Running in winter - 11 schoolboy mistakes to avoid
When it comes to running in winter it doesn’t take much to get you out the door – after all, you love what you do, but hold fire. As a coach, every year I see athletes make the same small errors. Get a leap on your winter running training by avoiding these 11 common mistakes
1 You don’t warm the engine
I’m the first to admit I’m crap at this. In fact, I’d struggle to tell you the last time I performed a technically-sound warm up. It’s easy to omit in summer when your body temperature is warm right out of bed, but that’s not the case now.
It doesn’t need to be complicated but, like any good car, your engine needs warming. All it takes is consciously starting your run at an easy pace, increasing the effort over the first 5-10 minutes.
If you’re really committed, add five minutes of post-run stretching when you get home.
Yes, you are a raging muscle car ready to rip. But just like any powerful motor, you need warming up first
2 You get too friendly with the treadmill
The treadmill is a good pal of mine and has many benefits, but don’t get too comfortable in that warm, sterile, (and cold-infested) gym. It’s often best to get outdoors because:
- Fresh air strengthens your immune system
- Muscle recruitment running outside is different – less forward propulsion is required on the treadmill
- The lack of proprioception (natural feel for where your feet are and what they're doing) on a treadmill decreases tendon and ligament strength
So save the treadmill for hard sprints and those days when the weather really is shocking.
You can run on the treadmill if it looks like this outside
3 You over-dress for cold weather running…
It’s bloomin’ freezing out there, so it’s natural to reach for that thick jacket. But, as your core temperature rises and the sweat starts to flow on the move, you might regret your kit choice.
Plus running in saturated garments is a one-way ticket to chafe city.
But on the flip side your body temperature will also drop as cool air chills your skin as sweat builds up and the body's natural cooling mechanism kicks in.
The solution is to layer up, and you can then peel layers off as needed. A good rule is dress as if it was 10⁰C warmer outside. Channelling the Royal Marines' mantra of 'be bold, start cold' is also handy.
Leave the jacket and scarf at home when you’re running this winter – you really don’t need them
4 …or perhaps under-dress
Much less common than the over-dresser, we all know someone who refuses to wear more than race shorts and a vest, and who probably tells you to 'MTFU' - or similar on an annoyingly frequent basis.
Unless you are a grizzled Northern fell runner or hardened cross channel swimmer, get your thin base layer, outer shell, leggings and gloves on and do it properly!
5 You’re failing to fuel your sessions properly
Winter does funny things to our appetite, but a focus on fueling your training well always pays off.
Don’t restrict calories, despite having over-eaten over Christmas - restrict calories and you won’t have the energy to train properly.
Eat plenty and you can still shed that excess fat - you shouldn’t go hungry. Focus on natural, whole grains, good fat sources and maintain a high-quality protein supply. Our article all about beating the winter slowdown will help you make better food choices.
Eat natural as often as possible to keep running through winter
6 You go too big, too soon
We’re all pumped up by ambitious New Year resolutions, chomping at the bit to get training hard. However, if motivation purely comes from burning recently acquired fat, you’ll find yourself on rocky ground.
Motivation needs to come from deeper than that. A desire to make some lifestyle changes, to improve health and to challenge yourself this year will have you training consistently for months, not just weeks.
Hold your horses. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!
7 You stress about running pace
Not only is pace less relevant in winter (how long is it until your next race?) but poor visibility, cold temperatures and darkness all conspire to make summer speeds unachievable without a big increase in effort.
Winter's the time of year to focus on simply keeping your fitness ticking over and enjoying being out there, not about setting 10k PBs.
Keep calm and enjoy what winter training has to offer
8 You’re going too technical
Leave those exploratory trail runs for spring. The risk of injury at this time is high enough already, without adding new, poorly lit, muddy, untrodden trails into the mix.
9 You think hydration doesn’t matter in winter
It’s less appealing to drink cold water in winter, I get that. But you’re still sweating and you still need to replace the fluid. Not just detrimental to performance, dehydration is also linked to increased injury occurrence and increased DOMS.
Aside from water, green tea is a winter winner - it’s hydrating, loaded with antioxidants and gives a little caffeine boost. For a caffeine-free option, rooibos (redbush) tea is a great alternative.
Herbal teas rock in winter. Skinny jeans and hipster jam jars optional
10 You’re not flexible enough
No, I don’t mean bendy stretchy flexible. I mean you’re too rigid with your training plan and nutrition.
Relax, it’s early in the year and consistency is the goal here. To be consistent, you'll need to flex and alter sessions as things crop up: work, life, winter weather.
Take a chill pill (in the form of a slice of cake, preferably) if ‘life’ crops up and you need to alter your training
11 You don’t put safety first
I know, I know, it’s terribly boring but no winter running list would be complete without a nod to the high-viz parade.
Quick-fire safety tips include:
- Research your route
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back
- Take a mobile phone with you
- Wear high-visibility clothing. The more the better
- Don’t let pride get in the way – call in a pick up (cab, bus, mate's car) if you need it
- Always carry an emergency blanket
One of the best ways to look after yourself is by taking care of your nutrition, it's the foundation of your performance after all. Just one spoon of our Ultimate Daily Greens mixed in water will give your body all the nutrients it needs in an easy daily shot.
Alkaylse your body for optimal health and immune function with our Daily Greens
Cover this lot, get up, get out there and enjoy doing what most don’t this winter. We'll see you out there!