Preparation is the key when it comes to winter training. The best shoes, best jackets, best breathable layer and best lighting all play a role in getting the best out of those dark, wet nights.
As the winter and wet weather takes hold so you’ll need to think about the shoes you choose for your running. Grip, water resistance, and weight are all elements you should think about when making your choice.
“Comfort is obviously most important thing,” says Olympian Laura Weightman. “I prefer the Nike Pegasus as it provides grip, some support and is good for most of what the winter is going to throw at us!”
What to look for
Grip: Are you going to run off-road or are you a road and track runner? Deeper, more severe looking lugs will provide great grip on the mud, but be warned that comes out a price. While great on the mud, they wear much quicker on the road and won’t last as long. Look too at the direction of the lugs - multi-directional will be better for going up and down steeper hills while more uniform shapes are better for even surface canal paths and flatter forest tracks as well as the road. For the muddiest of events then look for spikes - trail shoes work well for drier races but as the surface becomes more and more churned up - often the case at a cross-country event - then spikes come into their own.
GTX, or waterproof shoes, work well when it comes to regular training runs. Often a little heavier than non-waterproof shoes, they tend to be the kind of shoe you’d enjoy for a steady outing rather than a faster session. If your run does take in a river crossing, then GTX works well but best of all, the shoe would also include an outlet for the water to run out.
Given the variable nature of our winter, this is arguably the most important element of your winter preparation when it comes to gear selection. Lighter jackets may not be up to the job, but layer with a fully breathable, lightweight long sleeved shirt and you’ll discover that outer layer works very differently and very much more efficiently.
As the winter progresses so your layering needs change. Softshell, merino wool and polyester are all fabrics you should include in your layering choice. Cool, windy conditions call for a softshell, hard biting winds and low temperatures are well suited to merino wool while polyester is something for everyday, variable conditions. In really severe conditions, a winter shell over a fleece and a merino wool shirt will prove hugely successful.
Performance needs are what you need to think about when choosing a jacket. Is it for after a run or for on the move. The two are very different, because a jacket that can be used for running as a very different cut and fit, which means it moves with your on a run Look also for panelling to allow performance movement, ventilation to manage heat and reflectivity for safety when making your choice.
“I opt for the Nike Essential Flash Jacket,” says Olympic 1500m finalist Laura Weightman. It offers breathability, reflectivity, venting to keep your body at the right temperature and a performance fit meaning you can run at pace.
What to look for
Venting and breathability: Heat management is your primary concern when choosing a jacket for running. We all too often opt for a fully waterproof layer but instead lean towards something that is rain resistant rather than fully waterproof. The breathability and ‘feel’ while running is better. Overheating in any conditions, be it the summer or in the cold and wet is not only uncomfortable, but there is also a significant decline in performance…. you'll slow down!
Reflectivity: Make sure cars can see you when you’re running in the dark. Reflective strips on the back and arms are vital.
Sometimes it’s the little things that matter and like layering shirts, making the right choice when it comes to breathable hats and gloves can make a difference. Gloves come with different capabilities when it comes to fighting cold and certainly it’s a person choice, as with hats. A peaked cap might suit one runner, a thermal hat another. It is worth considering sunglasses in very cold, bright conditions - rare we know in Britain, but you never know!
Running clothing is all about performance and breathability. Look for trousers that are tight fitting and will allow you to move comfortably at pace. Look too for reflective strips, pockets for key storage.
The complete package
Winter is the perfect time for any runner to take up a gym membership. A successful spring and summer season relies on a good winter of strength work which will help you perform at a higher level and reduce the chance of injury. Every runner should incorporate a weekly indoor workout into their regime - working on core strength and mobility. Traditional weight training can do much of this, but also look to exercise classes such as Pilates and yoga. Many of the country’s best long distance runners put their continued success down to core strength and flexibility while sprinters undoubtedly benefit from the explosive power a winter of weight training will provide.
How the best approach winter
Here’s a guide to how an international athlete of the calibre of Laura Weightman would go about preparing herself for a successful winter training:
Nike Pegasus 34 Shield for everyday training
Nike Zoom Span Shield that is good for fast pace work as well as longer runs
Nike Power Tight Racer fast wicks sweat, and have a competitive fit
Nike Flash Essential filled vest for those gym days
Nike Flash element 1/2 zip for under a jacket in the really cold or on its own on cool days, complete with thumbholes and reflectivity
Nike Flash element run jacket for breathable, comfortable performance on wet days