It can be tempting to batten down the hatches or retreat to the warmth of the treadmill during winter months. But with the right gear, preparation and mindset, you can keep on running outside when the temperature drops…
Running on a treadmill is boring; the never changing footstrike is a recipe for overuse injuries; and air-conditioned gyms are a hotbed for bugs. But by following these winter running tips, you can continue your outdoor training in comfort and safety - and get some much-needed fresh air and mood-enhancing daylight - to improve your energy levels and enhance your fitness and race results for the next season.
- Warm up well – Your muscles are like a piece of toffee; when they’re warm, they’re stretchy and flexible; when they’re cold, they’re hard and prone to snapping (i.e., injury). Make sure you take longer to warm up inside (at least 10 minutes) before heading out to run. Get the blood flowing and raise your core temperature by walking/running up and down a flight of stairs, skipping, and doing some dynamic stretches without breaking a sweat - you don’t want to be feeling damp before you’ve even set out.
Find a friend – No one likes letting friends or family down, so having one of them as a running buddy will make you more accountable to turn up to sessions, plus the time will fly by. Can’t rope anyone in? Your next best bet is to join a running club, so you don’t have to grind out your winter miles alone. Visit joggingbuddy.com to find a running partner of a similar level near to you, or go to britishathletics.org to find your local club.
- Be seen – Don’t let dark mornings and nights put a dampener on your runs. Choose clothing featuring high-visibility reflective details placed in high-motion areas, such as your elbows, wrists and ankles, so that drivers can see you in low- or no-light conditions. Consider wearing a head torch so you can see the ground clearly and look out for obstacles.
Get multitasking – Using your runs as a means of travel will give you more motivation and purpose to get out the door. Commuting between your home and workplace is one method, even if you only run to your nearest train station. Alternatively, combine your runs with ticking of that ‘to do’ list or checking in on a relative – putting in a few miles while completing mundane tasks really will leave you feeling like you’ve achieved something good for the day. And investing in a good running backpack will help you get the job done, too.
Keep it constant – Training with high-intensity intervals can cause you to overheat fast, and then feel damp and chilly just as quickly when you drop the effort. The best winter running sessions involve sticking to a constant pace or building up your intensity gradually. Try running to a destination at a steady pace, then retrace your steps using a faster pace. Think maintenance, not gains.
- Layer up – Wearing layers is crucial when running in cold or wet conditions; you need clothing that you can easily remove as you warm up, and layers you can easily transport and quickly pull on if the weather changes or you start to cool down. A lightweight, waterproof, and windproof running jacket is an essential, as is a moisture-wicking baselayer on top, and many seasoned runners recommend wearing a pair of shorts or a running skirt over tights to keep sensitive areas warm. You should also always wear a warm beanie and thermal gloves or mittens (your fingers stay warmer when they’re not separated by fabric).
Listen to your body – Cold and flu bugs fly around in abundance at this time of year. As a general rule, you should ease off of training if you experience any symptoms, such as aches, below the neck. Once you feel okay again, allow an additional two days before you return to training, otherwise you could set yourself back even further.
Remove obstacles – Getting out the door will probably be your biggest obstacle when it’s miserable outside, but you can overcome this by removing all those excuses not to train beforehand. Lay out all your kit and equipment the night before so you can be dressed and out in two minutes flat (a last-minute search for a wooly hat, or a flat phone battery, could see you heading back to bed). Also, consider investing in a daylight alarm clock to help wake you up gently and feel more alive when it’s still dark outside.
- The rule of 10 – No matter how bad your day was or how grotty the weather is outside, make a deal that you’ll go out for 10 minutes on planned running days. Nine times out of 10, you’ll get over the hump and continue, but if you really do feel rubbish, you can then ditch the session guilt-free knowing you tried.
- Reward yourself – Winter is a time for excess and temptation. And if you’re training hard, you may well feel entitled to indulge in a little extra good food and booze. That’s okay, but those late nights and extra calories will soon take a toll. Instead, set goals and reward yourself with treats you’ll feel less guilty about, such as a relaxing deep-tissue massage, or that new pair of trainers you’ve had your eye on. Everything is worth more when you’ve worked hard for it.
