I don't know about you guys, but firing up the old Strava again after a month of holiday excess currently holds about as much appeal as a hungover trip to the DMV. Seriously, when are the gyms re-opening? And why did no-one buy me a Peleton bike for Christmas?
That said, there's an element of truth to the entirely horrific "summer bodies are made in winter" meme. With little happening, like, anywhere just now, never has there been a more opportune time to embrace the freeze and keep yourself ticking over during off-season. In lockdown, it's good for the mind.
I'll be honest, there are some runs in winter that plain suck, and a lot of the time, it comes down to mental fortitude. Staying positive and sticking to a plan is the main thing, but there's no doubt that having the right gear helps immeasurably. Even the most sadistic ironman would be reaching for the snooze button if forced to tackle a below-freezing, 5:00 a.m. session in shorts.
With hellish January in full swing, find our list of the best equipment that will have you shaving off seconds from that PR in no time.
Should one wear shorts over tights? It is the age-old divisive question among the running community. Spandex purists will tell you, "hell no! would you wear a T-shirt in a swimming pool?" whereas others prefer the additional support and warmth. Either way, tights are non-negotiable when pounding the streets in winter, as cold muscles fatigue quicker and perform worse.
As a man unabashedly carrying some extra timber having subsisted on carbohydrates and alcohol for much of December, I currently prefer to hide my modesty by throwing a pair of short shorts on top — the thin layer putting extra confidence in my stride as I slalom past bleary-eyed drivers at 7 a.m. Keep your eyes on the road, boys, nothing to see here.
It seems obvious that a thermal top is the only type for winter running, but man, you would not believe the number of clowns I see sweating it out in janky cotton band tees! I prefer a Uniqlo HeatTech base layer because it's A) affordable and warm as hell and B) features anti-odor properties that mean I needn't feel self-conscious when standing in line for my post-run flat white.
Unless the temperature is in the minuses, then a thermal base and mid layer will suffice for most people. Mammut is one of those outdoor labels that have exploded in popularity over the years, hitting a note with Frank Ocean and wealthy Swiss finance managers alike. This snug-fitting techy number, composed of Cordura yarn, is more Tresor at 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon than dad roasting chestnuts at the ski lodge.
There are some ridiculous shells out there that run upwards of $1,000 — the kind more suited to space exploration rather than a brisk Sunday morning jaunt. You'd never catch me spending that kind of money when the technology from entry and mid-level brands is already so good. Arc'teryx's Incendo jacket is waterproof and packs down small to fit inside a pocket, making it the ideal travel companion.
Once synonymous with Irish Republican dissidents, the balaclava has become a familiar sight at family-friendly park runs thanks to updated offerings from the likes of Nike and adidas. (Drake dancing around like a goofball didn't do their popularity any harm, either.) If you're wary about wearing one in certain areas, then also consider the snood.
There are few things worse than being caught in the cold with frosty hands. In fact, the only thing more annoying is reaching for your phone to change the music only to realize that, argh, the gloves you're wearing are touchscreen incompatible. Such pitfalls can be avoided with a pair that features responsive technology in the thumbs and forefingers, making it easy to skip those trash filler songs that your Spotify shuffle insists on playing.
If you live in a place where winter means snowy trails and icy sidewalks, then a grip shoe that protects and offers traction is a must. For proper hardy weather (as in, if you're reading this in outer Siberia) an outsole with pronounced lugs or even spikes is the way to go, but for sloshy city running, I prefer something a little lighter with a waterproof sheath. Brooks, adidas Terrex, and On all offer subtle enough options that will keep you dry and stable.
Cards on the table, guys, but there is no way you can wear one of these without feeling a little dorky (you'd rather feel a little dumb than wind up with an obliterated ankle, right?) There are some nights when I cannot even contemplate running in town with busy traffic, which usually means heading out to the forest. Whether you're a beginner or seasoned pro, a lamp that will illuminate loose branches and rocks is a must. Who knows, you might even grow to love it after a while.
If you consider the humble foam roller to be the exercise equivalent of a grind and mortar pestle — that is, an unassuming yet potent little tool ideal for bashing out every day kinks — then the Theragun could be viewed as a high-speed blender built to pulverize even the most calcified of knots.
These jackhammers are like having a particularly rigorous Swedish sports massage therapist at your beck and call 24/7. Unlike the foam roller (which are great in their own right) they can target specific areas, making them ideal for those dealing with, or recovering, from injuries. When struggling for motivation to head out on long, cold morning runs, I often comfort myself knowing that a deep percussion massage set to instrumental panpipes awaits me at the end of it.
(N.B. — If taking one of these through the airport, you might want to remove it from your bag before security first. I almost caused an incident when traveling home with mine over Christmas.)
Dressing properly is only one factor when it comes to cold weather running. Buttress your healthy diet with some supplements to ward off colds and bone-stress injuries.