Friday, 28 October 2016

Liven up your running in the winter

Winter is tough on the runner.  Waking up and getting ready for work is hard enough without trying to motivate yourself for a pre work pitch black run.  A warm bed is curiously tempting and it's easy to get into a running rut.

I'm no olympic athlete but here are a few ways I keep my exercise on track even when it's getting chilly outside.

1.  Run in daylight when you can.  Difficult I know when you work but if you do get the chance, take it.  Winter daylight hours are made for running, especially those cold, crisp days or misty mornings when the watery sunlight makes everything look beautiful.  Ways you can make time for this include running at the weekend, going out for a short lunchtime run (if you're allowed to in your workplace and have a shower available), running after school drop off or even taking a bit of holiday or time back from work.

2.  Work out a dark running route.  If you're going to keep running in winter, it's best to have about 3-4 routes you can do which are well lit and ideally have footpaths / sidewalks. Don't forget the high visibility clothing even if you do have a path to run along and obviously think about your personal safety first.  If it doesn't feel good, strike that run off the route and go somewhere different.  As dark running routes are likely to be near roads, you can always drive the route in the dark first to see how it "feels".

"If it doesn't feel good, strike that run off the route and go somewhere different."

3.  Remember the runner's high you get later.  Sometimes motivating yourself by thinking about the run just doesn't quite cut it so by remembering the positive after effects you can get yourself off the couch.

4.  Reverse your normal route.  If you're a bit limited on routes especially if you have to run in the dark then just reversing one occasionally can make it feel like a completely new course.

5.  Give in to "I don't fancy a run today" but mix it up with something else.  Why not try swimming, a fitness class or an exercise video?  It's great to keep your body guessing a bit and sometimes I find doing some HIIT or strength improves my running speeds later.

6.  Don't do it alone!  Look into local running clubs or parkruns and see if you can meet up once or twice a week with like minded people.

7.  Have a spring target.  Sign up for a race in the new year so that you have a target to aim for.

8.  Mix up the playlist.  If you run with music, changing it up a little will keep a spring in your step.  I used to have one running playlist but now I'm starting to split it into genres.  I'm not sure it would work for me but some people swear by having an audio book to listen to.

9.  Dress appropriately.  I have a lightweight running jacket for cold days and running gloves which are so important when it's icy.  I read somewhere once the idea is to dress as though you are 10-15 degrees warmer but even then I find my hands get cold and stay cold on icy days.  Leave the woollies at home though, you need everything to be lightweight and thin, certainly in the UK anyway.  Apart from very, very cold days you need to address wind chill more than anything else.  Remember to be safe though.  If the paths are caked with ice and haven't been treated, perhaps it's best to stay home.  No-one needs a broken ankle.

"Rather than running as far as you can each time, why not... as fast as you can?"

10.  Give yourself a break.  It's not necessary to exercise every day.  The UK government recommends 5 times a week for 30 minutes or more.  6 or 7 days isn't necessary.  That said, doing something is better than doing nothing.  If you're struggling to get in some work outs, cut your distance.  This is not only perfectly acceptable but, if done in the right way can be a great training tool.  Rather than running as far as you can each time, why not spend at least one run a week running 5k / 3 miles as fast as you can?  This will eventually help you build up speed for longer runs.  You can always save a long run for the weekend.

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