Although a lot of us find it harder to get out in the colder months, there’s no reason why your training should suffer due to the weather. Taking a few simple precautions before heading out can make all the difference for preventing injuries.
During the colder months, the connective tissues and muscles around the joints tend to be less flexible and less pliable. As a result, going straight into a workout without warming up these structures can cause injury.
A 5-10 minute warm up will get blood pumping to the muscles and soft tissues and warm up your musculoskeletal system. As your body begins to generate heat, the connective tissues soften and become more pliable, so are less likely to be strained and injured. Once your body is warm, any tight spots can gently be stretched out. Warming up inside before heading out for your run can also make it easier.
Running in rain or snow, or sweating in cold temperatures, can increase the risk of hypothermia, a lowering of your body temperature. If you’re wet after a run change your clothes and get into the warm as quickly as possible to minimise the risk.
Dehydration is often associated with warmer weather, but despite the cold, the body still heats up and fluids are lost through sweat. Cold air also has a drying effect which can increase the risk of dehydration. Make sure you drink water before, during, and after exercise. For improved hydration, electrolyte tablets such as the high5 zero tablets help replace the natural salts in your body which help maintain blood concentration, muscle contraction and neural activity; all of which are integral during exercise.
A good supply of energy is always important, but in colder conditions an extra boost is sometimes necessary as the body uses more energy to produce heat, leaving less available for muscle contraction. A healthy, balanced diet will provide a good foundation for any exercise routine, but for extra fuel, many supplements are available in different forms of gels, bars, drinks and sweets. Be careful not to overload on sugar; sugary sports drinks contain very short chains of carbohydrates so will give you an initial boost without the energy being substantial. SIS Go Energy drink powder for example contains carbohydrate chains of 22 molecules in length which allows energy to gradually be released over extended periods of time. This allows your muscles to be consistently provided with fuel for a longer duration of exercise.
Everyone has different clothing preferences, and regardless of how many layers you wear, make sure they all contain moisture wicking materials to wick sweat away from the body to keep you dry. Stay away from cotton because it holds the moisture and keep you wet which can then cause you to catch a chill.
A good base layer such as the Odlo Evolution range is a key piece of kit. These are ergonomically designed to move with the body and keep you warm. These are composed of synthetic materials and sit directly next to the skin allowing moisture to be effectively wicked away from the body.
Another important piece of kit is an outer, breathable layer that has a good windstopper and water resistance to help protect you against wind and precipitation, while still letting out heat and moisture to prevent overheating and chilling. Most running jackets have these features as standard, but if you going to be out running in heavier rain, try something with Gore-Tex as this is completely waterproof at the same time as being completely breathable.
About 40% of your body heat is lost through your head. Wearing a hat will help prevent heat loss, so your circulatory system will have more heat to distribute to the rest of the body.
In colder months, the muscles generally become a bit stiffer and take longer to warm up. Compression clothing, such as the 2XU range, is a great way to encourage a consistent blood flow between the heart and the muscles to provide the muscles with oxygen and remove any waste products. If lactate builds up in the muscles, this can cause fatigue and a decline in metabolic function which in turn can hinder performance.
The key tip for dealing with the extra risks that winter presents is to use your initiative as you would running outside at any other time of the year. Pay a bit more attention to keeping yourself warm, watch out for those icy surfaces, and don’t neglect your hydration.