Wear the right shoes – You’ll want to keep the warmth in and the rain out, and that requires a pair of running shoes with the least amount of mesh. Many runners switch to trail running shoes in winter months for their waterproof qualities, and these days, they’re also super-lightweight and highly breathable. Don’t forget to wear moisture-wicking, seamless sports socks to keep dampness and blisters at bay.
Stay hydrated – Dehydration can occur whatever the temperature is outside (you’re still sweating, remember), and if you become too dehydrated, you may see a decline in your performance. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, you still need to drink water. Make sure to take sips throughout the day, and hydrate before, during and after your run. You need to be drinking enough so that your urine is pale.
- Keep things familiar – Unless you’re setting out with plenty of daylight hours ahead of you, now is not the time to be exploring new routes. Instead, have a regular route and choose main roads with better lighting and more people around for safety. Run against the traffic so you can see cars coming, and stay aware of pedestrians, animals, and obstacles – you may need to leave the headphones at home.
Warm up post-run – Avoid the chills by stripping out of damp, sweaty clothing as soon as you can and drinking a hot beverage. If you’re not starving, enjoy a hot shower or bath straightaway, then get into your cosiest, comfiest gear in the knowledge you’ve worked hard and it’s now time to relax.
- Feel fuelled – If possible, chuck dinner into a slow cooker before you set out. That way, you can run knowing you have a warm, hearty meal waiting for you when you get home. Stews and soups high in protein are ideal, and make sure to throw in lots of bright and colourful vegetables rich in immunity-boosting antioxidants.
Running is free, you can do it anywhere, and it’s one of the most effective ways to get fit. So how does a novice get started?
Think you can’t run? Think again! Whatever your age, weight, or fitness level, you can give this fantastic full-body workout a go, whether the last time ran was doing cross-country at school or chasing after a bus today.
‘Running is a sport for all, and once you’ve laced up your trainers, it doesn’t matter whether you run, jog, walk fast, use a treadmill or pound the pavements, as long as you put one foot in front of the other,’ says Nicki Petitt, an online fitness coach, running fanatic and marathon pacer (@nickipetitt). ‘Naturally, the younger we are the easier we may move, but there really is no age cap to running – just look at the London Marathon’s oldest runner at 87-years-old! And that’s nothing to say of the endless benefits you’ll enjoy when you run: it’s absolute magic for the mind and body.’
The benefits of running
Running is one of the most effective ways to lose excess body fat, lower blood pressure, raise good cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of diabetes – the four main causes of heart disease: a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that running even five to 10 minutes a day at slow speeds can drastically reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
As a weight-bearing form of exercise, running also strengthens your bones, tendons and cartilage far more than walking and, contrary to popular belief, can prevent joint problems rather than increase them, with a Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study showing that runners were half as likely to suffer from knee osteoarthritis compared with walkers.
In terms of the mental benefits, strenuous running enhances blood flow and oxygen levels to your brain, improving your mental ability, memory, and decision-making process. ‘And the endorphin rush post-run is like nothing else,’ adds Nicki. ‘You can use headphones to zone out and escape from the intensity of day to day responsibilities or run meditatively while enjoying the peace and calm of great outdoors. Whether you’re doing a slow 5k jog or five miles of speed work, running really keeps you alive, energised, healthy and happy.’
What should I wear?
Wearing the correct kit is crucial to your comfort and success and, if you get it right from the beginning, you’ll also help avoid potential injury.
‘Finding the right pair of running trainers for you is so important, but it can be quite a daunting task with so many brands and models on the shelves’ says Nicki. ‘Having gait analysis in store is a good way to assess your foot strike and see if you require extra cushioning and stability in certain areas of your feet.’ Your feet expand when you run, so go shopping in the afternoon when your feet are more swollen, and take the socks you’ll wear for running with you: it’s often advised that you go up a size in running shoes.
