The days are getting shorter. The clocks have gone back. It is dark by 5pm.
This year, and hopefully only this year, there’s the challenge of COVID. In the UK, there are local lockdowns in parts of the country and the number of cases is rising. Catching up with friends as you normally would during the winter months, will not be as easy as it used to be.
If you suffer from the winter blues, now is the time to put things in place to help you through the winter months.
During the first lockdown in the UK, the weather was good and this helped a lot. The sunshine and the blue skies took the edge off what was a unsettling and rather sh*t time. The lucky ones with the sanctuary of gardens and baloneys could enjoy some time outside. The short days, colder temperatures and COVID restrictions will curtail al fresco lunches, dinners, drinks and garden gym sessions.
Don’t wait until the nights start to come in, and all you want to do is curl up under a blanket and boot up Netflix. Plan now, putting things in place, so you can take on the “deep” winter.
The last 6 months?
If you did make some changes in the last 6 months, review how it went? What worked, what didn’t? What stuck, what didn’t?
If you did start and it worked, but it’s now slide away and got lost under general life. Resurrect that thing. You started it once. You can do it again.
Personally, a couple of things I let slide were daily evening walks, weight sessions, Zooming friends and my intention to get back to my running club (I have yet to make a session).
One of the best things you can do during this pandemic is to stay healthy and maintain a good weight. Physical activity is also good for your mental health.
I like running in the cold and the rain (although maybe not together) but it can inhibit you getting out the door. As the saying goes “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
I find one of the best ways to be warm in those opening miles of a run, but then not get cold as you start to sweat is to wear a Merino base layer. Merino is not quite as sweat wicking as a synthetic fabric; but it has a much more luxurious and warm feel to it. Go for a long sleeved lightweight base layer and wear it under your favourite running t-shirt. Although it’s supposedly cycling specific, the Endura Baa Baa is an excellent base layer and comes at a great price. It’s not scratchy and very durable. I like it so much, I have two. Merino wool is naturally resistant to odour-causing bacteria, so if you miss the wash, your top should still be “fresh”.
An essential for staying warm, or at least keeping the cold off your extremities, again for the early miles, are gloves. A good comfortable pair really does make a difference. Windproof with a fleecy lining, such as Sealskinz – Water Repellent All Weather Glove do a great job. The high wrist also keeps the inside of the wrist covered (an area of high heat loss).
A lightweight hat that you can take off and store in your waistband is handy for those really cold days. Good examples are North Face’s Winter Warm Beanie, the Inov8 Train Elite Beanie or Decathlon’s Running Hat.
A water resistant shoe can help keep your feet dry. Nike do their Shield range and Asics, New Balance and Brooks have Gore Tex versions of their road shoes.
A good shoe matched with a good sock is will keep your toes toasty but breathable. Merino is again a good material. Companies normally mix the wool with a synthetic material to increase its durability of socks. Runderwear and Smartwool do good versions.
I’m not a proponent of having loads of kit, for every occasion. Gloves can be worn casually or when walking. Beanies can be worn under bike helmets on cold days, or even when skiing or snowboarding.
My point here is to be prepared and take every possible excuse off the table for not heading out for a run. Don’t let the fact that your gloves are rubbish, stop you. Also see the At home section regarding keeping your kit tidy.
If you can’t run, cycle or take part in your favoured sport, just get outside. With working from home, it’s so easy to get out of bed, work all day, make dinner, watch and hour of TV, go to bed and do exactly the same the next day. The same can be true from a standard commute where you don’t see any daylight.
The “no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” saying stands here too. Good shoes, socks, coats and accessories go a long way to enjoying the outdoors when it cold and slightly wet. Being outside this winter, maybe the only way to meet up with friends!
Stick a pair of tights under jeans, pull the long johns out, wear a merino base layer, always take your hat and gloves with you, take a blanket in a rucksack and also take snacks and a hot drink in a flask. Again, don’t let the weather stop you from doing what you want to do.
Part of managing to open the front door and brave the elements is to be prepared before you go at home and the day/night before, especially for exercise.
Sort your kit – An important starting point is to have a permanent home for your kit. There is nothing worse trying to get prepared for something and spending 90% of it looking for your other glove. Keep all your sports kit together and keep it organised. Always keep those essentials (gloves and hats) in the same place and always return them to the same place.
Organise the night before – pull out everything you need (or think you might need) and set it out the night before. Don’t forget watches, bank card, phone, keys, and earphones. Make sure everything is charged.
Prep for the morning – have the teabag ready in the mug and the kettle filled. Grind the coffee or prepare the Nespresso machine. Make your breakfast or lay out some fruit or pastry. Set your alarm.
Accountability – to really get you up and out – set a date with a friend to meet up. For me, there is no better way to make sure I’m up and on time.
Post Outing Breakfast/Lunch – whether you getting back from an early morning run or a mid-afternoon walk with friends have your favourite breakfast items in, or have a big pan of homemade soup or a cake ready to enjoy with a cup of tea.
The mental game
The cold and the dark months are not forever. Before you know it, it will be summer again and perversely you’ll start thinking about autumn colours, open fires and blankets. My favourite days are those with a cloudless crisp blue sky days with bright sunshine but a temperature where you can’t quite catch your breath due to the chill. Embrace the changing of the seasons. With the right kit, some prep and the right attitude you can beat the winter blues.