Don’t let the cold weather disrupt your healthiest lockdown habit – here’s how to winter-proof your next run…
Washing your hands to the tune and duration of the Happy Birthday song, investing in a face mask that works with your winter wardrobe and not giving your granny a hug for as long as you can remember – all healthy new habits you’ve hopefully adopted as we sprint through lockdown 2.0 into the deepest, darkest depths of winter.
During the first lockdown, almost one million people downloaded the NHS Couch to 5k app from March to June to make the most of their allocated hour of exercise and give both their physical and mental health a boost.
Running can be a truly transformative habit, both in terms of short-term fitness and long-term wellbeing, but with temperatures dropping and nights drawing in, it’s also the one lockdown trend that’s most at risk of kicking the kerb.
We asked fitness expert and online trainer, Monty Simmons, for his advice on getting outside and keeping fitness goals on track during our winter at home.
1. Add a layer
Muscles have to be kept warm if you want them to work optimally, which isn’t easy when temperatures plummet.
“The idea is to be warm without sweating so much that you risk making yourself colder,” says Simmons.
“Dress coolly in the house, then add layers and wrap up just before stepping out into the cold. This reduces the stark contrast between the two extremes of temperature and could help prevent an injury and avoid you dreading those first few frosty minutes.”
A general rule of temperature is to dress for weather that’s 6°C warmer than the actual outside temperature.
Add a base layer and hat to what you’d wear if you weren’t running in order to trap body heat against the skin.
On top, a rain and wind-proof outer shell blocks the elements but allows moisture to escape the layers underneath, keeping you drier and warmer for longer.
2. Step things up a gear
Pounding the pavements in the same kicks you wore to do your weekly Boxercise class and hit the treadmill in the gym can not only prevent you from achieving your PB, it can also have a harder impact on your feet and the joints of your lower body.
One study found that when compared to running on the treadmill, running on the ground can increase the maximum pressure on the foot, especially the heel, by around 26-32%, depending on speed.
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 is a road-running shoe which utilises a finely calibrated mix of Brooks DNA foam, air and rubber, engineered to provide a softer feeling underfoot without losing responsiveness and durability.
This clever tech gives you an even smoother transition from heel to toe for a more comfortable, secure stride wherever your run takes you.
Underneath, opt for socks that wick wetness from snow, hail or puddles away from your feet to keep those hard workers warm and dry.
Merino wool provides insulation in cold climates and also has antimicrobial properties to keep cold feet fresh.
3. Warm up
The pliability and responsiveness of your glutes, quads, and other muscles involved in running are controlled by a chemical reaction which works best at a temperature that’s slightly warmer than your body’s standard.
“A dynamic warm-up indoors is a good way to gear up the nervous system. The final few minutes should then be finished up outside in the cold just prior to setting off,” says Simmons.
“The key is to slowly build up the speed and intensity of movement to make the transition smooth and gradual, and avoid shocking the body – which can lead to injury.”
The joints of the feet, ankles, knees and hips and core should be warm and ready to go.
Simmons advises doing 30 seconds each of front lunges, pogo bounces (bouncing up and down with your feet together), knee raises (leaning against a wall and lifting your thighs as high as you can), jumping jacks and vertical jumps (jumping as high as you can).
If your thighs feel slightly warmer to the touch than when you started, you’re good to go.
4. Stay safe
Of course, all health benefits aside, staying safe out there should be top priority - especially if the weather is wet and slippy.
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 boasts a holistic system of GuideRails support designed to prevent injury, with the inner and outer walls of the shoe specifically engineered to keep you running in your natural path of motion, thus protecting the most injury-prone part of a runner’s body: the knees.
“Runners tend to have increased motion at the heel the longer they run,” explains Ashley Scott, Technical Representative Supervisor at Brooks Running.
“So when you’re fresh at the beginning of the run, GuideRails won’t need to be engaged too much, but once you start getting tired and that excess movement creeps in, GuideRails are there to keep you in your preferred motion path.”
In addition to your footwear, building core strength can also play a big role.
“Having stronger muscles with faster reactions is useful in case of a slip,” says Simmons. “Having the strength in your arms and core to be able to catch yourself, and the strength, speed and reactiveness in your legs to try to gather your footing may help buy you time to regain your balance.”
General strength and speed training in the legs and upper body includes push-ups, multidirectional lunges (forward, backward, sideways), side planks, squat jumps (with 45-degree turns on each jump) and single-arm front planks with shoulder taps.
Aim to do three 45-second sets of each exercise (on both sides if applicable) on non-run days.
5. Drink it in, breathe it out
When frigid temperatures mean you’re not dripping with sweat, it can be harder to pick up on cues that you’re thirsty.
But, even if you’re not sweating as much, you’ll continue to perspire under your clothes and lose fluids via breathing out water vapour.
Make sure you drink as much as on an average-temperature run, avoiding ice-cold water, which can cause your core temperature to plummet.
Breathwork is important during every run, but in colder months regulating your inhale and exhale can make keeping going easier.
“Studies show that nasal breathing is more efficient at the molecular exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body,” says Simmons.
Put simply: it makes your body work harder as an energy machine.
To help control breathing, start with a “three in and three out” breathing rate: taking a steady, deep breath every three steps, before exhaling for the next three.
Get out there this winter with the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21. Through keeping active and maintaining mental wellness, you finish every run in a better place than you started, so don’t let the adverse conditions set you back. The new shoe has all the support you need for confidence in your lockdown fitness habit with an even smoother, more comfortable stride via DNA Loft technology. Buy it here and embrace the transformative power of the run, come rain or shine.