Whether you’re a complete newbie to exercise or a keen gym-goer forced outside by Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, you’ll need to gear up properly to exercise al fresco in the great British winter. Even the best of intentions can be flattened by heading out into mud, darkness and freezing temps unprepared. Fortunately, the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, rings true – prep wisely and you’ll nail outdoor training like a pro.
Dress for the weather
Keeping yourself at a comfortable temperature while training outside isn’t as straightforward as you’d imagine. Bundling up to be warm when you first step out the door is one thing, but you’ll inevitably be too hot within a few minutes of working out. Wearing too little, on the other hand, will leave you shivering your way through your session and feeling generally miserable.
Runner and head coach at fitness coaching collective PASSA, Lillie Bleasdale, recommends wearing multiple layers so you can adapt as necessary: “This allows the flexibility of removing or adding depending on how you feel when you get out there. A long-sleeved zip up with a lightweight gilet over the top can be a good way of making sure your body stays warmer, but the arms don’t get too clammy and hot. Small, lightweight items such as gloves, headbands and buffs are great as these can be removed and easily carried if you get a little too warm.”
Also pay some mind to what kind of shoes you’ll wear. “Footwear is really dependent upon what type of surface you’re going to be churning through your miles on,” says Bleasdale. “For trail runners, making sure your shoes are waterproof for the winter is a must to make sure you don’t arrive home with muddy and soggy feet. For road runners, rain and ice are your main issues to contend with.”
While you should always rain check your session if it’s snowy or icy out to avoid potential injuries, get prepared for rain and mud by wearing running shoes with GORE-TEX outers (for the very muddiest of runs) or water-resistant features at the minimum.
If you’re on your bike, you’ll have the extra drama of wind-chill to deal with, thanks to moving at a faster speed than usual. “The most susceptible areas to the cold when out on the bike are your hands and feet, so I would recommend good quality windproof gloves and overshoes,” says Yanto Barker, founder and CEO of Le Col. “A baselayer can be an extremely versatile piece of kit that provides improved protection on chilly rides and also ensures a level of breathability that keeps your body heat in optimal condition to perform.”
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 Shield
An ever popular running shoe with a neutral structure, suitable for those who don’t need extra arch support, the Shield edition of the Nike Pegasus has a water-repellent finish to help keep your feet warm and dry on rainy runs. The shoe features Nike’s Storm-Tread outsole, which is highly textured with shaped grooves to allow for a secure grip on slippery road surfaces. Reflective detailing on the laces and the heel is another winter-friendly touch.
Price: £115 | Nike (Mens) | Nike (Womens) | ASOS (Womens)
Lululemon Runderful Long Sleeved Top
This versatile long sleeved top can be worn alone or layered with t-shirts, jackets or gilets to suit the weather. Its sweat-wicking material will keep your skin dry and help you avoid the dreaded chafe, while its reflective details help enhance visibility. The sleeves have thumb holes stitched into the end, which are ideal for adding a little warmth to your hands when it’s not quite gloves weather, plus the zipped pocket allows for secure storage on the go.
Price: £78 | Lululemon
Keep safe, see and be seen
Training in low light wearing dark shades can leave you almost invisible to drivers, increasing the risk of accidents. Maximise your visibility by wearing bright colours and reflective accessories, and if you cycle ensure you have good quality bike lights fitted. “When wearing bright or reflective clothing on the bike, it’s important that this piece of apparel will be easily seen by other road users, so it’s often the case that bigger is better,” says Barker. “A bright rain jacket is a perfect option to keep you visible whilst also being practical in any afternoon or evening showers.”
As well as staying visible for others, make sure you can see where you’re going. If you can’t make it out in daylight, plan your route around areas with streetlights and avoid poorly lit locations such as parks and canal towpaths where possible.
As simple as it sounds, Google Street View is a godsend for checking out the safety of routes – use it to investigate whether you might come up against main roads, dark alleys or muddy parks.
If you’re particularly worried about your session not going to plan, plot your route to be a short loop you can repeat multiple times. That way, should you feel unsafe for any reason or find you have blisters kicking in, you can easily bin off the rest of the session without getting stranded too far from home. On the off-chance anything does go wrong, let someone know when and where you’re heading out to train and when you should be back – should something happen, they’ll be primed to raise the alarm.
Garmin Forerunner 745
Tailored for multisport training, the Forerunner 745 is ideal for tracking runs, rides and swims. Beyond simply recording your mileage, the watch also provides daily workout suggestions and recommended recovery periods based on your fitness level and performance. Most valuable, though, is Garmin’s LiveTrack technology, which once set up with your smart phone will send your live GPS data to a selected contact by email or text and alert them if you have an accident thanks to its incident detection feature – invaluable for anyone who is uncomfortable training alone after dark or venturing out somewhere unfamiliar.
Price: £429 | Amazon | Garmin | Wiggle
This running belt allows you to comfortably carry your smartphone so you’ll be prepared for anything on the run. As well as providing a handy storage solution, the FlipBelt’s high vis material and reflective panels make it the perfect addition to any after-dark training outfit. The tubular design sits flush to your hips to securely hold your valuables in place with minimal bouncing and jiggling – a vast improvement on the classic bum bag design – plus it includes an internal hook to attach your keys to.
Price: £35 | Amazon | FlipBelt
Le Col Pro Rain Jacket
While high-vis clothing may not usually be your vibe, it’s undeniably the lesser of two evils when it comes to road safety. If you’re keen to stay looking on point as well as safe on the bike, this bold cycling jacket by Le Col is a must-have. Fully waterproof and with stretch material for a perfect fit, this jacket will keep you cosy and see you through rides even in the grimmest of weather.
Price: £240 | Le Col
Ease into your workout
Cold muscles and intense exercise are not a good combination, so don’t go too hard too fast when training outside. Static stretching isn’t recommended before running, so get warmed up with active movements. “Dynamic stretches and plyometrics are of key importance to making sure the muscles are prepped, primed, and ready to roll,” says Bleasdale. Try leg swings, squats and glute bridges to wake your lower body up.
If you have any tight spots – highly likely if you’ve been confined to your home office desk for the last few months – then ease them out with some self-massage. Foam rolling or using a ball or massage gun on muscles which feel stiff can encourage them to release as well as boosting blood flow, leaving your body warm and ready to work.
When you get outside, don’t do too much too soon. “The main thing to remember is to warm up and ease into the run,” says Bleasdale. “If you’re heading out the door for a long run or some relaxed pace miles, then work into the run, don’t try and hit specific paces from the offset.” This is especially important if you’re just starting out in fitness, whether you’re taking up running, cycling or any other workout – move at your own pace and don’t be afraid to stop, stretch and go again if something doesn’t feel 100 per cent.
Trigger Point MB 1 Massage Ball
A massage ball is an absolute must to have in your training arsenal, and being small enough to pop in a drawer means it won’t take up valuable living space. Use this Trigger Point ball to target tightness in muscles such as the calves, glutes and pecs by simply positioning the troublesome muscle over it and gently rolling or holding still until you feel it release. The ball’s EVA foam surface stops it from slipping and makes it easy to wipe down after use.
Price: £17 | Amazon | Wiggle
Theragun Mini Massage Gun
This miniature massage gun uses percussive therapy to apply bursts of pressure to your muscles. This repetitive motion increases blood flow, helping to warm your muscles and release tension, making it ideal for use as part of a warm-up before training or a cool down when you’re done. The gun has three speed settings and can run for up to two and a half hours on a single charge, plus its small size and accompanying carry case make it perfectly portable should you want to use it when you return to the gym.
Price: £175 | Theragun | Amazon | John Lewis
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