Wearing a high-impact sports bra is essential for women, whatever their cup size. But regardless of whether you’re male or female, Nicki advises that you should ‘consider investing in some seamless, sweat-wicking underwear and clothing to avoid chaffing and feeling damp and uncomfortable.’ We recommend the Sundried Pure Women’s Seamless Leggings made of a super-soft, sustainable fabric that’s kind to the skin and planet, and won’t rub or bunch up.
How do I start training?
If you have bad memories of struggling for breath or feeling sore for days after previous running attempts, it’s likely you didn’t use the right training programme or approach. Being full of enthusiasm is great, but if you go off too fast, or do too much in your first few days, you can end up feeling like a failure – and in pain!
If your goal is to simply move more and take on the miles for enjoyment, you don’t necessarily need a plan, but a walk/run approach is advised to ease you in gently.
‘However, if your goal is to test your speed and aim for a virtual race (or a real-life mass participation running event when the time comes), then a training plan for the longer distances can certainly help to guide you through the necessary styles of training, be it tempo, intervals or recovery runs,’ says Nicki. ‘There are so many apps and websites with content ready for runners of all levels; just be sure to take advice from qualified run coaches and PT’s.’
If you’re a total beginner, visit the NHS’s ‘Couch to 5k’ page here, with links to its app and podcast series for a simple, achievable nine-week training programme designed to gradually build up your fitness and stamina.
How do I maintain my motivation?
First off, set a goal that’s S.M.A.R.T, i.e. specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Hoping you’ll get fitter and slimmer at some point in the future is fine, but it won’t help you stay on track in the long term. Whereas saying: ‘I will lose 6lbs by training to take part in a virtual 5k race 10 weeks from now’, is specific and achievable.
‘Use a diary to schedule in your training, log your runs, record your mood and how your body felt so you can measure your progress,’ says Nicki. ‘And don’t forget to celebrate the small wins along the way.’
Being held accountable and sticking to your training programme is very important, too, ‘Rope in a friend to train with you so you can encourage each other when one of you is lacking energy or the weather is bad,’ suggests Nicki. ‘Chatting and laughing through the miles really makes the time fly and you’ll be finished before you know it, full of those endorphins.’
Listening to your favourite playlist of ‘power songs’ can get you in the right mindset to run by boosting your levels of excitement and happiness, reducing feelings of stress and tension, and helping you drown out any distractions.
Alternatively, try one of the many apps or online fitness platforms now available to enjoy the benefits of a PT in your pocket. ‘The trainer will provide personal coaching, motivation, speed cues and more through your headphones to push you on while your run,’ explains Nicki. ‘Technology really is taking the audio workout experience to the next level. One service I’d recommend is Openfit for their live running and walking classes.’
So, now you’ve read our beginner’s tips on how to get started, it’s time to lace up and enjoy every step of the journey ahead. And remember, slow and steady always wins the race!
If you enjoy getting out for a long run and want some interesting and informative chatter in your ears, check out these 5 awesome podcasts to listen to while the miles fly by.
1. Joe Rogan Experience
Joe Rogan is an American comedian as well as an MMA commentator. His free, regular podcasts feature interviews with a variety of well-known guests covering a range of topics and provide some interesting listening. Check out number 1027 for an interview with American ultra running icon Courtney Dauwalter.
2. Running Commentary
Running Commentary is a really fun podcast that's recorded while the hosts themselves are running. It's predominantly a running podcast although other subjects are discussed too. If you want to feel like you're running alongside other people while listening to interesting chat, this is the podcast for you.
3. Trail Runner Nation
In Trail Runner Nation, coaches, runners, and big names in running discuss all things trail running, including topics like "Ten Things New Trail Runners Should Know" and debating running matters, as well as interviewing legends of trail running. If you're a lover of the trails, this one is for you.
4. Ten Junk Miles
Ten Junk Miles is a podcast featuring lighthearted conversation with trail, road, and ultra runners about their lives as runners and the issues that are interesting or important to them. Feel like part of the gang with this running podcast.
