So here are a few tips to help you prepare for outdoor training when the temperature drops.
Prepare your winter training gear. If you’re like me, thermals, gloves, hats and base layers all get stuffed away in the dark corner of the wardrobe or a packed drawer. I keep promising myself that I’ll organise my clothes so that I know what things are in which drawer or cupboard, but it never works! So, before the cold weather sets in, just check that you’ve got what you need, that it’s still in one piece and that it doesn’t need replacing. Don’t forget any hi-vis bits and pieces either. Check your trainers too. There’s nothing worse than being halfway through a winter run, stepping in a puddle only to discover that your trainers aren’t waterproof. Wet socks and shoes can cause problems other than a squelching noise.
Invest a little more time in your warm-up routine. A cold start can result in injury, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints don't take kindly to the cold. So make sure you’re you’re ready to go before that first blast of cold air hits your lungs.
Breathe properly. Learn to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. That way cold air takes longer to get to your lungs and consequently is warmer and more moist than if you breathe through your mouth. It also means that your mouth doesn’t get hit by the cold air going in, instead it is kept warm by the air going out. If you suffer from asthma, then be extra careful, but don’t let the cold stop you. Check with your doctor if you’re concerned.
Keep moving. If you’ve been out in the cold the first thing you probably want to do when you get back is get into the warm. But in winter, muscles cool down very quickly and you need to make sure you’ve taken some time to get your heart rate down and allowed your muscles to flush out the by-products of exercise before going indoors and slumping onto the couch. Of course, you wouldn’t do that because you’re going to do your cool down stretches first aren’t you!
Put on enough layers. It’s always difficult to gauge how cold or warm you’re going to feel. Wind chill can make it feel a lot colder than the thermometer indicates. Several thin layers are always better than one thick layer. Modern base layers help wick away sweat and moisture. Wear a hat!
Don’t stay outside too long! Once you’ve finished training and cooled down properly, get inside and get out of any wet, sweaty clothing. You’re at your most susceptible to infection at this stage, so getting into dry clothes and a warmer environment can help reduce the risk.
Watch the light! I know it’s stating the obvious, but it gets dark earlier in the winter. Top layers with reflective strips, wrist bands or sashes made from reflective material can all help to make you more visible. Bright clothing helps too. I know that black top looks great, but the yellow one will make you stand out more! A head torch might be useful too. It also makes sense to train during the day if you can. Exposure to sunlight, even in the winter, can stimulate Vitamin D production.
Eat fruit and vegetables. We all know we should have 5 or 7, even 10 portions of fruit and veg a day but rarely do we manage it. In the winter it’s especially important to make sure you’re getting a good supply of those healthy minerals and vitamins that help fight colds.
Get the app! There are plenty of free weather apps available for smart ‘phones these days. You can get alerts or forecasts sent to you via email or text message. You could try a web service called “If This Then That”. It will allow you to send alerts to your ‘phone if it’s going to rain or the temperature drops.
Beware the ice! There will be some days when it’s just not a good idea to go out. This is especially true when there’s ice about. If you’re determined to get some fresh air, then why not think about walking rather than running. You’ll have more time to spot those slippery bits of pavement and road surface.
Remember, every person is unique. just because your training partner or the guys down the gym refuse to wear anything more than a vest and shorts for their runs, you don’t have to prove you’re just as hardy. Everyone has a different level of sensitivity to temperature and you need to find your level of comfort rather than following someone else’s.
Training outside in the winter can help strengthen your immune system, raise your pulse rate and thereby increase your calorie burn as your body counteracts the cold.