Thursday 11 October 2012

Stay Fit... Stay Safe!

Winter is setting in fast for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Nights are drawing in, and choosing not to go out for your run becomes a more enticing option. In fact, we've already noticed that downloads of the app have started to drop along with the temperature; not many people want to start their life-changing workout at this time of year.

If you're reading this article, then you're probably eager to buck that trend and maintain the hard work you've put in over the summer. In fact, Winter can be a really great time to run - your body is cooler, and sometimes you just feel like you've got so much more energy. So, you've decided to keep running and shed an extra few pounds so that you don't feel guilty about enjoying an extra slice of turkey over the holidays. What do you need to know about running in the Winter, so that you can stay fit, and stay safe?

Warm up at home

During the Winter  it's very easy to overdress. You step outside, feel the bitter wind, and add some extra layers. A mile down the road, you've fully warmed up, and you're really starting to sweat -  and wish you'd left some of those layers at home!

A good way to work around this is to spend your 5 minute warm up in your home. Just do some gentle exercises - some jumping jacks, running on the spot, squat jumps. Just enough to raise the heart beat a little, get the blood pumping to the muscles, and get you ready to run. That way you won't be walking for 5 minutes in the cold, but you'll be better able to gauge what you need to wear.


Wear light layers, rather than a big fleecy jumper. That way you can open them up, or remove them as necessary. What you need to wear depends very much on conditions, but be smart. Here in the UK I normally wear track-suit bottoms, a t-shirt and a long sleeved reflective cycling jacket. Man-made fibres are good because they'll wick the sweat away from your body.

Extra warmth for the extremities

Though your body will warm quickly, your hands, toes, ears and nose will suffer the cold more. Find a hat, gloves, warm socks, and if it's really cold, a face mask.


Because you're not sweating so much it's easy to think that you don't need to hydrate. In fact you're probably breathing out almost as much water as when the weather is warm.

Be careful about hydrating too soon before you run - you really don't want a litre of water sloshing around in your belly while you are running (the results might not be pretty!). Make sure you hydrate well during the day, but don't drink anything more than a few sips in the hour before you run.

Find a running partner

It's a good idea to run with someone, especially in the Winter  when the nights are dark. This is especially true for the women - you'll be safer in pairs. There's also another benefit - if you've arranged to meet someone, you're less likely to drop out and let that person down. Try to meet indoors though - nobody wants to be hanging around outdoors on a cold night.


I can't say this enough. Even if it isn't dark yet, make sure you're visible. High Vis jackets are cheap, and most running gear has reflective stripes on it. Clip on cycle lights are also a good idea, especially if you're running somewhere were there are no street lights.

Stay dry

The only way to stay 100% dry is to wear full waterproofs, which isn't practical, but take steps to stay dry where possible. Dry out your shoes before your next run, as running in cold damp shoes isn't pleasant, and wear a waterproof jacket if possible. Zip-lock bags will help to keep your phone dry, though bear in mind that they are not 100% waterproof.

Be flexible

You need to fit 3 runs in over 7 days, ideally with a rest day in-between. This leaves you with a little flexibility to shift your runs about a little. If it's pouring down with rain, skip it and run tomorrow, or if you're on the second day of your 2 day break and the weather is lovely, run today - it could rain tomorrow. When I first did Couch-to-5K, I made a deal with myself. I could move runs, but not cancel them. I had to finish all of my 27 runs within the 9 weeks, 3 runs per week. If I had meetings, or was faced with bad weather I allowed myself to move runs around in the week, but I had to fit them in somehow.

Set a goal

You might need a little extra inspiration over the winter, so great way to motivate yourself is too book yourself into a race in the spring, or early in the year. There are often holiday and new year events too, which can be a great atmosphere on a crisp Winter morning. Pay the registration fee upfront too, so that you know that you've got an event to train for. Count how many weeks you have, and plan your workouts, leaving a spare week or two for setbacks. Keep this goal in sight, especially when your bed seems more cozy than your training shoes. (Thanks to Cherie on Facebook for this one)

Good luck with your Winter running, and remember - Stay fit, stay safe!