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Blog: Winter running tips from UK Athletics run leader Richard Warren

As the dark nights draw in – going for a run might be quite low down on your list of priorities. We caught up with our run club leader Richard Warren to find out some top winter running tips for staying active this winter…

Step 1: Motivation

Typically, the very first hurdle is what you see through the window when you wake up. We’ve been programmed to see wet/dark/cold and instantly turn to things that will protect us from it. It’s going to take some bravery at first, but a good tip is to dress in your running gear before you open your curtains as this sends you in the right direction of having made a decision, but also allows your body to begin to adapt to air contact, rather than the lethargic warmth of a dressing gown.

winter running blog by richard
Richard in his Wellington Pacers t-shirt.

Step 2: Suit up

All blogs will tell you to layer up and it does help cut down draughts, but most clothing is pretty common sense; gloves, a couple of tops, jogging tights, tracksuit, hat/cap and jacket.  However, there are a few tips to consider around those, which are influenced by my cycling groundings:

  • Base top | I use a cycling jersey under a running top as this is tight-fitting and tucks inside shorts to stop draughts. Additionally, if not wearing a jacket, use the jersey’s rear pockets to hold a mobile phone which in turn is kept in situ by the short’s waistband.
  • Jacket | Once again I go for cycling jackets because of the pockets and close fit which reduces bounce of held items.  I also find cycling jackets usually have side zips to adjust airflow – so start with them zipped then open up after a mile or so.
  • Waterproof? | Even with treatment, waterproofs don’t hold long and increase cost, so I believe that it’s better to have fast drying clothing. Waterproof shoes or socks can help for a short while especially if like me you get cold extremities, but once wet, waterproof shoes take much longer to dry – trainers, especially trail, are designed to squeeze out moisture with each step.
  • In the buff | Yep, a ‘buff’ or ‘snood’ (lightweight scarf) is great for the initial period until warmed up – either around the neck or on the head.  However, they become sweaty so often best to swizz around a wrist and use as a sweat/nose wipe after a while (everything gets thrown in the wash!).
  • Active commute | As someone who either runs or cycles the 10k to/from work every day, during wetter stints I would hate changing for the return in clothes wet from the morning.  Therefore, I would plan in extra return clothing to give the wet gear an extra 24hrs to dry off.  It can become a logistical nightmare, especially if multi-modal, but perfectly workable once pre-empted.
  • Penny tip | Use food bags to keep phones, monies and key fobs safe from moisture.  You’ll get several usages before replacing and much cheaper/more reliable than expensive options.

Visibility is often mooted and is down to personal experience to be honest (unless you’re a leader and need to be constantly seen).  The obvious option is reflective strips on clothing or bands, but you can get running arm-band lights which do work well.  Head torches are less about being seen, but really for seeing the ground and are clearly necessary for trails where you can frequently be caught in dark street patches.

Personal safety is key and as such by far the best approach is to join a running club, at least during winter.  If this isn’t an option, then do take whatever safety precautions you can, such as pre-planning routes, telling someone, live position sharing through your favourite tracker (free live track on Garmin, premium on Strava) and emergency contacts.

winter running richard with the Wellington Pacers
Richard out on a run with the Wellington Pacers.

Step 3: Get running

Moving on to the physiological effects and remember we’re running through winter so that when spring arrives, we’re in a super-strong position. In fairness, advance-booking the odd running event to give yourself a reason to run through winter will add another motivational notch.

Let’s stress the importance of warmups and expect them to take longer plus, ease into running a little more gently, possibly by walking first – I always visualise muscles/tendons as plasticine; if stretched when cold, visible tears appear immediately but if you warm up and work it first, it can be stretched without tearing.  Additionally, be aware that the body protects the core, therefore limbs may be de-prioritised for blood/water flow and take longer to warm up, plus may increase urine production.

There are statistics regarding nonlinear performance drop/effort required as temperatures approach and pass 0°C, so just be easy on yourself when checking performance and distance.  The change in overall hydration and calorie burn due to the cold are quite complex and individualised, so just be aware that things may be different and gain the experience from your own body’s behaviour.

Post-run stretching is still an important facet – be mindful of how much quicker you will cool outdoors and the plasticine visualisation.  Ideally, head indoors to continue stretching and potentially during a shower.

If you work at Wellington Place and would like to join the Wellington Pacers running club, then click here for more information.

Richard Warren is a corporate office convert – built an Agile IT career consulting to global financial market corporates before commencing an active lifestyle through commuting which progressed to run | ride | walk leading of large groups and huge charity/community voluntary time investment.  Using England Athletics and British Cycling qualifications to provide innovative activities for positive active lifestyles towards climate and environmental benefit.  https://runningseeds.co.uk/  |  https://www.linkedin.com/in/richard-warren-wozzy/