If you’re stupid like me and you signed up for the London Marathon and then spent the summer getting even more unfit than you were before, then you probably can’t afford to wait until January for your training plan to start – or maybe, you actually like running and you do it in the winter anyway*… Either way, you need special kit for running in the cold, dark months – but you don’t need to spend a fortune. Here’s my essential kit for running in winter – mostly aimed at beginners, but if you’re a pro, maybe you can read it anyway and give me some tips!
(*I actually much prefer running in autumn and winter over summer! Crisp leaves, frosty mornings, dark nights to hide dark deeds – it’s the best! Beats sweating it out and getting a sunburn any time.)
Trust me when I say if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like running in leggings or running tights, it’s probably because you haven’t tried them. I’m as self-conscious as they come right now, but there’s seriously nothing better than running tights – even my mum, who would never ever wear skin-tight clothing under any other circumstance, is convinced. I don’t even know why they call them ‘jogging bottoms’ because those fleecy, baggy things are much better suited to lazing on the sofa. Less flappy fabric means easier running, and it makes a massive difference to comfort levels. Also, here’s a weird secret I discovered – you don’t need to wear pants underneath. Or knickers or whatever you call them if you’re not British. That’s right, you don’t need undies – in fact, they can be a liability. Pants don’t have wicking fabric and very often will soak up all the sweat and leave you running around feeling like you’ve just wet yourself. If this is all a bit TMI for you, I apologise – but you’ll thank me when you’re not peeling a sweaty mass of cotton from between your legs after a long run. Just look at your bum before you leave the house to make sure your leggings are full coverage, if you catch my drift… Also, less gross – make sure you get a pair with some reflective parts, and a little zip pocket at the back for your door key. (These rose print technical leggings from Next are my current favourites!)
You know the type – it’s silky and smooth feeling, and this means the fabric wicks sweat away from the body. This is good for winter because it means you’re not running around in a sweat-soaked top, with the cold wind blowing and making you even colder! My favourites are from Next at the moment – they’re cheap and cheerful, and I also really like them baggy.
This might be a weird recommendation, but here you go – try some trail shoes instead of running trainers. In winter, the pavement is more slippery, and there’s all kinds of debris on the ground like leaves, conkers, branches, even snow and salt. Trail shoes are made with extra grip so you won’t slip over. Also, they’re designed to get wet and muddy – just the ticket when you’re running in the dark and splash right through a bloody huge puddle you didn’t know was there. I also always wear sports socks – trainers might look cooler without them, but they’re also going to get smellier, and you can avoid rubbing and blisters with some good socks!
I used to have a very expensive, waterproof, reflective Nike jacket that I wore running at night, but the fabric just wasn’t breathable enough. Now I just wear a fabric cardigan or running jacket with a zip at the front and a hood, so I can control how warm or cool I feel – and if it rains, I can put my hood up! Look for ones with zippable pockets, because stuff is going to fly out once you get going unless it’s strapped in! Alternatively, buy a running bag for your waist – I have some, and they’re cheap, but they also can feel restrictive.
This is my essentials list – ESSENTIALS. Don’t run without a sports bra. I don’t care if you think your boobies are too big or too small, someone’s made a bra for you – now go and buy it and protect your girls. At the very least, look at what happens to those poor chaps and their bleeding nipples. You don’t want that to be you! If you’re very bouncy, try adding a cupless sports bra over the top to hold everything in – I’ve done it, and it can really help to add that extra layer.
Don’t get one of those rubbish LED headlamps from Groupon or eBay – buy a proper headlamp with a decent lumen level. I’ve got a Black Diamond Storm which is 160 lumens – go at least for that or higher. I run with people who don’t use good headlamps and both of them have fallen over at least once because they couldn’t see where they were going.
If you’re running at night you need to make sure cars and people can see you. LED arm bands that flash cost a few quid each and will make it obvious to anyone nearby where you are and what you’re doing. If you’ve driven a car in the dark before you’ll know how easy it is for a pedestrian to blend into the background. This is why I haven’t bothered telling you to buy fluorescent or bright clothing – LED arm bands will do the trick! While you’re there, if you’re worried about personal safety, unfortunately, there are not a lot of products that are legal in the UK that some overseas runners could use, like pepper spray or even weapons. Obviously, never run anywhere you think would be unsafe, but also think about products like personal alarms and products like Run Angel, which not only has an alarm, but is also connected to your phone and can alert friends and family of your location via SMS if you’re in distress. I also have a premium Runkeeper account which can live broadcast my location – good for someone at home to keep an eye on you. It sucks that you have to prepare, but don’t let it put you off from running at night. Of course, having a friend or even a furry companion with you is always a good idea as well!
So, that’s my running essentials kit – everything I think you need to run in winter! Have I forgotten anything? Do you have your own essentials list? Share it with me in the comments!
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