To train in summer or winter?

As a runner I like to run all year round for general fitness purposes and to enjoy the changing scenery throughout the seasons. I like pretty much everyone else love my summers though, being stuck inside at work I love to get out in the sunshine when I can! Who doesn’t want to though??

However, the different seasons really do affect your running plans overall, for me generally I’ll actually ease down in the hot summer, just doing the occasional jog in the evening when it has cooled down some and the same for winter, if the weather is lashing it down with rain or there is a severe frost, I’ll tend to stay in my nice warm house! But what about when you’ve entered a race?

For those that have read most of my blogs, you’ll be aware that I’ve entered my first Ultra Marathon next year, the Pembrokeshire 100 Mile race (and again..still don’t know what possessed me!). Now this race is in April of next year, so theoretically I’ve got loads of time to get training, indeed one of my team mates is only stepping up the training regime during Christmas. However, the difference is, she’s done a number of ultra’s already, so her base fitness is way above mine, which means I’m actually having to start my training now in order to build up my stamina and fitness to that required to undertake this madness…I mean Ultra!

Which brings me to the original point of this post, which is the best time for runners to undertake their training? Well, if you’re properly prepared, then it literally comes down to individual preference. For me personally, although I love the summer and take every opportunity to get out there and top up my tan, and although you have amazing views of the countryside in all its green glory (see picture below from one of my recent summer runs), I actually prefer running towards winter. For me, running in the summer is actually harder to prepare for, for a variety of reasons. The main one is the heat, during the summer, especially when the temperatures are over 20 degrees celsius, your body sweats excessively to do the job of trying to cool down. While you can wear sweat wicking clothes to keep this sweating to a minimum, you still find yourself needing to ensure you are replacing lost fluids on a much more regular basis than you find yourself needing in winter weather. So automatically I find I’m having to lug around my camel bag with enough water to last me the period of the run. On extreme cases I need to take along a small contrainer with electrolytes/salt to replenish that which is lost on my run. I also find that the heat saps my energy in other ways, on a recent 12 mile run, it took a lot of mentally pushing myself up the hills because my legs felt so drained of energy and yet my pace was so slow. Then there the other requirements on hot sunny runs, the covering up of the head and neck so as not to develop sunstroke, needing sun glasses to avoid the glare off the trails (I’m blue eyed so I’m very sensitive to the sun!).

 Compare this to winter training which is a different kettle of fish entirely. Again, every good runner needs to be prepared for all eventualities, and preparing for the London Marathon a couple of years ago gave me good practise! I still needed to ensure I had the right clothes, this time round requiring additional layers, alongside suitable water proof coats. Don’t let the people you see running in just shorts and t-shirt in the rain get you thinking this is all you need. Trust me, with the right running jacket and hood, and keeping the rain off your body for as long as possible, you are ensuring you are keeping yourself warm as possible for as long as possible. Getting wet is ok on a short run, but there is no point risking hypothermia on a longer one. This will just put yourself in a dangerous situation if you are out alone in the middle of the countryside somewhere. So be sensible, if you’re going to be doing a lot of training in the winter, invest in a good jacket, these should be light enough that you can fold it up in your bag if you don’t need it, and try not to skimp on the price by going for a cheap and nasty one! They are that price for a reason, in fact ultimately if you’re going to get into the running game properly, it is worth paying the price as all equipment will last you a while. But back to why I prefer training in the winter, it is because I find it easier to prepare and run in the cold and wet simply because my body copes well in the lower temperatures. Ok, in the winter you can’t see much where you are going unless you are running in the daytime at the weekends, but you can dress up to keep yourself at a comfortable warmth and you are no way near sweating the levels you do at summer!

As we start to come to Autumn, then winter, I’ll find that my training runs, although harder psychologically to prepare (after all who wants to leave the warm house into cold blustery rainy nights??) will actually get easier to undertake. Indeed, I went for a short run last night in which although technically we are still in summer (typical english weather!), and it was torrential rain! The rain was coming down so hard, I had a lake of water around my ankles and I could only see a couple of feet in front of me as the water was being driven into my eyes by the wind. But I have to admit it, I loved it! The run was so exhilarating! The temperatures were just warm enough to enjoy it and my body found it so much nicer than a run I had done only two days before in sweltering heat.Indeed, my house sits on top of a really long hill, the kind which is deceptive because it doesn’t look that steep from the bottom, but by the time you are at the top your thighs and calves are burning like crazy. Yet in last nights driving rain, I positively flew up the hill! I’m hoping this feel good factor will last me this winter to come, as I will obviously be having to prepare myself for much longer runs than I would be doing for just a single marathon! No doubt there will be future blogs to come where I’m moaning like mad but hopefully most of them will be positive!!

What are your thoughts as a runner? Are you different? Do you find it easier to train in the summer? Or do you prefer training in the winter like me, knowing you have that nice warm hot chocolate and hot bath waiting for you at the end?? Drop me a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts!




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