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It’s all about preparation (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)
With gyms closed, more of us are turning to running to get our fitness fix. But there is one problem with that – it’s freezing.
Starting a brand new running regime with this kind of extreme mid-winter weather can actually be quite dangerous, and leave you susceptible to a whole host of injuries.
But, as with anything, preparation is key. If you know what to expect, how to warm-up, what to wear, and how to recover, running – even on the coldest days – shouldn’t be a problem.
Runners Need has launched its #WeFeelSeen campaign to share its expertise in staying safe, reducing injury and choosing the right kit.
Steve Paterson, product trainer at Runners Need, has warned that if new runners don’t get the advice they need, they could be a ticking time bomb for injuries, niggles and dangers.
‘In fact, studies show that novice runners get injured twice as often than those who are more experienced,’ says Steve. ‘And there are some common pitfalls that those at all levels will experience when running in winter, such as not being seen by others on the road, pulled muscles and tripping over unseen obstacles in the dark.
‘The best thing to do is make sure that you’re well prepared for the conditions you’re running in.
‘With mornings and evenings still dark it is so important that you make yourself as visible as possible to minimise your risk of not being spotted by other road users. If you have the correct kit you don’t need to let the rain and cold put you off from lacing up your trainers and getting outside.
‘That being said, it’s always best to exercise caution and use your common sense – icy conditions are best avoided to minimise serious risk of injury and always take care when crossing the road, particularly when it’s dark or if you listen to music.’
Top winter running tips
From choosing the right clothes and trainers, to stretching properly – here’s everything you need to know about safe running practices for winter.
Warm-up and cool-down
Warming up before exercising is always important to help reduce the risk of injury, but it’s even more so when it’s cold as muscles can be tighter than usual.
Some low-intensity cardio exercises, like star jumps and high-knees, will help to get the heart-rate up while dynamic stretching will help to prepare your body for what’s to come.
Likewise, take the time to stretch and cool-down after your run to help flush out any lactic acid and prevent soreness the next day.
Know your route
Understanding where you’re running is essential to staying safe – particularly when it’s dark.
When building a route, you need to 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.
Think about laps
While you might have enjoyed exploring trails or heading out to new areas during the summer months, when it comes to winter running, and particularly for novices, it can be a good idea to opt for smaller running loops.
Yes, running the same route may be slightly boring, however it gives you the option of an exit strategy should you get into any difficulty.
Understand the weather
Just like you should make sure you’re prepared for the rain and wrapped up appropriately for the temperature, you should also be mindful of the wind.
Windy conditions play a huge part in how cold we feel. If you can, try to run into the wind when you’re starting out on your run so that it is blowing away from you when you’re heading home.
This is because you’ll likely be more sweaty and won’t get as cold.
Get the right kit
It goes without saying that when you’re out in the dark, you need to do all you can to make sure you’re seen – particularly on roads and our teams in store are always on hand to help you choose what’s right for you.
Your kit doesn’t need to be expensive, but it is vital you invest in some high visibility pieces, and even think about using a head torch.
Sweat-wicking fabrics are also a good idea as well as protecting exposed areas of skin with moisturiser.
Making sure you have the correct footwear is essential when running, not only to prevent injury from slipping but also to ensure you’re safely supported.
When the shops open up, head to a footwear specialist store where they carry out a gait analysis – this will help you choose the right shoe for your foot, and they will be able to recommend the best tread for the surfaces you run on.
While it may be cold outside, you’ll still be sweating, so it is really important to stay hydrated when you’re out running – particularly if you’re heading out on a long distance.
It’s also important to understand that the cold air can often make you feel as if you’re not sweating and losing water, so you may be more dehydrated than you think.
Regulate your breathing
When heading out in the cold your breathing can sometimes feel more difficult.
Try to develop a rhythm by inhaling and exhaling every three steps. This will help you feel more in control and alleviate any struggles.
Switch up your training
One of the most common pitfalls of new runners is not adding enough variety into your training.
To improve and develop it is best to incorporate a variety of training techniques such as interval, fartlek and hills.
Likewise, increase your mileage gradually instead of jumping in headfirst and make sure to cross train to ensure you’re using different muscle groups to avoid overworking the same muscles and causing injury.
Get a running buddy
Team up with a friend to go running with. Not only will it keep you motivated and make running more fun, but it is also safer than venturing out alone.
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