Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just jog every now and again to keep on top of your fitness – winter running can be hard. Cold temperatures and darkness all contribute to a lack of motivation, but what can you do to nail those winter runs so you come out a better athlete?
Upgrade your shoes
It’s important to alternate your running shoes to keep them performing for longer, but in the winter it could be worth switching to a ‘trail running’ shoe, even if you’re not necessarily running off-road. Extra grip, thicker (warmer) and often designed to prevent ankle rolls – this could help you battle through those colder, wetter sessions.
Get a base layer
Maybe an obvious one, but something we get wrong! Dress warmer for the colder runs and prepare to ‘peel off’ clothing as you get into your run. Get a hat that can double as a snood or a lightweight, windproof jacket that you can take off and tie around your waist. A warm base layer is recommended when running in temperatures under 7/8 degrees Celsius. Opt for a full leg and/or an upper body base layer. They’re designed to keep you warm and allow breathability.
Off-road running in the dark can be scary, but also exhilarating- offering a new kind of training for the thrill seeker. It is important to use reflective clothing so you can be seen by others. A head torch is a ‘must have’ for those looking to run off-road in the winter. Aim to get a torch that offers at least 300 lumens when running off-road.
We’re all guilty of jumping straight into a run at a fast pace… and then wondering why we feel tight the next day! In the winter, warming up is especially important and this can be done in 5-10 minutes at home before you go out – you might find you perform much better. Here’s an example routine:
Hip opener * 10 (each leg)
Calf paddle stretch *10 (each leg)
Reach stretch on tiptoes *5 (hold for 5 seconds)
Lunges *5 (on each leg)
20 high knees
Leg Swings *10 (on each leg)
Knee hug to chest *10 seconds (on each leg)
Don’t start too fast
After your warm up, it’s important you build up to your pace rather than starting too fast. This helps prevent injury and allows time for your body to warm up in colder temperatures.
While its colder, you naturally won’t be sweating as much as the summer months. BUT you might be surprised how much fluid you lose when you’re wrapped up warm with a base layer, jacket, hat etc. The best way to determine your hydration is to weigh yourself before and after winter training runs. It’s not uncommon to lose up to 1L per hour when wrapped up in warm clothing. Prepare in the hour beforehand by sipping a Blue Fuel Hydrate and supporting physical performance during sessions.
Set a goal
When the nights get darker, it’s easy to lose motivation and potentially your endurance gains! Set yourself a goal – whether that be a weekly distance goal or by signing up to a winter endurance event! This will help you get out there and get it done.
Winter training is a great way to build mental toughness. If you can go out and train in the winter, you’ll thank yourself in the warmer months when you’re able to perform better! Exercise is also good for your mental health, so it’s important to maintain a structure throughout the winter months.
As you may not be running as much as the warmer months- use the spare time to build up your strength in the gym or at home. Strength is a key aspect for athletic performance whether your only sport is running or you just use running for your sport. Factoring in 1-3 strength sessions per week keeps your motivation high, aids mental health and gives you something different to focus on
The long run
It’s good to incorporate a range of different runs into your weekly winter running routine: tempo runs; easy runs; interval runs and a long run. This might be different for different people, but it’s Important to keep long runs in your routine to maintain aerobic capacity. This could be anything from 30 minutes to 2/3 hours depending on your level. With this, you should still look to practice fuelling – even if you don’t have an event in the near future. This aids performance and helps ‘train the gut’ so your body becomes accustomed to consuming fuel on the go.
Author: Ted Munson
Ted Munson is an SENr Performance Nutritionist working with elite teams and endurance athletes. He also competes in numerous running events and has undertaken ultra-marathons and boasts an impressive 2:57 marathon.