With the nights still drawing in, weather warnings in place all over the country, and parts still covered in a white blanket of fresh, fluffy powder, December is set to be tricky for fitness fanatics who keep on top of their workouts outdoors, rather than in the gym.
While the gorgeous landscapes of snow-topped trees and white roads can create a picturesque landscape for your runs, the sub-zero temperatures and road conditions are likely to stick around for a while, and can create tricky conditions to work out in.
In conjunction with SportsShoes.com Ambassador and Running Expert, Ben Mounsey, we collate our top tips for staying safe if you prefer running on the road, rather than on a treadmill, this winter.
Choose the right socks and shoes
If you’re set on getting out for your run when the ground is covered in snow, it’s important to change up your normal footwear. If you’re already a trail runner, it might be worth swapping from your road shoes to a pair of trail shoes – they’re likely to be waterproof and give you some extra traction too. If you don’t own a pair already, find some here to get you through the harsher part of winter. Avoid shoes with mesh, and make sure you wear socks that will wick away moisture but keep your feet warm too.
Actively try to warm yourself up before and after
Try to warm your body up and stretch before you commence your run, as if you start off cold you’ll be more prone to injury. On the flipside, also try to ensure that you warm yourself up as quickly as possible when you get back home. Get out of your cold clothes, and consume something warm too – eating and drinking is vital during the winter months when you don’t realise as quickly how dehydrated you are, and that each workout is double the effort due to the terrain – so you’re burning double the amount of calories. Grab a big drink of water once you arrive home, and make a big pot of soup or another warm meal where you can double down on your protein intake at the same time.
Be realistic about what you’re going to achieve with your workout
It’s important to set yourself some lower targets and be realistic about what you might actually get out of a workout during these harsher weathers. When the conditions are dangerously snowy or icy, it’s time to be cautious and compromise on your normal workout style – this isn’t the time to be chasing a personal best! Avoid sprinting and prepare yourself for slowing down when necessary and taking corners cautiously too. A good way to manage your own expectations is to count your usual mileage as double, so if you’re used to getting out for a 3-mile run, aim for 1.5-miles instead. It takes time to allow your muscles to get used to running on different terrain, so slow it right down and lower your expectations to avoid injury.
In the same vein as being slightly more cautious with your goals, planning ahead can help make sure you still gain what you want from your workout. Heading out over lunchtime can be safer than going early or late in the day, as you’ll be better able to spot ice, and some midday sun might even be able to warm it down to slush, which you’ll find easier to run on.
Shorten your stride
Shortening your stride when running in snow or on ice can help maintain your centre of gravity. When you start to get used to running in these different conditions, you might find it easier to run at your normal stride, but when starting out in ice or snow for the first time, shortening it will give you added traction and help you to maintain your balance.
Learn about black ice
Black ice is a thin coat of highly transparent ice, it blends in with pavements and can be nearly impossible to see. When the temperature rises above zero, or if the sun comes out during the day, snow can melt and turn to water. If the temperature then drops below freezing again while this water is still on the ground, black ice can form where it re-freezes. It’s highly likely you’ll find black ice on bridges, overpasses and places on the pavement that are shaded by trees or other objects. Make sure you’re aware of where there might be black ice on your run, and be vigilant in trying to spot it.
Try out a new running route
If you’re usually a road runner, why not take to a trail if you can? Because trails haven’t had their snow scooped away like roads, there will be more snow remaining rather than ice – leading to better traction. It will be much more difficult (think running on sand), but you’ll engage different muscles to the ones you usually use while running, which is a real bonus!
Make yourself as bright as possible
With winter conditions inevitably comes less daylight, and with snow covering trees/blocking more light – it’s more important than usual to make yourself as bright as possible. Wear reflective gear and consider taking lights out with you too – a headlight will give you a better view of the road in front of you, and allow other people/cars to see you easier.
Give yourself a bigger reward at the end of your run
It’s always going to be harder to get out of the door, and even harder to maintain consistency during your winter runs. Giving yourself something better to look forward to at the end will be more important than ever during the colder conditions. Organise to meet a friend, plan to have a steamy bath, or make sure you’ve got a really great snack or dinner treat to help coax you through the run.
Run with a buddy
With the days growing colder and darker, finding a running buddy for both motivation and safety can also be a wise option. With a recent study conducted by Women’s Running finding that 57% of women have either been heckled, intimidated or thought about stopping their run due to safety concerns, finding a suitable running partner can prove really helpful. Not only can it work to alleviate these worries, but it’ll help provide some of that much-needed running accountability to help you get up and out the door in the cold and snow.
Feeling inspired to get out in the snow for a jog? Enjoy the stunning surroundings, stay safe with the appropriate kit and most of all, enjoy a more unusual workout while it lasts!