Winter is here and with it comes the shorter days and the long, dark nights.
While it might once have been easy to persuade yourself to stay in and watch TV instead of getting out there for a run, there’s no excuse for doing that now. The superb range of reflective gear on offer to winter runners means that staying safe while you strive towards your fitness goals has never been easier.
“It really is something I stress with my athletes when out on the roads,” says Steve Vernon, Team New Balance Manchester coach and manager.
“Light yourself up like a Christmas tree, so that you are clearly visible to other road users. A good hi-vis jacket with added reflective strips ensure you can be clearly seen in headlights and makes winter running safe and enjoyable.”
Be safe, be seen
Don’t panic, that doesn’t mean you have to start carrying bulky torches whenever you hit the track. Staying seen is simple, and even stylish these days. To see for yourself, take a look at the New Balance Accelerate Hi-Viz range, which features reflective shirts and jackets.
The Accelerate Hi Viz jacket is a great starting point when searching for great new reflective running gear. It sports super-safe reflective trims and zip-up hand pockets which are perfect for safely storing accessories, as well as keeping your hands out of the cold.
Ron Hill was a legend in the running world in the 1960s and has since created his own tracksters, which are now world-famous. This essential running-gear offers comfort and freedom to move at your own pace.
“Nighttime visibility is key for all runners to enhance their safety when training,” says Ron, who often logged more than 100 miles a week for months at a time, many of them in the dark!
“From the very early days of designing products for the Ronhill Sports brand, it was always important for me to have a running kit made in bright colours with reflective trim as part of the range. To enable me to train and race in cold, wet Northern conditions, it was imperative that I wore appropriate apparel to keep me warm and dry. This meant tights, waterproof jackets, hats and gloves.”
Steve Vernon’s 5 great winter workouts to try
Now you have all the kit, Steve has some challenging workout ideas designed to keep you strong and motivated during the winter months.
1. Don’t forget those hills
This is the perfect time of year to really get to work on hill training. Spend the run-up to Christmas doing as many as 5 miles of hills once a week and you’ll feel a build in strength by spring. The New Balance Freshfoam 1080 V9s can help with this.
2. Go long
If you’ve got access to a track, this challenge is a killer! Try 2km/1km/2km/1km/2km/1km (lap jog recovery). Alternatively, try this as a 6-minute run followed by a 3-minute run at about 10km pace. Power through it and you’ll love the results.
3. Did we mention hills?
This is a slightly different take on what should be your favourite session for winter. Run 10 sprints uphill followed by 2-3 miles at about 10km pace.
4. Try this classic
Alternate 5 x 3 mins or 5 x 2 mins with a 5 x 1 min and just a 1-minute recovery jog throughout.
5. Get off-road
Whether it’s on the trails, or in the park, run 6 to 8 miles at a pace where you start out at your marathon speed (or long-run pace) and gradually bring it down to your half-marathon speed. Make the most of the dark with this one.
Tips that work wonders for winter motivation
If you’re in need of some tips that’ll keep you on track when times get tough, keep reading on.
1. Prepare and don’t deviate from your plan
The night before you intend to train, put your running clothes and shoes at the end of your bed. The hardest part is getting out of the door, but if your kit is good to go and it’s the first thing you see then you are far more likely to pursue the session, despite the dark.
For extra encouragement, put reminders on your phone or on the fridge to reinforce your training plan and the session you have set for that day.
2. Improving mental resilience
We all need to expose ourselves to new stressors to improve and develop as people.
Training when it’s cold, wet and dark helps us deal with everyday life stress better. Take control of what you can, and reap the rewards in all other aspects of life!
The dark months make up half the year, therefore if you ignore training in the dark you will have missed 6 months in which you could have been working on your personal development, health and fitness. When summer comes around, you’ll wish you had utilised the darker months!
3. Get a good head torch
This one speaks for itself. Investing in a good head torch can be the difference between enjoying dark training sessions and dreading them. Always take spare batteries in case you’re travelling a large distance.
4. Stay consistent to known routes
No-one likes getting lost, especially in the dark. Senses are heightened and we can easily get disoriented. To gain confidence training in the dark, stay consistent on proven routes that you are comfortable with.
5. Pick kit that works as hard as you do
Don’t quit halfway through a run because you picked the wrong kit! Carry layers if you’re on a long run, and check the weather for cold and frosty mornings, then pick your kit accordingly.
Gloves and a hat are great options for keeping warm and can be removed when you warm up.
Build on base layers for winter running
Layering makes sense. The science on this one is simple.
“The energy produced from running will soon generate heat, even on the coldest days,” says Professor of Sports Science, John Brewer. “It’s important not to start wearing too many layers, otherwise you’ll quickly feel hot and uncomfortable.”
Having fewer layers, or lighter and thinner layers over a base layer with a breathable, protective outer layer maximises the breathability of your outfit. In turn, this optimises thermal regulation and allows you to perform at your peak.
Under Armour’s range made with mineral-infused moisture-wicking fabric does all of the above, as well as absorbing energy and reflecting it back into your tissues and muscles. The result? Performance beyond compare.
What about winter running shoes?
When it comes to shoes, it’s a big world to choose from - which is where we come in!
Our feet are connected to our entire body, so when they’re not on top form, they can affect various aspects of our health, not just our running times.
When you’re shopping for the perfect pair of running shoes, believe it or not, it’s better to go in the morning. This is because by midday, your feet may have increased by up to half a size due to swelling.
Once you’ve strapped on your new shoes and are in need of a run to break them in, what’s next? Eilish McColgan, one of Britain’s best 5km runners and the owner of a 51-minute 10-miler has this great advice:
“I spend about a month just running. No stopwatch, no real plans, just getting in some easy miles and running however I feel. I don’t time anything and don’t have set distances in my mind. I just run and turn my legs over”
For that kind of running, the Asics GT 200 8 is the perfect shoe. As for the aftercare, once you’ve finished a great run in your Asics, don’t forget to soak the feet in an Epsom salt foot bath. Epsom salts have great anti-inflammatory properties and can help with muscle tension too, which will give your feet a chance to relax. You heard it here first!