Winter is not your friend if you like working out or running outdoors. Pre-Christmas always seems more doable… although it’s still pretty crisp, November and December are often notoriously mild and have a habit of fooling you that winter isn’t “that bad”. Then the real chill of January and February hit and Spring feels even further away than it did before! Well, winter doesn’t have to mean the end to your training; it can actually be the perfect time to beat that PB.
We spoke with Nike + running coach, and owner of Track Mafia, Cory Wharton Malcolm, to pick his brains on his top advice for winter running.
Layers, Layers, Layers
Make sure you layer your clothes intelligently, so you can take layers off as you warm up and then take put them back on as you start to cool down. However, your layers need to be breathable – you want them to trap heat, not sweat! At the same time, you don’t want to over do it – you will warm up very quickly once you start running. Your hands and head are particularly vulnerable to the cold; as your blood will be shunted to the working muscles, so also opt for hats and gloves.
Obviously, it is cold outside, so make sure you warm-up before any run or race. Cold muscles will lead to more chance of an injury, so it is crucial to take this time to do a proper warm-up. Do some dynamic stretches, including leg swings, deep lunges and knee lifts, and don’t forget to stretch your arms too. I would also recommend trying Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion to help loosen and soften muscles as well – so incorporate this into your warm-up. If you do get an injury, apply a cooling product like Deep Freeze Cold Spray to help minimize damage reduce recovery time provide pain relief.
See and be Seen
One key thing that runners often miss is making sure they are wearing bright clothing when out and about. Safety first! It is vital that when you head out for a run during the colder, darker months of the year that you make sure your clothes are bright, I would also advise wearing flash/3M clothing in dark. Always look or garments with reflectivity on the arms and legs, rather than torso, moving parts of you are easier to spot.
Winter Training Ground
I have always seen my winter runs as a bit of a training ground for spring and summer races. Think of your winter runs as a way of banking miles ahead of summer – the more miles you get under your belt in the winter, the more your spring runs will be more enjoyable.
I would advise against doing the ‘same old route’ every time you’re out on a run. Mix up your running, try different routes or give your run a purpose. Why not run to a destination for a reason – so run to brunch, or run to work, or even run to your evening event – whatever you fancy. It makes your run more than just a run as it’s serving a purpose getting you to your destination.
Try other things
Yes, getting the miles in will help with your training, but remember other sports and exercises can help you to improve your running. Why not jump on a bike, try spinning, or if the weather is particularly bad head to the gym and do some weight lifting. If you want to keep up your cardio I would always recommend the ski-erg or rowing machine. Whatever you enjoy, keep things different and it will make you look forward to your next run.
I always advocate the benefits of running with others – maybe not on every run, but it can really help. Why not sign up to a running club as this will give you new pals to run with, some of whom you might share the same goals and you can support each other. Alternatively, try running with like-minded friends or family – agreeing to go on a run with someone will make you feel accountable on the days when you want to stay at home, but your plan says run, run, run!
Be Flexible with your training
I find winter running is more about maintenance than increasing speed, it gives you the perfect opportunity to mix-up your training runs. That said, you can still see speed increases during this time. Try mixing your distance, try a shorter run but speed up, or try and more elevated route – by adding variety you will help fend off boredom and plateauing.
Set a goal
Before every race or run, set yourself a goal. It could be to reach a certain distance, or to beat your last time, or simply to get to a destination. However, try to keep the milestones and goals small, as it will keep you focused and motivated when you reach your goal. I would even recommend having a bronze, silver or gold goal, so even if you miss one; you’ve got another one to aim for.
This might sound cliché, but smile when you run. Enjoy being outdoors, even it is cold. I promise you it will make the run a lot easier.
words by Cory Wharton Malcolm