Why Winter running is good for you
For many of us, as soon as the temperature outside starts to plummet, our running mojos go with it. The long Summer days are long gone and now that the shorter days paired with a bitterly cold breeze have crept in, it understandably isn’t the most persuading argument for getting in an early morning run. Whilst changing up your workout routine during the Winter and favouring indoor spin classes is no bad thing, keeping up (or starting) running in the Winter actually has a whole host of benefits. So, until the Winter snow hits and running becomes an actual safety hazard, here’s why you should consider picking up the miles this Winter:
You’ll run stronger & more confidently
That’s right, studies show that you feel stronger and more confident running in cold weather. As much as running in the sunshine sounds like a wonderful idea, it’s much harder on our bodies and can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience. Running in the cold increases comfort levels and improves how you perceive your ability. Confidence is key after all, and very useful when it comes to those long training runs.
Your heart rate will be lower
Your heart rate has to work harder to maintain the same intensity when it’s hot because your body has to send more blood to the skin to be cooled by evaporation (sweat!). This means you’ll be much more fatigued at the end of a run. Luckily in the cold, your body can keep the same pace with a lower heart rate.
Besides the usual mental benefits of any exercise (hello endorphins), training outdoors in Winter comes with a couple of added bonuses. Firstly, we generally spend less time outside in Winter, preferring to hide away in the warmth instead of facing the cold. Yet getting out into the crisp, fresh air feels AMAZING once you get used to it and you’ll come back feeling totally refreshed and alert.
Secondly, it takes mental strength to get out there in the first place. We convince ourselves that we’d rather stay at home and watch Netflix with a hot chocolate (very tempting), but by pushing through the mental barrier and getting out there anywhere, we’re really building our inner strength. You’ll feel super smug knowing you overcame the mental challenge, and when it comes to running in the Spring — it’ll seem like a total breeze!
Top tips to make it easier:
Switch up your routine
Getting out in the dark isn’t fun, so try swapping your usual early morning runs for a lunchtime jog. This was actually the way I got into running. Not only did I find my passion for running this way, but it also put a stop to the ‘afternoon slump’ and all those sugar and caffeine cravings!
If midday exercise isn’t your thing, head into work and start your run from there instead. It means you can commute in the dark, take advantage of the light AND still be at your desk by 9am!
Dress for the occasion
Without trying to sound like your mother, you’re only cold because you aren’t dressed correctly. Invest in some good base layers, a headband and maybe even a running vest — whatever you need to feel comfortable. If you’re running at night or early in the morning away, grab some lights or a reflective jacket to make sure you can be always be seen by oncoming traffic. I used to live in the suburbs where there were very badly lit areas near parkland and so I invested in a head lamp (ok, I didn’t look very fashionable, but at least I was safe!).
Warm up BEFORE going outdoors
Very, very important! In Summer you can usually get away with very little warming up before a run, as the higher temperatures help the muscles warm up quicker. However, in Winter the situation is very different. Instead of running straight out the door, warm yourself up first by getting the heart rate up with some dynamic stretching. Spending a couple minutes doing light, bodyweight exercises will break that awful shiver barrier that you so dread when you first leave the house. You will also considerably decrease your chances of injury.
Set a goal
There’s nothing more motivating than knowing you have to be at the start line of a race in the very near future. Start training for a Spring half or full marathon — then you’ll have no choice but to get off the sofa and out the door. For those of you training for the Virgin London Marathon next April, you know the value of getting in some mileage now before the end of the year as all of your training will take place during the Winter. My advice for experienced runners is to get to a comfortable 10 miles before the year is up.