Preparing for the dark nights
As soon as the clocks go back and the darkness of night out weighs that of the light of day along with a drop in temperature, for many this is off putting when it comes to finding the motivation to open the door and take those first few steps out into the cold and dark of the early mornings and evenings. More often than not once you are out there you soon forget about it and when finished with the steam coming off your body the thrill and buzz can be even better than one of those beautiful spring like morning runs. However and before the inexperienced amongst us take those first few winter running steps, it is important to pay attention to certain factors that can turn a winters run from what should be a pleasant experience into one that could put you off for good.
Clothing is very important with reflective gear being right at the top of the list. Most running gear now has reflective strips and actually use reflective materials during the manufacturing of all clothing and footwear. For those who perhaps don’t want to spend money on running gear just for the winter months then a reflective bib can be worn over the top of any item of clothing which will be more than suffice. The saying Be Seen, Be Safe is undoubtedly a quote to always remember when running in poor light. Needless to say there are other considerations with regards what to wear so as to meet those potential winter elements to keep you not only warm and dry, but comfortable too. I always start with a base layer made from wicking materials/fibres which will wick away any build-up of moisture from sweat. Cotton retains moisture which is not only uncomfortable, but can lead to chaffing and a drop in body temperature if you slow down or turn into a cold wind. You can then add other lightweight vests, t shirts or even long sleeve tops to this depending upon the conditions. If it is freezing cold then it might not just mean one or two extra layers, but even a third and if it is raining and very windy then a lightweight showerproof jacket too. If out on one of those longer runs and the rain stops and you start to get a little too warm, most lightweight jackets can easily be folded up and carried or just tied around your waist. I also suffer quite badly with cold fingers so more often than not in the winter I will wear lightweight gloves. A hat is also a must for me what with not wanting to lose all the heat through the top of my bald head. Ladies may want to consider head bands when the temperature drops those few extra degrees. Other items which I like to have available are a pair of running tights and high quality running socks. If shoes are the most important piece of a runners equipment then socks have to be the second most important item. Ladies will also point to a good sports bra. For those who don’t like getting their feet wet, then there are several models of running shoes which are made with a Goretex fabric. However before purchasing a “Goretex Running Shoe”, make sure the shoe itself fits all your other necessary requirements when it comes to footwear as there are several Goretax running shoes on the market which lack in other very important departments. Grip in very slippery and icy under foot conditions also needs to be considered so if your shoes don’t have enough tread on them consider driving to somewhere where the surface is better suited or purchase a set of snow/ice grippers which can easily be fitted on to the soles of your running shoes. One other item of equipment which has become very popular during the last few years are head torches which are brilliant when running in the dark and certainly help light up the way and of course ensure that you are seen.
When it comes to running equipment like everything else you tend to get what you pay for. You don’t have to be able to afford a Ferrari to get a great car and that is the same with running gear. However there are price points which do need to be considered when purchasing quality footwear, clothing and equipment particularly if you want it to retain its capabilities for year after year.
Always warm up before running be it at any time of the year, but during the cooler months a good warm up will certainly make you feel that much better before taking those first few strides when the air temperature is cooler particularly as our muscles do not contract at the same intensity and are less powerful in colder temperatures. One other consideration to take on board is that whilst our bodies rely on carbohydrates as a source of energy for distance running, energy consumption from carbohydrates increases during cooler temperatures and therefore it is advisable to ensure that you have eaten a meal high in complex carbohydrates the night before if planning a long morning run or indeed a light meal or foods containing carbohydrates two to three hours beforehand. This is also another good reason to make sure that you wear clothing which will keep you warm during your run.
As with warming up, the warm down is also very important, but if you are wet and the temperature is extra cold then it only takes a few minutes after stopping for your body temperature to drop to the point where you can start shivering. If you have done a few mins of gentle jogging at the end of your run, then put another top on before doing your stretching exercises and if wet and cold then take off your wet layers and replace with dry clothing as soon as you can. Consume some water and eat a little food too or consume a recovery drink which will help to replace the fluid and nutrients lost during your run.
During warm weather running we all pay attention to staying hydrated, but this is just as applicable to running in the cooler temperatures. Therefore always have a drink before you go and just as you might in the summer months carry a drinks bottle with you so as to top up along the way especially on the longer one hour plus runs.
Happy Running whatever the weather and conditions.
Sportlink Running & Fitness.