Sunday, 13 January 2013

Running in the winter

Depending on whether you're a "half empty" or a "half full" person, running in the English winter might fill you with dread or seem a pleasant experience.  As it's January, there's little escaping the cold temperatures and short daylight, so here's a few thoughts:

It can be a beautiful time of year

Now I'm the first to admit this could be a matter of taste but in my mind the English countryside has a real beauty to it in the winter.  Often everything is quiet and still.  You glide extra quietly so as not to disturb nature as it rests over the winter months.  

We sometimes get mellow mists, crisp sharp frosts, dull grey or wild weather.  Each has something going for it.

I sometimes have the privilege of running so early in the morning I know I'm the first person to go a long a path or a trail.  There are cobwebs, woven by spiders overnight, frosts with no other footprints but mine - I love it!

Wearing the right clothes

This can be a difficult choice.  Sometimes I have got up in the morning, looked out of the window and decided what to wear.  I often get this wrong and the weather turns out to be colder, warmer, more windy than I expected (the joys of English weather).

If the temperature is 3 degrees or so, generally a long sleeve base layer (made with a synthetic material) and a light running jacket is enough.  Running wearing shorts is okay at this temperature.

If the temperature is around freezing or down to minus 5, I will wear a pair of Tracksters, a woolly hat and gloves.  Even so there might be a wide variation in how you feel on a run in these conditions.  Plodding up a hill produces plenty of heat and perspiration which can then make you feel chilled once you're at the top of the hill in more windy, exposed conditions.  Sometimes there's not much you can do about this apart from taking a different route or putting up with it.  Either way I think gloves and a hat are very important.

Taking care

I blogged recently about taking a mobile phone just in case you suffer an injury and need some assistant.  Worth bearing in mind iPhones can have a useful app called "Find iPhone" so you can locate someone with another iPhone or iPad, using the GPS ability.  Pretty cool, eh?

Goes without saying the ground can be slippery under foot and if snowy, why not think about some of those clip-on grip gadgets (click here).

Remember your muscles will take longer to warm up and therefore you will probably feel stiffer for longer.  Some people get round this by stretching before a cold weather run.  I don't like pre-run stretching myself, perhaps a personal thing.  Instead I start off gently and slowly to avoid muscle or ligament damage and so far this has been working.

This photo (not very good, I know) was taken after a period of heavy rain.  The rain has washed away so much soil and leaf mould giving a totally different surface to run on.  Whilst not a problem here, more extreme conditions do exist and can be very hazardous - landslides, bogs, soft mud etc.

Wrapping up

Winter can be a fantastic time to be a runner but do take a few precuations to avoid some problems.

Above all, don't let the cold, wet, gloomy conditions spoil your fitness.  It took me quite a time to go from zero to marathon distance and it's important to keep a certain level of base fitness.  Besides, it is easy for any of us to feel a bit glum in the winter - running gets you out into the (limited) daylight and lifts your mood through all those endorphins.

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