Autumn means cooler weather and darker mornings. While it shouldn’t stop you from getting out for your daily run, there are some things you might want to know before heading out the door. We caught up with RunThrough events coaching partner, former international athlete and founder of New Levels Coaching, Lewis Moses, to get answers to our biggest questions on how to keep running (safely) as the thermostat dips.
Do you advise bundling up for a run in the cold?
The short and very easy answer to this is yes, absolutely. During winter months, it's important to wrap up in warmer clothes and my theory is always that you can easily take off layers, but you can't put them on if you don't have them. Scientifically, evidence is mixed in relation to warm up and warming the body up for exercise, but one thing is clear, certain structures in the body, particularly tendons and muscles, prefer to be warmer, so going out cold or in freezing conditions can be a bit of an injury risk.
The main thing in the winter is to STAY SAFE. Make sure you are wrapped up, you have reflective gear on and people know where you are going. The dark mornings and nights can be dangerous for runners and we need to be extra careful in winter months.
Should the change in temperature impact the pace your running?
Most definitely. We have seen many examples of the negative effects the heat can have on athletes when they push too hard in warmer temperatures. When you run, your body is constantly working to regulate your core body temperature (hence why we sweat a lot in the heat) and running too hard in the heat, will make this a lot harder. The body is also working hard in cooler temperatures. In the winter, it can often feel hard to breathe, especially when setting off. Therefore I always recommend athletes 'easing' into sessions or runs to allow the body time to adjust to the colder temperatures. Naturally, as you warm up, you will feel better and you can pick the pace up. When it's extremely cold outside, you should also be careful, especially when cornering on potentially slippery ground. This could also affect your pace, but it's more important to be safe than fast!
Are there things you can do to help the body adjust before going out?
I believe this comes down to the individual and finding out what works for them. Personally, I recommend stretching and mobility work before leaving the house, so that you feel like you have gotten the body and the joints more mobile. People may feel like a hot drink warms them up, which technically it will, but then to regulate the body temperature the body will sweat to cool you down again, so that really does come down to preference. One thing my wife does, which is a great trick if you suffer from something such as Raynaud's disease, is put hand warmers underneath your gloves when it's really cold. She figured this out when skiing one winter and now does the same at the start of very cold runs in the winter.
Do you advise running with a buddy if you find it hard to stay motivated?
Yes 100%! Meeting someone can help you stay accountable and give you the motivation to get out of bed and see the other side of the door. More importantly though, it's great for mental health to be sociable and be speaking to other people, not to mention the safety factor of running with other people. When darker mornings and nights do set it, we always recommend running with people when you can. Right now, we obviously have to be aware of the government guidelines and we should always adhere to these, but I would strongly recommend running with someone whether it be in the summer or winter months.
Interested in hearing more of Lewis’ excellent advice? We’ve got the connection. Lewis and his team and New Levels Coaching strive to help runners and triathletes find their true potential by working with individually to improve their physical and mental wellbeing. You can reach them via their website www.newlevelscoaching.co.uk or Instagram @newlevelscoaching. And if you’re looking to get involved in some virtual races, check out our friends RunThrough at www.runthrough.co.uk or @runthroughuk.