As soon as the clocks go back and the darkness of night out weighs that of the light of day along with a drop in temperature, for many this is off putting when it comes to finding the motivation to open the door and take those first few steps out into the cold and dark of the early mornings and evenings. More often than not once you are out there you soon forget about it and when finished with the steam coming off your body, the thrill and buzz can be even better than one of those beautiful spring like morning runs. However and before the inexperienced amongst us take those first few winter running steps, it is important to pay attention to certain factors that can turn a winters run from what should be a pleasant experience into one that could put you off for good.
Clothing during the winter months is very important with reflective gear being right at the top of the list. Most running gear now has reflective strips and actually use reflective materials during the manufacturing of all clothing and footwear. For those who perhaps don’t want to spend money on running gear just for the winter months then a reflective bib is a must and can be worn over the top of any item of clothing along with numerous flashing clip on lights which are also now available. Visibility really is a must! The saying “Be Seen, Be Safe” is undoubtedly a quote to always remember when running in poor light.
*When out running in the dark, always try to stay on pavements or if forced on to roads then face the traffic. Whilst running with music is a must for some, this is something that perhaps needs careful consideration when running in poor visibility.
Another item for winter running which has become very popular during the last few years are head torches. They really are an excellent piece of equipment to have when running in the dark by way of visibility and helping to light up the way ahead. However and as with all products, some are better than others so when purchasing always look to try on and check for not only the power output, but to check the beam shape and width spread. Also be aware of the charge and or battery life. At Sportlink we tend to focus on the Silva brand of head-torches which can range in cost from about £20 to £80. Once again I have tried them all out for which they all meet the necessary requirements.
*A good headtorch really will throw out a strong beam of light so remember to dip the light or your head when motorists and vehicles are coming towards you.
Needless to say there are other considerations with regards what to wear so as to meet those potential winter elements to keep you not only warm and dry, but comfortable too. I always start with a base layer made from wicking materials/fibres which will wick away any build-up of moisture from sweat. Cotton retains moisture which is not only uncomfortable, but can lead to chaffing and a drop in body temperature if you slow down or turn into a cold wind. Depending upon the conditions I tend to add layers albeit lightweight vests, t shirts or even long sleeve tops. If it is freezing cold then it might not just mean one or two extra layers, but even a third and if it is raining and very windy then a lightweight showerproof jacket too. If out on one of those longer runs and the rain stops and you start to get a little too warm, most lightweight jackets can easily be folded up and carried or just tied around your waist. I also suffer quite badly with cold fingers so more often than not in the winter I will wear lightweight gloves. A hat is also a must for me what with not wanting to lose all the heat through the top of my bald head. Ladies may want to consider head bands which cover the ears when the temperature drops those few extra degrees. Other items which I like to have available are a couple of pairs of running tights and plenty of high quality running socks. If shoes are the most important piece of a runners equipment then socks have to be the second most important item. Ladies will also point to a good sports bra. For those who don’t like getting their feet wet, then there are several models of running shoes which are made with a Goretex fabric. However before purchasing a “Goretex Running Shoe”, make sure that it also fits all your other necessary requirements as there are several Goretax running shoes on the market whichmay lack in other very important departments i.e. cushioning, shock absorption and support if required. Grip in very slippery and icy under foot conditions also needs to be considered so if your shoes don’t have enough tread on them consider driving to somewhere where the surface is better suited or purchase a set of snow/ice grippers which can easily be fitted on to the soles of your running shoes.
*When it comes to running equipment like everything else you tend to get what you pay for. You don’t have to be able to afford a Ferrari to get a great car and that is the same with running gear. However there are price points which do need to be considered when purchasing quality footwear, clothing and equipment particularly if you want it to retain its capabilities for year after year. You can be assured that we always look to get people in the right gear at the right price and we only sell what we endorse.
Always warm up before running whatever the temperature or time of the year. However and during the cooler months a good warm up will certainly make you feel that much better before taking those first few strides when the air temperature is cooler particularly as our muscles do not contract at the same intensity and are less powerful in colder conditions. One other consideration to take on board is that whilst our bodies rely on carbohydrates as a source of energy for distance running, energy consumption from carbohydrates increases during cooler temperatures and therefore it is advisable to ensure that you have eaten a meal high in complex carbohydrates the night before if planning a long morning run or indeed a light meal or foods containing carbohydrates two to three hours beforehand. This is also another good reason to make sure that you wear clothing which will keep you warm during your run.
As with warming up, the warm down is also very important, but if you are wet and the temperature is extra cold then it only takes a few minutes after stopping for your body temperature to drop to the point where you can start shivering. If you have done a few mins of gentle jogging at the end of your run, then put another top on before doing your stretching exercises. If wet and cold then make sure you take off your wet layers and replace with dry clothing as soon as you can. Consume some water and eat a little food too or consume a recovery drink which will help to replace the fluid and nutrients lost during your run.
During warm weather running we all pay attention to staying hydrated, but this is just as applicable to running in the cooler temperatures. Therefore always have a drink before you go and just as you might in the summer months carry a drinks bottle with you so as to top up along the way especially on the longer one hour plus runs.
Happy Running whatever the weather and conditions.
Sportlink Running & Fitness.