5. Inside Running
Inside Running is a weekly podcast by three fast runners: Brady Threlfall (2:19 marathon), Julian Spence (2:14 marathon) and Bradley Croker (2:17 Marathon). The podcast is aimed at all runners - not just those with a sub 2:30 marathon - and they talk all things distance running including news, training, gear, reviews, and interviews with guests.
Whether you're starting your first couch to 5k or you're a seasoned runner looking to run a marathon or even an ultra, one of the most important things is to have the perfect pair of running shoes. Follow our guide for everything from brand analysis, different types of running shoes, which shoes are best for you, and which shoes to choose according to your running goals. Everything you need to know is here in Sundried's guide to buying running shoes.
In this guide:
- Running shoe brands
- Can running shoes cause knee pain?
- Where to buy running shoes
- When to buy new running shoes
- Trail running shoes
- Running shoes for long distance running
- Trainers and sneakers for sprinting
Running shoe brands
There are endless shoe brands out there so it can be tough to push through the noise and find a brand that is perfect for you. When it comes to running shoes, there are a few big players.
- New Balance
- Hoka ONE ONE
Some of these brands are more well known than others, such as the global giants Nike and Adidas. However, the other brands are important as they specialise in running and therefore the designers really know what to look for and work on when it comes to running specifically.
Asics is a Japanese brand whose first product was a pair of basketball shoes designed and manufactured in 1950. Since then, this brand has become one of the biggest players in the running shoe game and they sponsor such prominent athletes as Gwen Jorgensen and Jan Frodeno. Asics running trainers are tried and tested and you won't go to a single running event without seeing many people wearing Asics running trainers. This is a great brand to trust and they make running shoes for everyone from those who over-pronate to those who under-pronate and everyone in between.
Nike is one of the biggest companies in the world, sponsoring world class celebrity athletes like Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, and they even have a range in collaboration with Michael Jordan. It's impossible to go anywhere without seeing people wearing Nike shoes or clothing and they have ranges from casual to performance and cover many sports from golf to tennis to running and CrossFit. Nike work hard on innovative technology and always have new shoes on the market with never-seen-before features such as Fly Knit, Air, and Zoom.
New Balance is an American shoe brand that is now internationally acclaimed after being a popular sportswear brand for over a century. It only became well-known in the UK fairly recently but is making waves, especially with huge sponsorship like that of the London Marathon.
Brooks Running is another American brand that was founded around a century ago. They enjoyed their prime in the mid 1970s but then the brand faltered in the 1980s. By the turn of the millennium, Brooks re-branded and focused solely on running with a special focus on performance technology. They are now one of the best-selling speciality running shoe brands in the world and have enjoyed accolades such as 'Best Running Shoe' by publications including Runner's World and Sports Illustrated.
Adidas is another of the global brands which is world renowned and can be found anywhere. In recent times, Adidas have pushed forward in running shoe innovation by developing Boost technology and their newer ranges of running shoes offer something really quite special. Collaborations with designers like Stella McCartney have launched this brand into the next dimension and they continue to grow year on year. Despite being perhaps best known for their fashion trainers, Adidas is a really big player when it comes to running shoes and they have a vast range with something to suit everyone.
Hoka One One
Hoka One One is a lesser known brand, but is very popular among athletes and serious runners. Serving a more niche market, Hoka's running shoes are specifically designed with a super thick sole and 'rocking' motion for long distance runners. It's said that if you run a marathon wearing Hoka shoes, your legs won't even ache at the end! Co-founders Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud wanted to create a running shoe that was more effective and cushioning when running downhill, and in doing so reinvented the running shoe.
Can running shoes cause knee pain?
The simple answer to this is yes, running shoes can cause knee pain. That's why it's hugely important that you understand your own personal anatomy and physiology before buying new running shoes so that you can buy the right ones for you. Not only this, if your running shoes are old, tired, and worn out, they are more likely to cause an injury.
There are three types of runner: those who over-pronate, those who under-pronate, and those with a neutral stride.
