They (you know, those people who post motivational fitness quotes on Pinterest and Instagram) do say that summer bodies are made in winter, and we're inclined to agree.
Whether it's training for an event, like Cancer Research's Winter Run or the London Marathon, or just trying to stick to your January promise of moving more, there's always a good reason to head outside and work up a sweat.
But are there different rules when pounding the pavements in the cold? We chatted to Scott Mackenzie, the seriously ripped UK Fitness Product Manager for Fitness First and asked him for some top tips for getting the most out of a winter run...
Limit the layers
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to pile on extra gym gear just because the starting temperature of your workout is lower, but overdressing can actually do more harm than good. The more clothes you wear, the more you sweat and that can leave you dehydrated. Your body will also waste energy trying to cool down, leaving you less energy to run that tricky last mile.
Be a dynamo
Starting a run when your body is cold isn't actually the no-no that everyone thinks it is – you'll soon heat up if you run at a good pace! – but a warm up does make sure the muscles are activated, working at their most efficient and limits injury risk. Rather than traditional static stretches, choosing dynamic stretches, which involve moving the body while you stretch, are much better for warming you up because they raise the heart rate as well as activating large and small muscle groups. For example, rather than just holding your leg in a calf stretch, alternate walking on the toes and heels instead.
Cotton is not your friend
The cotton t-shirts and leggings you usually pull on for a run might be fine during summer but they're not the best option for winter exercise. Why? Because there's no warm air or sunshine to dry the material once it becomes wet with sweat, leaving you attempting to work out wearing a layer of damp, cold clothes. That's no help to your muscles, or your motivation, so go for Dri-FIT material that dries quickly, even in the cold, to help regulate your body temperature better and keep you feeling comfy for longer.
Forget the carb-loading
It's a myth that you burn more calories in the cold. In fact, research suggests that your body uses more energy trying to cool down in hot conditions than it does warming up in the cold. So, although you might think you need to carb up during winter, it's likely to just lead to weight gain and if anything, slow you down rather than power you to go faster. When it comes to food and drink, treat winter workouts like business as usual – pasta or a baked potato the night before and focus on staying hydrated during exercise.
Focus on your head and hands
Heat is lost through the head, hands and feet, so wear gloves, good socks and a hat to help regulate your body temp. It also makes it much quicker and easier when you want to heat up or cool down during your run – pulling off your gloves and stuffing them in your pocket or pulling on a hat isn't going to interrupt your workout like unzipping and removing a fleece or jacket.
Don't forget your warm up...