Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Stay safe on winter workouts

If you can keep your motivation up over the colder months, you'll be 2016 race ready far faster than those that favour fair-weather workouts. But winter brings a whole new set of challenges if you're heading outdoors to exercise. Keep on top of plummeting temperatures, wet and windy weather and shorter daylight hours with these top tips:

Light the way

fitness, workout, health, running
Be safe - be seen!

Have you ever been driving along and suddenly realised there is cyclist or runner on the road? I often wonder why people that ride or run in the evenings, nights or early mornings don't make more of an effort to be seen. The obvious solution is to put some lights on your bike or body - front and back! Flashing lights help with distance perception so that drivers can tell how far away you are from them - and how fast you're moving. The Nathan LightBender is a great weather-resistant armband with multi-settings for blinking or steady stream lights. But a decent head torch will light up your way so you don't trip and fall or run into a low-hanging branch (which I have done - awkward). And if you ever need to dress up as minion, you're half way there...

Another option is high-viz - or fluro-coloured kit. You can go economy with velcro bands on your arms and legs - or plump for a decent bit of kit that you'd actually be happy to be seen wearing at other times. Helly Hansen’s new training range has an embedded reflective layer (invisible to the naked eye, so it just lights up when a car's headlights catch it) - and reflective detailing too. The women's Aspire jacket is really lightweight, so you can layer it over whatever you usually wear without worrying that you'll overheat. Bear in mind if you're running in the snow (???) dark clothes will offer a contrast.

Stay warm

cycling, bike, overshoes, fitness
Toasty feet are happy feet
Layers are the answer to everything in winter - but bear in mind you'll heat up fairly quickly - depending on what you're doing. Opt for sweat-wicking fabrics (a manmade one or merino) and designs with mesh panels or zips to undo so you don't get too hot - and avoid cotton, which will stay wet if it gets sweaty. Looser layers are actually warmer than tight-fit clothing in the winter as you'll have a layer of warmed air for insulation. The wind chill can greatly affect how cold you feel though - particularly if you are on a bike, when your hands (which aren't moving much) will feel the temperature first. Remember gloves and hats will help keep your warm. Since about 30 per cent of the body's heat is lost through the head a skull cap can be essential if you're cycling. Also do your stretch indoors beforehand so you're starting out warm.

And there's nothing worse than cold feet! If you're on a bike, consider some overshoes for a waterproof, windproof cover for your feet. Some designs come with a thermal lining to offer protection in sub zero temperatures. Runners that are expecting to be faced with puddles and mud can also look to get some waterproof socks - potentially wearing them over the top of normal socks - or double up your normal socks if you don't want to shell out or find running in waterproof socks a bit odd (some people find them sweaty). Alternatively you can switch to a trail running shoe over the winter (many of which are designed for wetter, muddier conditions).

Use your noggin'

To stay safe over winter - give your ride or run a bit of extra thought. If you're cycling, try and ride more in the centre of the road so that you are easier to spot - and give your bike a winter service to make sure it's in good working order (think brakes, lubrication and grippy tyres and pedals). You might need to adjust your speed to conditions too. Bear in mind that visibility for drivers is the worst dusk and dawn so take extra care then. If you're running in bitter conditions try and run out against the wind and back with the wind (when you are more tired). For safety always take a mobile phone and let some one else know your expected route and return time when you head out. If it's possible run or ride with a friend in case there's an emergency, and consider taking spare layers if you expect to be gone a while and might get into trouble.

Don't let the winter hamper your healthy lifestyle - just stay safe and enjoy the workout!