I absolutely love running in winter. I love to see my breath cloud around me in great balls, the paths glistening underfoot, and the hills in the distance white with frost and snow. I run faster in winter; the warmth of spring and summer makes me too nervous to push myself hard, but in the chilly air I feel free and completely alive!
The best thing has been running on the fells in the recent frosts, where the world looks as if it's been painted in delicate white glitter. Running up the moorside is fine, and quite a sweaty job in all weathers, but once up on that moor, the weather is always at its worst, and winds, rain and frost can physically hurt! Did you know that runners age much more quickly than non-runners? All that harsh weather to the face doesn't do us many favours!
I've already talked about keeping fit in winter, and despite joining a running club and finding ways to exercise indoors, it can still be difficult to really feel comfortable when running outside in the cold. I've started to build up quite a high weekly mileage, as I've been training hard for a half marathon on Sunday (eeek!). At the same time I've been trying to really look after myself, by keeping limbered up, warm, nourished and hydrated!
Here are a few tips that I've learnt along the way - just in time for milder temperatures!
Wrap up, but not too much
I love to run with bare legs, and the shorter the shorts, the better! I do have lycra running trousers, but I only wear these in extremes of cold as I find them very restricting, and have been wearing mid-length lycra shorts during these colder months. As the legs do pretty much all of the work while running, they do stay warm quite nicely, and so long as you're well warmed up there should be no problem with getting too cold once you get going. Also, there's nothing more waterproof than skin - I wouldn't even consider anything other than shorts when running in rain. Soggy lycra from waist to ankle? No thanks!
The most important bits to keep warm are feet, hands and head. Ankle-length socks, light running gloves and a light wicking hat should do the trick nicely. I also read somewhere that it's good to fill your bottle with warm water, which will keep your hands warm while you get going - I haven't tried it, but still, a good idea!
So, usually it's shorts, a long-sleeved running top, hat, socks and gloves. But I also have a great fast-wicking mid-layer which ties easily around the waist, and a fluorescent waterproof - I only wear this in serious cold/winds, as it ends up a bit like a sauna in there!
Keep the skin protected
In an effort to protect my skin as much as possible from the weather, I basically add a whole new layer of blubber to my face before heading off on a run. Baby Bottom Butter from Waitrose is fantastic for this (it's lovely as a night time moisturiser, too), as it basically coats the skin in olive oil, keeping it moist as well as protected from any wind, cold or rain.
I've had a lot of trouble with cold sores this winter, and I attribute it to not looking after my lips while out running. Badger Balm is my ultimate choice for lip care, but when it comes to running I just smother my lips in ordinary chap stick. I hate the stuff - my Dad's an engineer and he assures me that petroleum jelly is not a thing for the lips (in fact, it was him who introduced me to Badger Balm in the first place) - but it does stop the cold sore problem without me having to use buckets of my favourite lip balm!
Finally, an amazing hand treatment in itself, I moisturise my hands with a really gentle, non-oily cream before I put my running gloves on. I have very bad dry skin on my hands, and the best product I know for my particular skin type is Aveeno, which is made with oats and is truly divine. Decent moisturiser plus gloved hands plus sweaty skin plus lots of blood circulation really does leave wonderfully soft hands after a long run!
I''ve been doing regular training runs of over 12 miles (I did 16 miles a couple of weeks ago - whew!), and I decided from the outset to try taking snacks and drinks along for a decent power surge when needed. I've been taking Lucozade Sport, which is ok, but I'd be very grateful to hear of any recommendations for good energy drinks (not gels)! On a 14 mile run, I'd have my first drink at 7 miles, then every 2 miles until the end of the run. This not only keeps me hydrated and reasonably energised, but it also helps to focus on the matter at hand - long distance - which can be quite daunting when not broken down into 2-mile drink stops. I've also been taking a small snack, and the best I've found is a bag of dried apricots: light on the tummy, easy to chew and swallow, easy to carry. Running in both hot and cold weather can really mess with concentration and energy levels (I feel pretty dazed after 10 miles in the best of conditions), so I've found it helpful to have a bit of support and nourishment along the way.
I've also just started with recovery shakes. I was so against the idea of filling my body with sugars and chemicals after it's taken me so boldly on such long runs, but then I tried it, and I felt amazing. I used to find myself craving everything and anything for a couple of days after pushing myself hard on a run, but this helps stop that, and I can get back to normal, healthy eating straight away. I'm converted!
Note: Unfortunately no one is paying me to say I like these products, I just genuinely do love them!