If you overpronate, this means that your feet roll inwards due to a low arch or flat feet. This can have serious implications if you run in the wrong trainers and you can end up with a whole host of running injuries. If you over-pronate, you need to wear stability shoes which have in-built arch support to keep your feet in the right place as you run and to take the strain off your knees to prevent injury.
If you have a neutral stride, you may benefit from barefoot-type running shoes. These shoes are more flexible and light and will allow your feet to take their most natural shape when you run. If you have a neutral stride - lucky you - you will benefit from a very wide range of running shoes and have a much bigger choice when it comes to buying running shoes.
Finally, if you under-pronate, you need to look for very well cushioned running shoes to prevent shock injuries and to absorb the impact on the outside of the foot. If you underpronate, you will land on the outside of your foot when you run and this is the foot's weakest part, so you need your shoes to work with you to prevent injuries.
Where to buy running shoes
The best way to buy running shoes is in person at your local running store. While a large department store or chain may seem like they have more choice, the employees are often paid commission to sell certain brands and you may therefore not receive impartial advice and end up purchasing shoes that are not in your best interest.
If you are thinking of buying running shoes online, it is best to read as many running shoe reviews as possible before you buy. It's important to bear in mind that fit varies from brand to brand and even from model to model so you need to check that they are true to size or discover if they run small or large. Additionally, check to see if the shoes provide adequate cushioning and response from the sole and if they will last the distance or if they will deteriorate after only a few miles.
If you buy your running shoes from a local expert running shop you will often be able to test them out before you buy on an in-store treadmill and therefore decide if they fit well. You will also be able to determine if they work for you personally and if they are right for your goals. Not only this, the expert at the shop will be able to give you impartial advice. Therefore, this is the best place to buy new running shoes.
When to buy new running shoes
There are a few things to look out for if you think you may need to buy new running shoes. Worn out shoes can cause a lot of issues, so make sure you stay aware of how many miles you've run in your trainers and are ready to buy new ones with time to wear them in before getting rid of your old ones.
A good quality pair of running shoes should last you between 300 to 500 miles of wear. For someone who is running an average of 80 miles a month, this means replacing your running shoes every four to six months. However, factors such as your running style and your weight can affect how quickly your shoes wear out. Heavier runners put more pressure on their shoes and need more cushioning, so may need to replace shoes more often.
It's always worth investing in a new pair of shoes if you feel like your running trainers are getting worn out so that you avoid developing injuries and niggles. You can check the soles of the shoes to see if there is any noticeable wear, and if your running style starts to feel different or you start developing pains you've never had before, it could be time to get a new pair or runners.
If your running shoes look like this, it's definitely time to retire them!
Trail running shoes
If most of your runs are done on mud, grass, or trails, it is worth investing in proper trail running shoes instead of ruining your attractive fashion trainers. There are lots of differences between trail running shoes and regular running trainers, such as a thicker sole and more protection against stepping on stones and rocks, as well as better grip for running on slippery mud.
Many running shoe brands manufacture trail running shoes, but it may be worth looking for a brand that specialises in this type of shoe. Topo Athletic is one brand that sell good quality trail running shoes. Topo's secret is that the toe box on the shoe is wide so that your toes don't get crushed and your feet have more room to move and breathe when navigating tough trails and paths.
Running shoes for long distance running
If you're training for a marathon or ultra marathon, you need running shoes that can go the distance. This means sneakers that have lots of cushioning and support. Pounding the pavement for hundreds of miles can put a lot of strain on your muscles and your nervous system, so it's important your trainers are supporting you.
When it comes to long distance running, you probably don't want to go for a minimalist running shoe. Instead, opt for one with a thicker sole and lots of cushioning, especially if you are a heavier runner.
As mentioned above, some brands design their running shoes specifically for long distance running, like Hoka ONE ONE, so it is worth exploring these brands if you are looking to run long distances injury-free.
