A Runners Guide To Winter Survival
Written By: SportsShoes
As the cold nights draw in, we turned to experienced fell, mountain and trail runner Ben Mounsey for his advice for running through the winter months.
As a runner, it’s the time of year you’ve probably been dreading. The clocks go back, the light begins to fade and the weather is inevitably on the turn. Summer is nothing but a distant memory and it becomes increasingly harder to find any kind of motivation to train. But fear not, help is at hand!
Here are my top tips for surviving the winter and embracing the cold…
1. Don’t Make Excuses
It’s ok. I get it. You’ve just finished work and you’re absolutely shattered. It was dark when you left the house this morning and it’s dark now as you’re leaving the office. It feels like you haven’t felt the sun on your face for months and it’s cold outside, really cold. When you open your front door the only thing on your mind is settling down on the sofa in front of a warm fire, whilst watching television and eating the dinner you’ve been dreaming about all afternoon. It’s only 6 o’clock and you have an uncontrollable urge to head upstairs to slip into your pyjamas. Besides it’s just started raining outside and your favourite TV programme is calling out your name from the SkyPlus box.
Sound familiar? Trust me when I say that this is my dilemma pretty much every day of the week during winter. I always say the hardest part of training is actually getting changed and leaving the house because it’s the easiest time to give up and make excuses. I have to play some serious mind games with myself in order to get a session done. One of my best tips is to not set your central heating on a timer for when you get home. It’s best to make your front room as cold and uninviting as possible so that you’ll want to go outside just to stay warm. Plus think of all the money you’ll save! It’s a win, win situation. A quick turn-around is the key. No more than 15 minutes to get sorted and changed before you head straight back out for a run. Have all your clothes and kit laid out ready to go, drink coffee standing up and DO NOT sit down on the sofa…REPEAT after me….DO NOT SIT DOWN ON THE SOFA! Now go and enjoy the tropical weather outside, your house is freezing!!!
2. Shine Brightly
I’m probably the least qualified person to dish out head torch recommendations. I am, after all, the guy who turned up to a night race on the Amalfi coast in Italy, wearing a £5 ‘Ebay special’ head torch with 2 used AA batteries borrowed from the TV remote in my hotel room. Admittedly not the best idea I’ve ever had.
During the winter months a decent head torch is an essential part of your running kit. When you’re pounding the pavements during the dark nights, you need something to light your way and make you shine brightly. Make the sensible choice (like I’ve finally done!) and invest in a decent model. There are plenty of head torch models to choose from on the SportsShoes.com website.
3. Train Together
For most people, running alone in winter is a daunting prospect. Dark lonely roads and paths can be scary places, especially for women. It’s the best time of year to run with a friend or better still, in a group. Not only will it help you feel safer, it will also give you more motivation to train. Joining a club is a great way to meet new people and discover new runs. You’ll be surprised at just how many amazing places there are to run in your local area. Over the years, my friends have introduced me to hundreds of new training routes and I get VERY excited whenever I find a new trail (yes, I really am that sad!).
4. Treat Yourself
The best way to get motivated is to buy some new running gear. Is there a better feeling than slipping on a new pair of trainers and heading out for a run? I don’t think so. Go on treat yourself, it is nearly Christmas after all.
It’s also important to remember that treating yourself doesn’t always have to be expensive. Try letting a new pair of running socks or gloves ‘accidentally’ fall into your shopping trolley. Or if that’s still too much to spend then keep it cheap and simple. All it takes to float my boat is a bacon and egg sarnie at the end of a long run, washed down with a cup of strong coffee. Tough training sessions should always be rewarded.
5. Say YES To Merino
I’ve previously blogged about the super powers of merino – it’s simply the best. I’m all for saving money (as you’ve probably already gathered!) but when it comes to base layers there is no better alternative. I even wear merino underpants. It can be expensive gear, but worth every penny, and SportShoes.com often offers excellent prices on merino running kit.
6. Challenge Yourself
Setting yourself a challenge is the best way to motivate yourself during winter. You could set a personal weekly goal for mileage and climbing, or for the entire month. You could even try running every day. The Marcothonis a perfect challenge for athletes of all abilities. The rules are simple, you must run every day in December. Minimum of three miles or 25 minutes – whichever comes first. The challenge starts on December 1st and finishes on December 31st. And yes, that includes Christmas Day. It’s not a competition, just a personal challenge.
Another great idea is to challenge a friend or compete as a group. See who can do the most mileage in a week or month and the winner has to buy the drinks (believe me, there’s not much I wouldn’t do for a free cappuccino!).
Personally, I set myself a target of 50 miles a week and aim to climb between 8,000-15,000ft when I’m in full training mode. I use Strava to track my progress and I always join their monthly challenges for distance and climbing.
7. Plan Adventures
Plan your next adventure.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a park run or a mountain race in Italy. It’s good to have something to motivate you and train for. The next time you’re out running in the cold wind and rain, just remind yourself why you’re doing it and think about your goal. Whatever you decide to aim for, it’ll be worth all the effort when you get there.
8. Tis’ The Season To Be Jolly
It’s not all bad. Running in winter can be amazing. Embrace the weather, make the most of the weekends and if it snows, then lace up your trainers and get out for a run. Think positive, enjoy yourself and don’t forget to do it with a smile. Tis’ the season to be jolly after all.