A Guide To Running In Winter

A Guide To Running In Winter


Chilly temperatures, dark evenings and icy roads aren’t the most enticing of running conditions, but a session in cooler temperatures can be highly satisfying. SLMan caught up with three of London’s top running experts for their advice on doing it properly…

Running In The Cold May Be Easier

“Dragging yourself out for a run in the cold may feel like a mental challenge, but scientists have found that running in cold conditions is easier and less stressful on the body than running in hot conditions. A recent study found your heart rate is around 6% higher when running in hotter conditions and you dehydrate 30% more. When running in winter, the body does not have to work as hard to pump blood to the surface of the skin to stay cool, so you use less energy to run the same distance.” – Alex Parren, PT, Sundried

Dress Like It’s 10ºC Warmer

“When running in the wet, windy, cold and changeable British weather, staying warm and dry without overheating can be a difficult balancing act. You should always layer up as though it’s 10°C warmer for cold-weather running, but it’s important to take the wind chill factor into account too as it can remove heat faster from the skin, making it seem cooler. Tights and a long-sleeve running top are usually a safe bet, and taking a light waterproof and windproof jacket with you on wet and windy runs is also a good idea.” – Steve Paterson, people development & product trainer, Runners Need

See & Be Seen

“If you usually run in the evening, in the darker months it could be worth getting outside when there is better visibility, such as during your lunchbreak – something that’s easier now many of us working from home. When it comes to kit to keep you safe in the dark, it doesn’t need to be expensive, but it’s vital you invest in some high-visibility pieces. Even consider using a head torch. Understanding where you’re running is essential to staying safe when it’s dark. Be aware of any areas which may be poorly lit, have reduced pedestrian access, or even have bumps and obstacles on the ground such as uneven pavement, tree roots or loose drain coverings that may easily trip you up when visibility is low.” – Steve

"You should spend at least five minutes warming up before a run in the cold and keep your first mile or two steady.”
- Alex Parren

Prepare Your Muscles…

“It can be tempting to skip a warm-up when you just want to get a workout over and done with, but doing so increases your risk of injury. Think of your muscles like toffee: when they’re warm, they’re supple and flexible, but when cold they’re more rigid and likely to snap, causing an injury. The best way to warm up before a winter run is by doing dynamic stretching and short warm-up drills. Some good dynamic stretches include leg swings (both forwards and backwards and side to side), squats or lunges. Good warm-up drills include high knees, kickbacks and side steps. You should spend at least five minutes warming up before a run in the cold and keep your first mile or two steady.” – Alex

…And Always Warm Up Before A Tempo Run

“If you’re looking to push the pace in a particular session, your warm-up is even more vital, especially during the colder months. There are enzymes in your muscle cells that stop you from producing energy at harder efforts if they aren’t warm enough, so taking the time to prep the body with some simple drills will mean you’ll get more out of your session.” – Anthony Fletcher, founder, OneTrack Club

Think About Hydration

“It’s hugely important to adjust your hydration and nutrition strategy as the weather changes. The body needs 30% less hydration when running in winter; if you overhydrate, you could upset your stomach. An easy indicator of overhydration is if you feel and/or hear sloshing in your stomach as you run. You can get away with not drinking as much in winter and won’t need to supplement with electrolytes and salts like you do in summer. A small amount of water or even none at all will suffice for most winter runs, and you won’t need gels or other nutrition unless you’re doing an especially long run.” – Alex

Breathe Properly

“It can feel trickier to breathe when running in the cold. This is because your body is working overtime to warm and humidify the air you’re breathing in, which can result in irritation. Try wearing a buff, scarf or bandana to keep your face warm and, if you can, only breathe through your nose to reduce the amount of cold air hitting your lungs. If you struggle to breathe when running, whether it’s cold or not, the best remedy is to slow your pace. Your breathing rate increases along with your heart rate when the intensity rises during a run and this can make you feel out of breath. If you often struggle with shortness of breath, this could be an indicator of fatigue, so consider taking a rest day or two to let your body recover.” – Alex

"The body needs 30% less hydration when running in winter; if you overhydrate, you could upset your stomach."
- Alex Parren

Wear The Right Shoes

“Paved paths are liable to be icy in winter so take extra care, especially if it’s been wet and then the temperature has dropped below freezing overnight. On trails, winter is the time when it gets muddy so water-resistant trail shoes with excellent grip are essential. If you’re running in an urban area, barefoot shoes can be useful for helping you to connect with the ground and improve your running form.” – Alex

Plan Your Schedule

“When it’s cold and dark, you might understandably be tempted to stay indoors rather than go out for a run. My best advice is to plan your running schedule ahead of time, so you know what’s coming up and you can make sure other commitments don’t get in the way. Keep your training plan realistic and achievable. This will make you will feel more positive about it, rather than feeling guilty about skipping training sessions you were never going to manage.” – Alex

Write Down Your Why

“If you’re struggling with motivation in the winter months, start writing down why you want to run. What’s your reason for needing to get out there? Write this down on a couple of pieces of paper and stick them up around your home – by your bed, next to your trainers, on the front door. Doing this will serve as a constant reminder of your ‘why’ and will get you out there.” – Anthony


For more information, check out Sundried.com, RunnersNeed.com and OneTrack.Club.


DISCLAIMER: Features published by SLMan are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at [email protected].