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Keeping Safe on Winter Runs

Dr Juliet McGrattan

Did you read our blog on why winter running is the BEST? It’s certainly inspired lots of our community to get out there in some of the recent ‘less than perfect’ weather. Winter running however does throw up some challenges and there are a few things that you need to bear in mind. Stay safe out there with our simple solutions for some of the risks that winter running poses. 

Risk 1: Injury. Going straight out and into a fast run you risk injuring cold muscles. 

Solution:  Make time for a good warm up before you start running. Brisk walking and dynamic stretches will increase the blood flow to your muscles which warms them up and makes them more pliable and reduces the risk of injury. Ten minutes is fine but it’s too important to skimp on.

Risk 2: Poor lighting. The shorter daylight hours mean you’re often running in dim light or darkness. That’s a hazard for you, car drivers, cyclists and other pedestrians.


Solution: Make yourself as visible as possible. Reflective clothing, head torches, knuckle lights – you can’t wear too much, even on lit paths. If you have a favourite jacket that’s not reflective you can buy cheap reflective bands and vests to put over the top. Running with others will help make you more visible too.

Risk 3: Changing conditions. There’s cold weather but often wind, rain, sleet and snow to contend with too. It’s easy to get caught out.


Solution:  Layers are your friend, they can be put on and taken off as the conditions change. Invest in a great thermal base layer; merino wool is always a winner. A good quality wind and waterproof outer layer is a sound purchase too. A hat is ideal; lots of body heat escapes through your head but why not try running buffs? You can use them as a hat or scarf and even wind them around your wrist when you get too hot for either. Don’t underestimate how quickly you will get cold afterwards so make sure you have something warm to put on when you stop.

Risk 4: Difficult terrain. Water, snow and ice make running hard. Wet feet, falls and just generally feeling unsteady can ruin a run.


Solution: The right shoes make such a difference. Invest in a pair that have a waterproof lining to keep your feet dry and a good tread to stop you slipping. You can also get traction devices to put onto your shoes to give your more grip. Check the forecast before you head out so you know what to expect and pick your routes carefully. Sometimes running later in the day or in a less shady spot will allow ice to melt. Reduce your pace and just enjoy the run. 

Risk 5: Health concerns. Some medical problems such as asthma can be triggered by cold weather and even people without asthma can find breathing harder in chilly conditions.

Solution: If cold weather is a trigger for your asthma then you’re right to be wary. If your asthma isn’t well controlled, then see your asthma nurse or doctor to discuss your treatment before you run; sometimes treatment needs to be stepped up over the winter months. If all is well but the cold causes problems, then try warming the air you breathe by covering your mouth with a scarf. Use your preventer inhaler before you run and don’t forget to carry it with you at all times, along with a mobile phone. 

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