Winter running – should your running change with the seasons?

As the seasons change, there are different challenges facing runners. But what are the challenges and what is the best way of approaching them?

Colder weather can be glorious to run in after running through summer while feeling like your brain is boiling. But it also raises hidden risks like dehydration, sore muscles and ankle sprains.

When you start your session, typically you rug up to make sure you can survive the initial hit of cold. As the session goes on, our body temperature rises but we tend to leave our clothing as is. This covertly increases your sweat rate because the parts of you that sweat are underneath your thick clothing and not pouring down your face. As it’s hard to monitor, you tend not to notice how much you’re sweating so the risk of dehydration can creep up on you, despite the freezing temps.

Your best option to mitigate this risk is to start the session well hydrated then monitor how much you consume during the session by using a bottle rather than using a tap or bladder. For longer sessions think about giving yourself an hourly target.

We all know about the importance of a warm up and you probably can guess that warm ups need to be longer and more gradual in colder weather.

What you might not realise is that it only takes a few minutes for your extremities to cool down – that can occur during rest between intervals or breaks of more than 3 minutes mid-session. So you may want to include a quick walk or a few squats towards the end of your rest between intervals and include a mini warm up after extended mid-session breaks.

Another big change in winter is fewer hours of daylight, therefore more chance of running in the dark. Obviously using well-lit paths is an easy option but they’re not always on offer and not an option for trail runners.

Two changes are needed – a decent headlight or waist light is obvious but the less obvious change is a decent set of quads. Yep. Because running with reduced visibility means that we typically run with slightly more bend in our knees to land in a semi-braced position.

That puts your ankles in a safer position for landing on unknown surfaces. But you’ll need a fair amount of quads strength, so make sure you reach for a kettlebell before you reach for your headlight.

Written by

Pete Colagiuri
Sports Physiotherapist

Pete has over 20 years experience as a Physiotherapist and specialises in running biomechanics and complex injuries. He believes that you must identify and fix the underlying cause of an injury, to recover faster, prevent recurrences and improve performance.

Pete Colagiuri - Sports Physio