Trainers and sneakers for sprinting
For sprinting, you'll want more lightweight running shoes so that you can achieve explosive power and speed and not be weighed down by your sneakers. There are many options when it comes to lightweight sprint shoes, such as the Nike Free Run series or the Asics Gel-Hyper Speed shoes. The best shoes for speed will be designed for precisely that and as such won't have as much cushioning as other running shoes. Due to this, you need to make sure you're not running long distances in racing flats because you may damage your feet and joints.
Sprinting would include distances up to around 5km. For any running distances farther than this, you should look into buying different running shoes.
As summer fast approaches and the weather warms up, it's time to start adjusting your training and racing tactics for the heat. Follow these top tips so that you can perform at your best in hot, humid weather and finish safely in good health.
Don't drink only water
This is possibly the most important point on this list. We all know that we need to drink plenty of water when it's hot, however an increasingly common mistake seems to be drinking only water and potentially over-hydrating. Didn't realise that over-hydrating was a thing? It can be potentially deadly. News broke last year of a woman who was left in a coma after over-hydrating at the London Marathon. The mistake this woman made was that she only drank water and caused her body to enter a state called hyponatraemia. This is when your body's sodium levels are dangerously low and in this context is caused by replenishing water but not electrolytes or salts.
The best way to stay safe and healthy when running in the heat, especially if it is a long endurance event like a marathon, is to top up your sodium before you run and then keep it topped up by drinking a sports drink or taking electrolyte tablets. Team GB duathlete and Sundried ambassador Louise Douglass says, "practise in training with different brands until you find the best one that works for you." This is important as the race you do may not have the sports drinks or gels that you're used to, so sometimes it's best to take your own, especially if your race is in a foreign country.
Of course, you need to keep a safe balance between water and salts, so try to work out how much of each you need before you start. You could do this by doing a sweat test, such as the one offered by sweat experts Precision Hydration, to see how much salt you personally lose when you sweat and go from there.
Adjust your hydration and nutrition from winter training
If you live in the UK and have signed up for a spring or summer race, chances are you've done most of your training in very cold, windy, and miserable conditions. What this means is you will need to adjust your hydration and nutrition for the actual race and it may differ from your training as the amount of water your body required in December will be vastly different to what it requires in July and August.
Make sure you are flexible with your hydration and take extra water and sports drinks with you to the race just in case so that it doesn't come as a surprise on the day. Most, if not all, races will have water available so stay topped up but as highlighted above, don't be tempted to over-hydrate!
Wear a hat or cap
Wearing a hat or cap is a great idea whenever you're in the sun as it protects your head from the heat and can reduce the risk of developing heat and sun stroke. Not only this, wearing a white, fabric cap when you run can mean you can keep a wet sponge under it to keep your head cool and keep soaking it with water to keep your basal temperature down.
"I would recommend wearing a white hat for sure, I’ve found wearing it backwards with sunglasses on actually is best." says Team GB age group triathlete and Sundried ambassador Sam Mileham.
Reduce your pace and listen to your body
You may have been able to push your body hard during training throughout the winter, but race day might be a different story. Especially if you're not expecting a hot race or race day is unseasonably hot (something that can often happen during the big April marathons) you may need to reduce your pace. Even if this means missing out on a potential PB, it's far better to get to the finish line with a smile on your face than being carted off on a stretcher!
Team GB triathlete and Sundried ambassador Paul Suett says "listen to your body and slow your pace down if it’s feeling too hard. London Marathon last year was my toughest race to date, the heat was insane and took a lot out of my body. Throughout the race I constantly listened to my body to make sure I was running sensibly."
Ironman athlete and Sundried ambassador Jon Dixon says "If you know in advance that the weather for a target race is going to be hot, then acclimatise by running in conditions similar in the lead up, preferably start at least 2 weeks out." Team GB age group triathlete Ali Trauttmansdorff adds to this by saying "I trained a few weeks before racing in Mexico by training in similarly hot and humid conditions in Florida to try and replicate the conditions as much as I could. I deliberately went out for my runs at 10am instead of early in the morning so that it wasn't cooler."
It may be difficult mentally to take yourself out for a training run when conditions seem tough, but this is how to train smart and will certainly pay off on race day!