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Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team

How to Survive the Winter Running Season

By Talyn Williams
25, Oct, 2019

We've asked the experts for some tips on surviving the winter running season

Winter is a gorgeous time for getting outdoors. It brings its own magical twists to an activity and inspires new experiences and challenges. Running is no exception!  However, with winter comes shorter, colder days and longer, darker nights, making it harder for us to find the motivation to leave our warm and cosy homes.

So, to help you Win Winter this season and keep your running shoes out of the cupboard and on your feet, we’ve sought the advice of some seasoned runners and compiled a list of tips and tricks to survive a winter of running and being active outdoors.

Kicking us off is Lake District local Ian Palmer. Well versed in being outdoors in winter, Ian’s usual activity of choice is his mountain bike. Last year though, Ian laid down the bike to try his hand at running. He must have got on okay, because in May this year he successfully completed a Bob Graham Round, a pretty intense challenge that meant Ian had no choice but to push through the winter months to stay on track.

Here’s how Ian managed to survive a winter of running:

Layer up… the right way!

Getting clothing right in winter can be tricky, the weather in the UK can be notoriously unpredictable and you could end up with days that are wet and cold, wet and warm, wet, cold and dry, cold and windy, and everything in between. Much of the correct layering system is down to the wearer and the route/workout (and the weather of course). If you’re going to be working harder, you’ll inevitably be warmer, but longer runs where you’re keeping fuel in the tank could leave you a little more vulnerable to feeling the cold.

For shorter, harder runs (and warm blooded folk), we suggest to be bold and start cold! If you’ve got protection from the rain and/or wind, you’ll warm up really quick when your running. However, if you suffer in the cold and you’re heading out for longer runs like Ian, make sure to layer up and bring spares just incase the weather turns.

Winter Running Kit List

Here’s our recommended kit list for surviving whatever the winter running season has to throw at you

At the end of the day, getting your winter running clothes right comes down to common sense, but if you’re ever in any doubt about what you should be wearing, following the FRA minimum kit regs is an easy ticklist for sensible running kit.

Choose the Right Light

Though deciding on your layers is really important, finding a trusty light that you can rely on when the nights draw in can be just as important to winning the winter running season. Choosing the right head torch can be tricky, but will make all the difference for an enjoyable night time run. You need to pick something that's right for you, fits well, is comfy and can perform to your needs, meaning you won't be unexpectedly plunged into darkess.


 

It’s always a little more difficult to find the motivation to get out during the winter. As the temperature drops outside we turn up the thermostat at home, and darker nights feel less inviting than the longer and warmer summer evenings. So how do we overcome all the seasonal changes and power through the cold? We asked Alpkit Retail Ops warrior Andy how he does it:

"Set Yourself a Goal"

Whether you’re new to running or looking for the next big challenge, having a goal to work towards can make a big difference when finding the motivation to run through winter. It could be breaking a personal best around your local 5/10/15k circuit, or making it up that tough climb you always seem to struggle with. It also helps to keep it fun, explore new routes, mess around, and don’t take every run super-seriously.

It’s also a great idea to set short and long term goals. You’ll get a confidence boost every time you achieve a smaller target, helping you to push towards that ‘holy grail’ you’re aiming for. If you like a bit more pressure, why not sign up to an event? Signing up for a big event can be great as a target to aim for, Alpkit are pleased to have supported the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon again this year, the SLMM is a really friendly and accessible mountain marathon, so great for first timers, but also has some challenging courses for the more seasoned runner too.

Finally, make sure your goals are specific and realistic, and that you’re reviewing your progress regularly. If you set your sights too high, you set yourself up to fail, which isn’t great for staying motivated to run when it’s blowing a hooley outside. Start small, reach easy targets to boost your confidence, review your progress and set a higher goal that’s within reach. This process will keep you not just ticking over through the winter, but steadily improving until the weather does.


 

Buyer and resident fan of big runs, Dave Robinette, has taken on such perrenial classics as the OMM, SLMM and Edale Skyline. We locked him in the meeting room with a typewriter to see if he could give us a few pointers...

Training

What do you want to do with your running once the winter is over? Are you just trying to maintain some cardio to complement your climbing? Looking to train a little bit so you can enjoy runs with friends? Or training (seriously or not) for a race or event? Make your training regular and plan it to some extent, but keep it realistic. Someone else plans my training as I’m rubbish at it, which could be a top tip: if you want to get better, get a coach?

Everyone will benefit from some strength work. Doing core and glute exercises will improve your technique and form, making you faster and less injury-prone. Doing one session a week will help, or if you don’t fancy braving the wet and cold one evening do core excuscises (here we couldn't work out if he was typing excercises or excuses... ed.) instead. 

Food

I take all sorts of food running. At the moment I have a bit of a thing for those thin caramel waffles, but I’ll take most things as a mid-run snack.

The snack often depends on the run. For short runs I won’t take anything and have a banana when I get back to the car. For longer runs, like training runs for the High Peak Marathon, I would carry pizza, rice cakes and other savoury bits. This helped to avoid sugar rushes and tricked me into thinking I had eaten dinner when doing long runs in the evening.

I often carry a bit of emergency food just in case, but normally I get the munchies and eat it anyway. I don’t buy into the idea of having emergency food to stop you from eating it. but then I like gels which is what most people have. When running the Edale skyline last year I also took a thermos of hot squash, it was snowing like crazy and was a great pick-me-up after Brown Knoll.

My final tip for food, which could go under motivation too, is have something tasty afterwards, for me getting home and just having beans on toast just doesn’t cut it!

So there you have it, we all agree that winter is the time to get out running... well until those warm balmy summer evenings are back anyway

For more information and ways of getting involved in races and events then be sure to check out the Fell Running Association and Trail Running Association websites. 

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