January – a great time to start running or to reacquaint oneself (after the indulgences of December) with that 'running feeling'! Whether one mile or 12, there is little else that can energise your day or help you wind down like a jog outdoors. But running in January takes a hardened soul – the reality is that it's dark and cold and slippery underfoot so we asked two of our endurance runners Laura Jones and Duane Roberts for their tips on running in the cold.
1. Warm Up
In cold weather it takes a little longer for your body to loosen up and reach its optimal temperature. Warm up gradually by jogging for ten minutes or so, as well as doing your usual dynamic stretches once your body is warm.
2. Dress Correctly
Wear the right winter running kit, especially when the temperature plummets! The fact is that your body can withstand a lot, provided you look after it correctly. Nowhere is this more critical than when running on snow. Wear good quality thermal base layers, mid layers and waterproof outer shells. Also try and make sure your extremities, such as your feet, hands and nose are covered at all times. Many injuries come from muscles not being warm. When in deeper snow, using tights stops the snow touching your skin. If you are out for more than an hour, take an extra layer with you. It is always better to be safe and not have to use the extra layer than not.
3. Choose Suitable Winter Running Shoes
The best shoes for running in snow and ice are trail or fell running shoes as the grip is excellent. For wet weather protection, GORE-TEX® is an excellent advantage in running shoes for winter. Your feet stay dry and stay at an optimum temperature to keep performance high. If you want to use a shoe without GORE-TEX®, try a pair of waterproof socks. These will keep your feet warm and dry.
4. Fuel Up
Your body needs to work extra hard when running in cold conditions so make sure that you fuel up regularly if you are out for several hours. If you are worried about your snacks freezing, you can place these in an inside pocket for warmth.
5. Stay Hydrated
Even though it might be cold, you can still become dehydrated when running in cold weather. Drink regularly and if you need to prevent your fluid from freezing, you can carry an insulated hydration pack.
6. Slow down
If you are planning on running on snow, do not treat it as a speed trial. Typically, snow running can add up to 50% onto your usual time. Start out slowly and be aware of your footfall. Running on snow, whether frozen, or deep, places different demands on your muscles and joints. The probability of injury is higher when running on such uneven terrain so take care.
7. Tune In
In order to run safely in cold temperatures, you need to be body aware at all times. Without the proper kit and nourishment, the risk of hypothermia lurks. If running in much colder climates the risk of frost and snow blindness is a possibility so keep alert.
8. Stay Safe
If you're going out onto the hills in winter, make sure you take an extra layer, small survival blanket, whistle and spare food in case of emergencies. Check the local and national weather forecast in the days leading up to and including the day you are planning to run. Always tell someone where you are going! It is useful to show them your route on a map and your estimated running time. If you plan to run solo over remote terrain it is easy to download a tracking app for your phone, mostly free of charge.
9. Charge Up
Always take your mobile phone with you and ensure it is fully charged before leaving for your run. You can also take a small power bank with you for emergencies.
For more advice on how to develop your trail running take a look at our How to improve your trail running technique blog.