12 handy tips for running in winter

A guide to staying safe and active during the colder months

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
Ask Louise

08 January 2021

How do you run safely in the winter?

Whether you are a regular runner or are just setting out on your first winter run, knowledge is key to staying safe and happy. Here's how you can do just that:

  1. Stretch indoors before you set off
  2. Choose warm but breathable clothing
  3. Get the correct footwear
  4. Stay bright
  5. Fuel up before your run
  6. Run on paved ground
  7. Run in daylight
  8. Run in pairs or groups
  9. Listen to music to stay focused
  10. Rehydrate afterwards
  11. Stay warm afterwards
  12. Try an indoor workout instead

1. Stretch indoors before you set off

Before hitting the pavements for a run, make sure to warm up indoors. This will avoid giving the muscles too much of a shock when you head out into the cold. It's also quite likely to reduce the chance of injury.

Try running up and down the stairs, touch your toes, twist your body and stretch following the video below as an example.

2. Choose warm but breathable clothing

Getting the right amount of clothing for a winter run can be a bit of a challenge. We don't need as much as we do on a walk because the body's temperature will quickly increase due to the exertion of running. However, if you end up with too few layers, you may be forced to cut your run short.

On top, try going for a thin base layer with long sleeves. This helps to wick sweat away from the skin, keeping the body at an even temperature. A windproof/waterproof jacket on top of this is usually sufficient to keep out the elements, however, you could also add another layer, depending on how chilly it is.

On the bottom, go for long, thick winter leggings and thick socks. Oh, and don't forget a hat/headband as we lose a lot of heat through the head. Gloves are also crucial as it is harder for blood to circulate to the extremities, meaning these areas are particularly prone to feeling the cold.

3. Get the correct footwear

Next, footwear. Your light summer trainers are unlikely to cut it when there's ice, snow, rain and frost on the ground. So, what should you look out for in winter running shoes?

  • Gore-tex – search for shoes with this feature when choosing a pair to wear in winter. This is really effective at keeping out snow and rain which, in turn, keeps the toes toasty!
  • Trail shoes – for a bit more grip on your trainers, try a pair of trail running shoes. These are a particularly good option if you are running out in the countryside or are having no navigate a bit of frost on the ground.
  • Ice grips – for those really icy or snowy days, you could invest in some ice grips. This should stop you from sliding about and hopefully keep you safe!

4. Stay bright

With less sunlight about during winter (and increasingly dull weather, even during daytime) it is important that runners stay safe by wearing bright and visible clothing.

Applying some high vis strips to your clothing is probably the cheapest option. A high visibility bib or band will also do the trick. Opting for a bright jacket or top will also be helpful.

If you are forced to run in areas with very little lighting, you may wish to purchase a headtorch. There are even small lamps to attach to an armband or chest via a strap.

5. Fuel up before your run

An hour or so before your run, eat some foods that encourage a slow release of energy that will see you through an activity. This might be a banana or a piece of brown toast. Also, avoid anything sugary or caffeine-filled that will not sustain your body through a run.

My Self-Care Tip: Run in winter for a health boost

Why should we run in winter? I go through some of the health benefits in this short video.

6. Run on paved ground

Muddy fields and slippery woodland walks are a hazard for winter runners so try to run on paved grounds or quiet country roads as an alternative. These are more likely to have had grit applied to them so offer a less slidey option!

7. Run in daylight

If you've got the time, running in daylight has lots of benefits. It's safer, for one. It might also be a touch warmer than heading out in the darkness. Daylight even gives your skin a little vitamin D exposure which is crucial as this is a vitamin our bodies often lack in winter.

8. Run in pairs or groups

Exercise is always more interesting if you've got someone to natter to during the course of it. Also, in winter having a partner is a little bit safer too. If you should slip on winter ice, for example, there will be someone to haul you up afterward!

9. Listen to music to stay motivated

If you manage to get out the door for a winter run, that is the hard bit. If you need help keeping this routine up, however, you may want to try listening to some music or motivational podcasts.

There are lots of headphones on the market that are specifically tailored to runners. You can get 'bone conducting' ones, for example. Sounds scary, I know, but these simply sit near the ear (not in it) meaning you can still hear cars, people and animals on your run, all while enjoying some musical company!

10. Rehydrate afterwards

When your running challenge is complete for the day, make sure to re-hydrate afterwards. In the winter, with the weather cooler, it may be easy to skip this step. However, we want to make sure we replace lost fluids, no matter what the outside temperature is.

Try filling a big glass of water before you leave for your run and sit it on your kitchen table. When you return it will be there as a reminder to get those fluids in!

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11. Stay warm afterwards

If you are returning straight to the house after your run, get changed or shower immediately to keep the cold at bay. If you have to head to the car first, keep a big hoodie in the back seat to fling on afterwards or crank that heating right up.

Also, don't hang about outside after your run as your body will immediately start to cool down. All that sweat will then turn to cold, trickling water, making your body even more chilled. Ergh!

Another tip is to keep a towel handy in the car to dry off after a rainy winter run. When you get home, you could also warm your hands with a heated towel if this area is particularly prone to a chill.

12. Try an indoor workout instead

It may not be for everyone but, if the poor winter weather is really preventing you from maintaining a regular running routine, you could take out a gym membership instead. There you can practise your running from a treadmill or work on getting a bit of strength or core training in as well.

If you find the monotony of a gym session gets you down, take a friend and challenge each other to achieve that little bit more each time. Failing that, podcasts and tunes are always a welcome distraction.

If you want a cheaper and more convenient option, check out online workouts. YouTube is an excellent source, with Joe Wicks, Yoga With Kassandra and MadFit all popular channels. Why not mix things up by trying some of these? I recently had a lot of fun stumbling across a Mamma Mia dance workout on YouTube.... You never know what you will find to enjoy!

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