Once a week when I have my part-time day off from work, I take my kids to school and go for a run straight afterwards. When seeing me in my usual running gear, more and more people are surprised at the school gates and greet me with “Are you STILL running?!??” or “Isn’t it too cold to run?!?”
It never gets too cold to run in London.
Right now in early December we’re talking about 3°C in the mornings, which is t-shirt / long-sleeve t-shirt / light jacket / gloves that go in pockets half-way through the run / headband kind of running weather – very doable.
There will be days when the temperatures will be below 0 in the mornings but I would just double up my leggings and wear a hat. And carry tissues. For some reason cold weather makes my nose run non-stop.
In general winter running isn’t hugely different from summer running, you’re still putting one foot after another, but there are a few things to keep in mind when running in cold(er) temperatures:
1. It takes you longer to warm up
You should always start your runs slowly to warm up but I find that the colder it is, the sloooooower my runs start. That is ok. Your body is cold, of course it takes it longer to warm up. Don’t expect to take off fast from the get-go, don’t even expect the same speeds for your runs as in the summer.
Accept that there is a winter pace. Own your winter pace.
2. Even though you run slower and it takes you a while to warm up properly, don’t abandon speed/interval training
It’s easy to think that if you’re running slower in the winter then there’s no point in pushing your pace at all and you’ll just plod all your runs at the same easy pace.
I often find myself thinking “I’ll skip the intervals, I can’t go at my top speeds anyway so what’s the point.” Then I quickly remind myself that the aim of intervals is not always go faster than the previous time, the aim is to go as fast as you can given the current circumstances and that is what will benefit your running in the long term.
A slightly slower interval session is still an interval session and will still improve your cardiovascular system, your cadence and your overall speed.
While in the summer I can get away with a 3km warm up before any sprints, right now I need a good 6-7km. Yesterday I did a 7km warm up, then 10 x 400m, followed by a 6km cool down. I didn’t think the legs would enjoy the 400s but they actually did. I ran each 400m at least 10-15 seconds slower than in warmer temperatures but I still pushed myself and I will still benefit.
3. You still need to drink water even when it’s cold
I am very sensitive to dehydration so I carry a water bottle with me all year round. If I’m out for 15-18km, I go through 750ml. In the summer I’d go through twice as much in that distance. If I don’t drink more than I think I need to before and during my runs, I get dizzy and have to stop.
If you don’t want to carry water with you, make sure you drink loads before you run (and not so much coffee or tea even though you want to because we tend to do that when it’s cold).
No matter how cold it is outside, once you run you still sweat quite a bit so you need to be hydrated.
4. Double layer your butt
Most of your body warms up nicely when you run but I find that the extra fat that women have around their hips and butts and thighs tends to freeze if it’s really cold outside.
The first time it happened to me I was quite shocked, I got in the shower after a cold run and discovered that I had two large red spots on my butt that HURT when exposed to hot water.
Now I double layer my leggings when it’s around or below 0 degrees and that helps although doesn’t completely eliminate the problem. For that I think you’d need proper thermal leggings. Or a nice knitted skirt to pull over your leggings :)
5. Don’t be invisible
Unless you run between the hours of 10am and 2pm, the light outside will be less than bright so don’t be invisible to pedestrians, bikes or cars – wear something bright!
If you run before 8am or after 4pm, wear something fluorescent and/or wear a light. I think the more you shine the better. There’s nothing more dangerous than a runner who cannot be seen. Best case scenario: dogs and little humans run into you, worst case scenario: cars run into you.
There is no reason to stop running in the winter, just wear enough layers, accept that you will run a bit slower and make sure you’re visible!
What are your winter running tips?