Running in the cold

As tempting as it can be to hibernate on these cold winter days, there is nothing more rewarding, mentally and physically, than getting outside and raising your heart rate.

The hardest part is leaving the house in the first place - once you've braved the outside world, your body will reward you with euphoria, flushed cheeks, and a general feeling of smugness (just me?)
The fact is if you can get over the initial sluggishness and reluctance to leave your warm, cosy den for the grey and forbidding outdoors, there are many benefits.  Here are a few that come to mind:

1. More energy
As anyone who has successfully run off a hangover knows, a good burst of exercise outdoors can give you a much needed boost.  With all the extra socialising, Christmas parties and family time recently, a little bit of extra energy goes a long way.

Whenever I feel a bit lethargic or sluggish, I put my trainers on and force myself through the front door before I have time to make excuses.  If you have time to scroll aimlessly through your Facebook feed (and read this), then you have time to train. 

2.  You (probably) won’t get a cold.
Bold statement, but when you continue to look after yourself in the winter, your body pays you back by having a better immune system.  There is evidence to show that exercise boots your body’s defences; it not only improves overall heath, but more directly improves circulation, allowing the cells of the immune system to move more efficiently around the body.

3.  You work off that extra comfort food
We all do it – overindulging at this time of the year is practically unavoidable, (unless you have a willpower of steel) and it’s all too easy to eat much more than we need. Wintery comfort food is great for making you feel warm and satisfied, but not so good for the waistline.  Enter running.  I started running in the first place so I could continue to eat what I want, and if this isn’t a reason to drag yourself off the sofa then I don’t know what is.

4.  Exercise makes you happier
If, like me, the short days and perma-drizzle of the winter months affects your mood, then there is nothing better than getting outside and firing up those endorphins.  If you can get a 30 minute run in at lunchtime then all the better – and skin can still absorb Vitamin D in the winter, giving you a much needed morale boost.

5.  It won't be such a struggle to get fit for the summer

Keeping your fitness levels up at this time of year will make it much less of a battle when the sun does return.  Set yourself some reasonable winter goals - a 5 or 10K once a month will give you something to aim for, and running with others is always a good motivator.  You might already be thinking of blowing out the Christmas cobwebs with something a little more challenging - there are plenty of events in the new year  to suit everyone.

6. Running in the cold might actually burn off more fat

When we move around, our bodies convert stored energy into kinetic energy.  This process also generates heat (thermogenesis), which essentially means raising the internal temperature to burn off fat stores.  When we are cold, we have to work harder to raise this temperature, so the theory is that more energy is used.  

When the temperature drops it is more important than ever to make sure you warm up and cool down properly.  It's recommended to do at least 5 minutes of dynamic stretching (for example walking lunges, hip circles, and high knees) and start your run slowly at first.  I like to start with 5 minutes of very fast walking, almost breaking into a run, and then gradually increase my speed from there.  Cool down by walking the last 5 minutes of your route, followed by some longer-held static stretches.  

And then finish with a hot shower and a smug grin (again, just me?).

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