We’ve all been there: you’ve got into a great running routine over the summer and autumn, then winter hits like a ton of bricks. It’s cold, it’s dark and suddenly the whole thing looks a lot less appealing.
But they say ‘winter miles for summer smiles’ and there’s some truth in that. Even if you aren’t training for anything specific, keeping up a base over the winter will just make those sunny, light runs when spring comes around feel even more glorious.
There are a few things you can do to make winter running feel a little less grim, from investing in a few pieces of kit to trying to switch up the time of day you’re running…
Winter Running Tips
I chatted with Teal Gove on the Cook Eat Run podcast this week, and after she revealed that some of her runs were at MINUS 38*C, I realised that my version of winter has nothing on hers. Her top tip was to establish what the coldest part of your body is – for her it was her bum – and layer up. She wears a tight pair of shorts under her leggings, then a pair of joggers over the top as a wind break!
I think we’ve all left the house bundled up and ready to brave the elements on a cold day, only to be sweating profusely by the end of the road. A good rule of thumb for winter running is to dress as if it’s a few degrees warmer than it actually is – you want to feel a little chilly when you first leave the house.
Wearing several thin layers rather than one thick one makes it easier to control your temperature. Try a t-shirt with a long sleeve over the top, and then a light jacket or gilet if it’s really cold. If you get too warm you can take a layer off and tie it around your waist or stuff it into your pack.
Try lunchtime runs
It’s a bit bleak when you arrive at work in the dark, and then leave in it too. The lack of daylight can be a big contributor to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), or to just feeling a bit low around this time of year.
Getting outside during daylight hours can massively help and a lunchtime run is the perfect way to do this. I know a lot of people are working remotely due to COVID at the moment and have a bit more flexibility over the schedules, making this a great time to try the “runch”. Whether it’s an easy 5km around the park or a quick intervals session, you might be surprised by how much of a boost it gives you.
The trickiest thing can be squeezing everything into your lunch hour – make sure your kit is ready to go beforehand and have lunch prepped for afterwards (otherwise that post-run “runger” is going to be real). If you can’t squeeze in a run at lunchtime, just a walk around the block can be enough to help beat that mid-afternoon slump.
I did really well with lunchtime runs over the summer, however as the wards and workload has got busier, I find I eat my lunch while working most days. But I’m determined to squeeze in a lunchtime run once a week going forward.
Be safe, be seen
Whether you’re running on the trails or the roads, one of the biggest challenges of winter running is making sure you can both see and be seen! I posted a round-up of the Best Reflective Gear For Runners a few weeks ago, which is a good place to start. Reflective gear is especially important if you’re running alongside busy roads – you want to light yourself up like a Christmas tree to make sure drivers can see you! I’ve recently been trying out the Brooks Carbonite range on my early morning runs.
If you’re running on unlit or poorly lit trails and paths, then one of the most important winter running investments you can make is a good head torch. For running specifically, you want one that’s light, fits closely to your head and that can be angled to the ground. Alpkit has some great affordable options, as does Petzl.
Embrace the bad weather
If you can’t avoid it, you may as well just embrace it. If you get into the right mindset, you might find yourself actually enjoying the bad weather. Hit the trails, splash through the puddles, get muddy, relish that post-run hot shower and cup of tea all the more. It might be a bit more Type 2 Fun than summer running (read about the fun scale here if you aren’t familiar) but those cold, wet, dark or muddy miles let you feel extra smug and actually that can be kinda fun in its own way!
I put together some tips on trail running for beginners if you fancy mixing things up over the winter and aren’t sure where to begin.
Some people relish winter running, charging around the trails, getting muddy, feeling smug afterwards. And some people don’t – if it’s really not for you, don’t make yourself miserable over it. If you’re more of a fairweather runner, there are tons of ways you can stay in touch with your favourite hobby over the winter.
Hit the treadmill – there’s no shame in switching your miles over to the treadmill if you don’t fancy the cold/dark/rain/snow. I particularly use the treadmill option when I’m running alone very early morning or late at night, or if it’s icy. I am clumsy enough without risking falling on slippery pavements.
I’ve just launched a new running book club with James (Morning Coffee Run). November’s book is ‘Rise of the Ultra Runners’ by Adharanand Finn. We’ll be asking for questions and thoughts from you guys and then recording a podcast with the author at the end of November. Grab a copy and join in! I’ve just launched Series 2 of the Cook, Eat, Run podcast too, and have some episodes coming up over the next few weeks that I’m super excited to share!
If you’re looking to watch something that makes you feel really glad to be inside, on the sofa, warm and dry, then The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young is a classic. For something a bit lighter, try Brittany Runs a Marathon, a rom-com type film about a complete beginner who attempts to train for the New York Marathon.
Winter Running Kit Essentials
There are a few bits of kit that can help winter running feel much safer and more comfortable. Here are my essentials…
- Reflective jacket to stay safe on the roads – like the Proviz REFLECT360 Running Jacket, or the Brooks Carbonite Jacket
- Gloves for those frosty morning runs – try the Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Glove or the Ronhill Wind-Block Flip Glove (with built-in mitten).
- Running headband keep your ears warm – look for something this Sweaty Betty Thermal Earwarmer.
- A lightweight running waterproof – like the OMM Kamleika Jacket.
- Water resistant (yet breatheable) Under Armour Sonic 3 Storm
- Trail shoes for exploring off-road – take a look at Salomon or Inov-8.
- A reusable cup for essential post-run coffees and hot chocolate – like KeepCup.
How do you stay motivated over the winter? What are your cold weather kit essentials?
Photos by Phil HIll