A man running through the snow in Winter

Winter Training Guide: Running


Running in the winter is harder, fact. It’s not just the cold weather and dark skies that make it more difficult either, and as much as that might be the main reason for your diminished motivation, you might be pleased to know that there are reasons why your regular running routine is more difficult at this time of year. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the lower temperatures can cause your muscles to contract less efficiently, which means that no matter how good your warm up, or how many layers you’re wearing, your body simply cannot work to its best efficiency. Don’t let this dishearten you though, as it can be a fantastic time to push yourself and to better your training. Our winter training guide for running is here with some top tips to help you through the season.

A man using Physicool for his runner’s knee recovery

Planning

First off, it’s best to plan out your runs at the beginning of the week (if not sooner). Sticking to a routine and meeting your weekly goals can help to keep your motivation up, as well as ensuring that you make time to stick to a schedule every week. You should try to make sure that 50% of your workouts or runs are pushing your limits, while the other 50% can be a little easier. Don’t forget to schedule in some cross training and rest time too, as your body needs time to recuperate and repair, particularly after a tough run. Apps such as Nike+ Run Club, Endomundo and MapMyRun can all help you to plan your time and track your improvements.

Motivation

Finding motivation always seems to be that much harder in the winter for a handful of reasons, which often means you need to look somewhere else for a little encouragement to stick to your schedule. Setting weekly goals or mileage, times or a number of runs is a good way to start. Or you can give yourself materialistic motivation, for example, if you’ve been lusting over some new training gear that costs £30, then you need to complete 30 runs or workouts before treating yourself. This makes the reward all the more worth it, and if it’s training related, it might even help your future performance.

Clothing

Knowing what to wear when running during the winter can often be tricky, as when you first leave, the cold can feel very extreme, while after a few minutes of running you’ll be hot and sticky. The best way to conquer this is through lightweight layers: a base layer, a mid layer and an outer layer. This gives you the freedom to cool down and warm up when needed. Check out our ‘how to dress for cold weather sports’ guide for more detailed information. If you’re running in hours of darkness, you should also make sure that you can be seen. Reflective items of clothing are a must for safety purposes.

Warm-up

You’ll not only want to warm up in terms of temperature but also warm up your body and muscles. Warm-ups are important all year round, but they are even more important during the winter! Ensure that you’re warming up each body part correctly and sufficiently, as cold weather can leave your body more susceptible to injury if you’ve not correctly prepared. The key areas to focus on for running are your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders.

Cool Down

Cooling down is just as important as warming up, even though you might just want to curl up in a blanket and go for a nap. 5-10 minutes of cooling down should be sufficient, again focusing on the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders primarily.

Injuries

If you do sustain an injury when running, it’s important to let your body heal before pushing yourself again. Ignoring the issue will more than likely only make it worse, and increase the time you’ll have to take out to let it heal fully. Our injury guides have a wide range of tips on a variety of running injuries which will be helpful in your recovery process, this includes things such as runners knee recovery, shin splints, pain relief and plantar fasciitis treatment, so be sure to take a look if you are struggling with a sporting injury.

Our cooling bandages can help to soothe the pain and reduce the swelling in an injury as well as reducing your recovery time. These should be applied for between 30-minutes and two-hours whilst resting for the best results.

Top Tips

  • Look up and ahead rather than staring at the floor. This will help to improve your form, prevent certain injuries and keep you running at your desired speed. This kind of stance can also make you feel more powerful, therefore pushing yourself further and bettering your results.
  • Bend your arms to a 90-degree angle and drive your elbows directly backwards. By engaging your arms in this way you will not only encourage your body to work harder, but you’ll also increase your turnover speed. You may find that this gets you to a faster pace with greater ease.
  • Relax your shoulders and unclench your fists. By clenching your fists and tightening your shoulders, your body is using energy elsewhere instead of putting it all into your actual running. This should help you to retain your energy for longer and keep you going strong.
  • Raise your knees. Raising your knees during a run not only engages your leg and stomach muscles but also gives you a longer stride. It won’t take up much additional energy and will propel you forward faster and with greater strength.
  • Align your body. This may take some concentration for your first few runs, however, it will certainly help to prevent injury in the long-term. If you let your feet land directly under your hip, this helps to align your body and decreases the amount of stress impacted onto your joints.
  • Don’t sit in damp clothing. Make sure to change out of damp clothing as soon as you return home. Although during the run and for a few minutes after your body will have a high temperature, it can quickly drop. A hot drink is a great way to refresh and to maintain body heat.


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