-up routine that includes drills, dynamic stretches, and mobility so that you not only prevent injury but also boost the performance of your run. It’s proven that a good warm-up optimises performance by increasing your cardiac output, accelerating the supply of energy to your muscles, and results in more dynamic muscle contraction.
Rekindle your love of running
Getting up when it’s still dark to do a run in the cold can be an absolute killer for motivation. The good news is that you can have a lot of fun with a winter training block to keep the fire alive. Winter training blocks can last up to 4 months so it’s important to plan out your training carefully, being mindful to build mileage gradually and incorporate both easy and hard runs.
To reinvigorate your passion for running when motivation is running low, try doing some runs without your watch and simply enjoy the freedom and exhilaration of running. Try racing a friend or set yourself mini-challenges to keep you focussed. Thinking ahead to whatever goals you have set for the summer and imagining how good it will feel to achieve a PB or tick off a bucket-list race will help get you through the tougher sessions.
Looking for the best running kit for visibility? Check out Brooks’ new collection!
About the author
Alex Parren is a qualified personal trainer, nutritionist, and running coach with 7 years experience in the fitness industry. With a background in both powerlifting and Olympic lifting, Alex is now a keen ultra runner and can usually be found exploring the trails in the south of England.