As the winter months draw in, you could be forgiven for thinking about hanging up your running kit. But if you’re able to lace up and brave the cold, there are many benefits to running during the winter.
“It’s too cold to run”
“It’s so dark outside”
As a Running Coach, I often hear these excuses as soon as the clocks go back and the sun starts to set at the (slightly depressing!) time of 4pm. I’m here to assure you, it’s not so bad once you get going. Within 5 minutes of heading out, you’ll have warmed up and begun to feel more awake.
Personally, I love running in the winter! It’s the best time to run. Make no mistake: Spring and Summer PBs are earned in the winter running months. There are so many benefits to running during the winter, from experiencing the scenery to observing the changing season and the blissful feeling of running off road on softer ground charging up and down hills building muscle strength and fitness!
Here are my top reasons why you should definitely continue running during the winter:
- Build the base. Running during the winter will keep you in tip-top condition for those spring races. Sadly, taking more than 2 weeks off running can lead to a loss of fitness and endurance strength. Avoid this decline and keep your fitness up by continuing to run throughout the winter.
- Take to the trails. Another benefit to training during the winter months is the opportunity to switch to off-road running. Off-road running not only provides you with breathtaking scenic routes, it also allows you to give your body a rest from pavement-pounding runs, which is great for injury prevention. 4 months of off-road running will be blissful for your joints, and will probably represent a much-needed break from the tarmac.
- Muscle strength. During your off-road training winter runs, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll come across a hill or two to tackle, as well as brambles to negotiate and tree roots to look out for! This changing, challenging terrain will support you in developing your muscle strength, providing you with explosive leg power due to recruiting more muscle fibers. Your core strength will also be developed due to the challenge of staying upright on less even terrain. This means you will return to the flats stronger, fitter and faster!
- Hill training without the hill training. Hill training is worth its weight in gold, and there is no doubt that your off-road trail running will include a number of hills. Running up hill is hard work; working harder equals strength development, enabling you to become a stronger runner.
It’s a joy to leave the pavements behind, but please remain cautious when out and about. Take your mobile phone (check it’s sufficiently charged!) and some cash, just in case. Keep an eye out for the change in the terrain; falling over can be especially painful in the cold, and it may be a long way back home! Consider going with a friend (you’d be able to enjoy the outdoors together), carry extra clothing with you (especially socks and a change of shoes). You may have to run through a muddy puddle, and there are few things worse than cold, wet feet! Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the route before the sun sets; you might consider running mid-morning or early afternoon to avoid getting caught in the dark.
Winter running probably isn’t as bad as you imagine!
Switching to off-road winter runs will help build strength, especially in your legs and core
Spring and summer PBs are earned during the winter
Keep your running up during the winter
Switch to off-road running for beautiful scenery, challenging terrain and extra strength gains
Stay safe: take a phone and some cash with you, and tell someone where you’re going