Bracing the cold: how to prepare for a run in winter
Days are short and the weather outside is frightful, so going for a run might be the last thing on your mind. However, staying active throughout the cold season will help you remain healthy and fit. As my colleagues and I are preparing to brace the cold for the Winter Run next week, here are some training tips we gathered for you.
1. Exercise regularly
You might have made a New Year’s resolution to be more active but avoid the temptation of giving it all you’ve got on the first day, then taking a long break to recover. Going for a run puts a lot of stress on your body, especially in winter, as most people switch to a more sedentary lifestyle and over-indulge on sweet treats and alcohol over the festive season. To avoid injuries and build up a long-lasting habit try exercising for at least 20–30 min 3–4 times per week.
2. Vary your exercise routine
Running requires strength, endurance and speed, so there is plenty of other exercises that will help you become a better runner. Various cardio routines like cycling, rowing or fast walking will aid you in building stamina, while yoga and swimming are great for warm-ups and post-run recovery.
3. Get some fresh air
The treadmill can be a great alternative to outdoor running, especially in winter. However, if you are training for an upcoming race, make sure you do at least some of your practice runs outside. Running on icy ground, battling the cold wind and breathing frozen air can be very challenging — it’s important that you experience and get used to these conditions before the big day.
4. Dress for the weather
Choosing the right running outfit is especially important in winter. Wear multiple layers of breathable clothes that allow you to control your body temperature better. Your core will likely stay warm from the exercise, but make sure you protect your ears and hands with a hat and a pair of gloves.
5. Warm up
You might get away with skipping a pre-run warm-up in summer, however, you are almost guaranteed to get an injury if you don’t prepare your muscles for the vigorous exercise in the cold weather. The NHS recommends starting with a fast walk or a light jog and gradually increase the pace until you reach the speed you are aiming to maintain about 10 min into the run. Likewise, avoid staying in the cold to cool down. Gradually reduce the speed and end the run with a brisk walk, then do some stretching exercises indoors.
6. Eat your greens
Did you go straight for the turkey and left the Brussels sprouts untouched this Christmas? Running in the cold requires more fuel, so make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as protein-rich meals. My personal winter favorites are sweet potato wedges, avocado salad, oatmeal porridge topped up with banana, berries and honey and, of course, an obligatory post-run hot chocolate!
7. Stay hydrated
You might be less keen to drink water when it’s cold, but it’s still important to stay hydrated. Try swapping your water bottle for a flask or warm (but not hot) herbal tea and finish the run with a cup of ginger-and-lemon drink or spicy chai latte.
8. Stay safe
Days are short, so you are much more likely to run in the dark. Make sure you wear bright reflective clothes, stick to well-lit areas and avoid running in places where you don’t feel completely safe. Be extra careful if you are jogging on a wet or frozen ground and consider investing in special running shoes with a better grip if you are planning to run in snow.
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